Japanese Flowering Cherry, Prunus serrulata
Cambridge or Chinese cherry, Prunus pseudocerasus
Cherry Blossom Culture in Japan
The cherry blossom, sakura, is the unofficial national flower of Japan, a beloved symbol of spring and renewal celebrated in painting, poetry, songs, and many other arts. Countless cherry trees of many different varieties decorate cities and parks all across the country.
Viewing parties celebrate the arrival of the cherry blossoms. The custom of cherry-blossom viewing, called hanami, is accompanied by food, drink, singing, and general merriment. A special vocabulary developed to describe viewing the blossoms under particular circumstances; hanamizake refers to drinking sake while viewing the blossoms, sakuragari (cherry blossom hunting) to seeking the blossoms in the mountains; ozakura (cherry blossoms of night) to viewing the blossoms in the evening; and sakura fubuki (cherry blossom storm) to the petals scattered like snow by the wind.
The cherry trees in bloom on the banks of the Kamogawa River are among of the most beautiful sights of Kyoto, but the ancient capital boasts a number of famous hanami locations: Maruyama Park, next to Yasaka Shrine; Philosopher's Trail, starting at Ginkakuji Temple; Heian Shrine; Okazaki Canal, outside Heian Shrine; Arashiyama; Daigoji Temple; and Hirano Shrine. For more information on these sites. Japan-guide.com also provides a nationwide list of cherry-blossom viewing locations and a guide to “How to do cherry blossom viewing” (reserve your spot early).
Taste of Japan
Under the Cherry Blossoms
It's Cherry-Blossom Time at Sumile
Selected Japanese works of art featuring cherry blossoms:
Tokyo National Museum
Kano Naganobu, 17th c., Merrymaking under Cherry Blossoms (or Aronia Blossoms)
Nabeshima ware dishes, 18th c., Design of cherry tree in overglaze enamels
Kyoto National Museum
Matsumura Keibun, Edo period, Cherry Blossoms in Moonlight
Metropolitan Museum, New York
Kano Sansetsu, attributed. The Old Plum, four sliding door panels
Fragment of A Long Tale for an Autumn Night, Nanbokucho period (1336–92), Ink and color on paper
Painting by Tawaraya Sotatsu; Calligraphy by Hon'ami Koetsu. Poem page mounted as a hanging scroll, Momoyama period (1573–1615), dated 1606. Ink on paper decorated with gold and silver
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C.:
Hishikawa Moronobu (1618-94) Viewing cherry blossoms at Ueno Park and autumn at Asakusa, pair of six-fold screens
Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) Parties of men and women looking at cherry blossoms, hanging scroll painting
Tawaraya Sotatsu (ca. 1600-43) Ladies among cherry trees, pair of six-panel folding screens
Art Institute of Chicago
Torii Kiyonaga. (1752-1815) Cherry Trees of Nakanomachi, Color woodblock prints; oban triptych, c. 1786. Clarence Buckingham Collection.
- Benji Asada. "Pagoda of Ninnaji Temple in Kyoto", circa 1960.
- Eiichi Kotozuka. Owl and Cherry Blossoms, 1950, Original Japanese Woodcut.
- Katsushika Hokusai. Goldfinch and Cherry Tree, Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock printing.
- Ito Sozan. Seagulls and Cherry.
- Ohara Koson. Cherry on a Moonlit Night, 1932. Color woodblock print.
- Ohara Koson. Two Pigeons Under Cherry Blossoms, 1900.