Sakura - All About Japan's Cherry Blossoms

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Sakura (桜) literally means cherry tree and is one of the main symbols of Japanese culture. In this article, we'll take an in-depth look at the facts, meanings and symbolism of cherry trees in Japan. Let's also talk about types, fruits, flowers and names related to cherry trees.

Cherry tree is the name given to several species of fruit trees, decorative or for the production of noble wood. Japanese cherry trees are often somei-yoshino, prunus yedoensis and yamazakura. There are more than 600 types of Sakura spread across Japan, with pink, white, yellow flowers and different shapes. Japanese cherries are often called sakuranbo (桜んぼ).

I used to think that cherry trees had absolutely nothing to do with the cherries we consume, but they really are from the same family. In Brazil we usually differentiate cherry trees with stems from cherries that bear fruit. Decorative cherry trees in Japan often develop small types of fruit, but they are not usually edible and are not harvested. About 40% of the cherries consumed in Japan are imported.

Sakura - everything about Japan's cherry blossoms

Japanese cherry trees and spring

Cherry trees in Japan tend to gain full prominence during spring in the Hanami (flower festival) where people usually camp, have picnics and visit parks where Sakura and other flowers usually bloom. for the japanese the beginning of the year happens in spring. So much so that the academic and financial year start on April 1st.

In 1992, the Sakura Association in Japan (日本さくらの会 - Nihon Sakura no Kai) created the famous "Sakura day” which exactly marks the beginning of flowering on March 27. During the beginning of spring, all of Japan follows the blossoming of Sakura through calendars and TV programs that indicate the exact date of each region.

Sakura - everything about Japan's cherry blossoms

Sakura flowering stages

The entire flowering process of cherry trees and other flowers usually lasts a maximum of 10 days. During these days the cherry trees go through several stages:

Responsive Table: Scroll the table sideways with your finger >>
PortugûesJapaneseRomaji
Buttonつぼみtsuomi
bloom of buds咲き始め(る)sakihajime(ru)
50% flowered5分咲きgobuzaki
70% flowered7分咲きshichibuzaki
100% - reaches the full flowering満開mankai
Petals start to fall散り始めchirihajime
Green leaves after flowering葉桜 hazakura
petal rain桜吹雪Sakurafubuki
Sakura - everything about Japan's cherry blossoms

Different types of cherry trees in Japan

Somei Yoshino (染井吉野) is the most popular sakura variety in Japan. It has five petals and is usually white with a pinkish tinge. The leaves only appear after the cherry tree has finished blooming, fully highlighting the flowers. It was widely cultivated during the Edo Period in Tokyo, becoming the most numerous in Japan.

Yamazakura (山桜) literally means mountain cherry tree. This type of cherry tree is common and usually grows in nature, its flowers are slightly pink and small. Leaves usually develop along with flowering.

Kawazu-zakura (河津桜) is a modern variety and usually blooms earlier and has a much longer flowering period than other species. Even in February it is possible to find these trees with pink flowers. It got its name because it was originally grown in Kawazu City in Izu.

Sakura - everything about Japan's cherry blossoms

Shidarezakura (枝垂れ桜) is a weeping variety, with drooping branches and long-lived, where the colors vary from pink to white. There is another variation with more than 5 petals called Yaeshidarezakura (八重枝垂桜).

Kanhizakura (寒緋桜) is a bell-shaped sakura with a darker pink color, native to Okinawa and Taiwan and which blooms in January and February. Kanzakura (寒桜) is another type of cherry tree that blooms earlier than usual, where it excels in small parks because of this early bloom.

Sakura - everything about Japan's cherry blossoms

Cherry trees with many petals that take time to bloom

Ichiyo is a type of sakura that has 20 petals that are light pink in color with fresh, green leaves. Ukon it has between 10 to 20 petals with a yellow color. Kazan it has about 30 to 50 petals with a pink hue and coppery brown leaves. These three cherry trees tend to bloom later than the others.

