There are in fact many different varieties of the Japanese cherry tree, sometimes referred to in Japanese as ‘Sakura’. Thus the various species of cherry trees bloom at different times throughout spring, not just based upon the area in which they are located but also on which variety of cherry tree they are.
I passed a tree the other day, while driving to work, which appeared to have somewhat of a ‘split personality’. The one tree was actually a ‘hybrid’ of a ‘sakura’ tree (cherry blossom) and ‘hanamomo’ (peach blossom variety). Hence in addition to the light pink flowers there were bunches of dark pink flowers (see photo), creating a rather stunning and beautiful sight. It certainly brightened my drive to work that day.
Mandy and I, like most Japanese people, enjoy the Japanese custom of ‘hanami’ – flower viewing. My wife and I enjoyed seeing spring flowers in Australia too, but Japanese people have turned this yearly event into an art form.
Government office employees will sometimes do the same thing, but not so much teachers and so on who need to remain at their workplace. Clusters of housewives, retired couples, romantic young couples and families will also participate in this event in parks and riversides all over Japan, wherever Cherry Blossom trees are in bloom.
Full bloom is a wonderful thing to see, as the bunches of cherry blossoms look so fluffy and almost bursting with beauty and pride, but the final stages of the cherry blossom are also impressive to observe. Cherry blossoms have a rather ephemeral existence, and only stay on the branches for a week or so. Because they are native to Japan, and have this brief life span, it is often said that they represent the Samurai whose service to their country was beautiful to see but often short-lived. Even some of the Japanese pilots of suicide missions in World War Two painted cherry blossoms on their planes, and one of their units was called Yamazakura – wild cherry blossom.
Therefore, seeing the petals of the cherry blossoms fall can have a rather ‘moving’ effect on many Japanese people, as they can be seen to reflect the fragility and fleeting transience of life. They’re also beautiful for another reason – they resemble pink snow when they fall en masse. At this time of the year, especially after a rainfall or strong winds, Mandy and I occasionally remark that “there may be a pink snowfall today”. It’s amazing to see all these soft pink petals falling down from the cherry trees and floating in the breeze.
Mandy and I live in a small, traditional village in the mountains above Matsusaka city, and are lucky enough to have our very own cherry blossom tree situated in our back yard. This afternoon we were sitting out under the tree, enjoying a cup of tea in the sunshine, when a warm, stiff breeze blew in. Suddenly we found ourselves in the midst of a pink flurry of cherry blossom petals. It was marvelous, and brought immediate smiles to our faces. It felt like Mother Nature herself was embracing us.
Last year, around the same time, I wrote a poem to commemorate this event. I will leave you with this piece, not to torture you, but to share with you my thoughts on that occasion. Have a great week, take care, and best wishes.
Cherry Blossom Picnic
Sitting under the cherry blossom tree,
Watching the petals fly, bright blue sky,
Barely a cloud that I can see, feeling free,
Must capture the moment, for soon it dies.
Cherry blossoms last only a week,
And serve to remind us that life is short,
We must follow the dreams that our hearts seek,
And avoid the problems with which life is fraught.
So I turn my back on dark cloudy skies,
And embrace the warmth of this bright sunshine,
Cherry blossoms have prepared their goodbyes,
But spring is here, and the outlook seems fine.
Cherry blossom petals fall from their trees,
So brief, they leave, and now they fly,
Floating, dancing in the warm spring breeze,
Their final goodbye a faint bird's cry.
ⓒ Chris Ryall 2013