Where I live, it’s cherry blossom season. It’s cherry blossom season where a lot of Americans live. US cities that boast large collections of cherry blossom trees include:
The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC celebrates the 1912 gift of cherry trees from Japan. This year’s annual festival is the 99th, and concludes on Sunday, April 10, 2011. For more details and event information, click on the image below:
Most people associate cherry blossoms with the nation of Japan, although the flowering trees bloom in several countries in East Asia. In Japan, the cherry blossoms are known as “sakura”, pronounced: sah-KOO-rah. While these trees do not produce fruit, the flowers are sometimes used in Japanese cuisine for special teas, condiments and confections.
The annual Japanese ritual of viewing and picnicking amongst the cherry blossom is called “hanami”, pronounced: hah-NAH-mee, and dates back to the early 700’s. (No, that is not a typo. Hanami has been a part of Japanese life and culture for around 1300 years.) Cherry blossom imagery can be found in film, music, textiles, sculpture, poetry, literature and fine art.
In Japan, the cherry blossom season moves across the map from south to north. Weather forecasters track the cherry blossom front as the new blooms appear in each region. In every area, the flowers are on the trees for around two weeks. January brings the first flowers to Okinawa, while Kyoto and Tokyo see their first flowers in late March or the very beginning of April.
The first of April is the beginning of the school year and the fiscal year in Japan. The blooming season is associated with the similar back-to-school Fall feeling we Americans get when we see the first tree leaves start to turn gold, red or orange. Many public institutional buildings have cherry trees planted in front of them as a symbol of strength, renewal, and hope.
I would be negligent in writing this post if I did not discuss Japan’s current earthquake/tsunami crisis. Understanding the history and poignancy of the cherry blossom is a solemn reminder of the thousands of communities in need. If ever Japan needed an extra helping of hope, it is now. If you can send some hope their way, please click on the link I’ve created below.
If you would like to bring some cherry blossoms into your own home, I’ve linked some timeless decor items below to browse.
Have you ever been to a cherry blossom festival? Do you have cherry trees in your area? What marks the beginning of Spring for you?