Kikuzakura (Chrysanthemum Cherry) can have up to 100 petals and is white with shades of pink. Shogetsu it has about 30 petals with white flowers and blooms with green leaves. Fugenzo it has about 30 to 40 petals with white flowers that turn pink when they open. These three cherry trees also tend to bloom later than the others.

Did you know that there are cherry trees that bloom in autumn? Jugatsuzakura (十月桜) literally means October sakura, a variety that blooms in autumn and winter with small, sparse flowers that combine autumn colors with snow.

Sakura - everything about Japan's cherry blossoms

Curiosities involving Sakura in Japan

Samurai used to be associated with cherry trees, because their flowering is short, representing the short life of many samurai on the battlefields. Sakura was also a symbol of love, where women adorned their hair with cherry branches to show they were looking for a partner.

A cherry blossom usually has 5 petals, but there are types of Japanese cherry trees that have 10, 20 and even 100 petals. These flowers are called yaezakura (八重桜). Cherry trees can be named according to the number of petals as: 一重 hitoe (0-5) | 半八重 hanyae (5-10) | 八重 yea (10+).

There is a Sakura over 2000 years old called Jindai Zakura (神代桜) over 10 meters tall and 13 meters in circumference at the root. Legends claim that it was planted by Emperor Takeru no Mikoto.

There are many products made from cherry blossoms, even soft drinks and drinks are usually launched during the spring at prominent places like McDonald's. Sweets like Wagashi, edible flowers and many other dishes. The flower is represented on all types of consumer goods in Japan, including kimonos, stationery and dinnerware. Furniture has also been made from the wood of the tree since the 16th century.

Sakura - everything about Japan's cherry blossoms

The article is still halfway through, but we recommend also reading:

Sakura Symbolism in Japan

In Japan, cherry trees symbolize clouds due to their natural mass blooming, and it also serves as a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life associated with Buddhism. Cherry blossom signifies feminine beauty and symbolizes love, happiness, renewal and hope. The flowers' compromise, their extreme beauty and quick death, was often associated with mortality.

During World War II, cherry trees were used to motivate the Japanese people, ignite nationalism as well as militarism. They were used in advertisements to inspire the “Japanese spirit”, mainly because of their relationship with the Samurai. In Imperial Japan, cherry trees were planted as a “claim of the occupied territory as Japanese space”.

The cherry tree fruit, the cherry, is considered the greatest symbol of sensuality, eroticism and sexuality, mainly due to its intense red color. Cherry trees are also a prevalent symbol in Irezumi, the traditional art of Japanese tattooing. Sakura is even considered a color in Japan, a variation of white and pink.

Sakura - everything about Japan's cherry blossoms

Japanese names related to Sakura

The name Sakura is one of the most popular among girls in Japan (5th place). We know that Japanese names are usually written with ideograms that have different meanings, so let's finish by sharing a list of Japanese names that usually have ideograms related to cherry trees in Japan.

- Sakura's character can refer to either flower, fruit or cherry tree. Different names can be written only with this ideogram which are: Sakura, Saku, Ou, Sakurasaki, Sara and Chieri. All these names are feminine!

The name Sakura It can be written with more than one ideogram like: [幸久来]; [紅桜桃]; [佐鞍] (family, last name); [佐久羅] and [佐久良]. All these names are usually feminine, we recommend looking for the meaning of each ideogram at desu

Tsubomi it refers to the cherry blossom button and can be written in different ways, the most common being 花咲実, which has the ideograms for flower, bloom, and truth;

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桜々Sasa, Sakura (female)
桜々子, 桜子, 櫻子Sakurako (female)
桜一郎Ouichirou (male)
桜下Sakurashita (female)
桜与美Sayomi (female)
桜久夜Sakuya (female)
桜之宮Sakuranomiya (family or surname)
桜乙Oto
桜乙愛Doom
桜也果Sayaka
桜井Sakurai (family, surname)

Videos related to Sakura and Hanami

YouTube video
YouTube video
YouTube video

I hope you enjoyed this article, it took a lot of work to research all this content. I want to credit the site Japan Guide which was of great help when writing the article. If you liked it, don't forget to share and comment.

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