The unofficial national flower of Japan, the cherry blossom, known as sakura, represents renewal. Blossoming in the springtime, the pretty pops of pink mark the ending of winter and signify the beginning of spring.
In Japan, the cherry blossom symbolises the transience of life. The cherry blossom tree is known for its short but brilliant blooming season, a natural process that metaphorically describes human life.
The cherry blossom, part of the genus Prunus, has been celebrated for many centuries and holds a very prominent position in Japanese culture. There are many varieties of cherry tree in Japan, with single, double, and semi-double flowering forms all featuring in the season which begins towards the end of March and lasts for around two weeks.
The Japanese celebrate this time of the year with Hanami which, quite literally, are cherry blossom viewing parties.
Friends, family, and work colleagues gather outside in the fresh spring air and sit on mats under the blossoming trees in parks and throughout the countryside, simply to celebrate and enjoy the transient beauty of the cherry blossoms. People in Japan make cherry blossom viewing fun: they bring home-cooked meals, make barbecued foods, and have a picnic under the trees.
Where are your nearest cherry blossom trees? Could you take some time out this year and have your own Hanami in your garden or local park? Wouldn’t it be a lovely way to meet up with family and friends in the open air? Bring a blanket, and probably a scarf, sit under the cherry blossom trees, have a picnic, relax, breathe, reflect, and immerse yourself in the joy of the fleeting cherry blossoms.
And that is what Hanami is all about: appreciating the present and reflecting on the transient nature of being. The fragile flowers do not last for long before they gently fall as pink snow, so do not miss the chance to enjoy them while they bloom.