Loved for its delicate blossom, the Sakura (cherry trees) blanket the Japanese landscape, painting the country with a gentle pink hue in Spring.
The blossom is one of Japan’s most iconic sights but, it’s more than simply a stunning show of natural beauty, it has become engrained in Japan’s history, culture and identity.
There are daily reports on the national news and parties and picnics are held across the country in its honour. It’s no exaggeration to say that all of Japan anxiously awaits updates on the weather forecast as to when the first flushes of pink will appear.
There are even names for the custom of enjoying the first blooms – hanami which means ‘watching blossoms'.
In the evening the act of viewing the cherry blossom is given a separate name - ‘yozakura’.
Simple strings of lights and lanterns are hung from the branches, so the petals appear to glow in the dark.
Credit: Library of Congress
Sakura has been the subject of nationwide adoration form more than 1,000 years. The short life of the pretty pink petals (many only bloom for a week or two) is seen as a meditation on life, death and renewal.
It is celebrated in Japanese literature, poetry and art, and was often depicted on the swords of samurai.
Mount Yoshino, Nara Prefecture
Nara, on the Japanese island of Honshu, is not just part of our identity and our heritage here at Nara Cambridge but, it is also one of the best places to see Sakura. More than 200 varieties of cherry tree can be found on Nara's Mount Yoshino - over 30,000 individual trees along an 8km path.
Hanami at Home
Fortunately, you don't have to visit Japan to enjoy the Sakura.
A simple arrangement of cherry blossom branches makes an easy and elegant display to welcome spring into your own home.
They can placed alone in a vase or mixed with other blooming branches such as dogwood.
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