Sakura - All about Japan's cherry trees

Sakura (桜) literally means cherry and is one of the main symbols of Japanese culture. In this article, we will examine in depth curiosities, meanings and symbolisms of cherry trees in Japan. We will 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 usually somei-yoshino, prunus yedoensis and yamazakura. There are more than 600 types of Sakura spread across Japan, with pink, white, yellowish flowers and different shapes. Japanese cherries are often called sakuranbo (桜んぼ).

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

Sakura - all about japan cherry trees
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Japanese cherry trees and spring

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

In 1992 Sakura's association in Japan (日本さくらの会 - Nihon Sakura no Kai) created the famous “Sakura's Day”Which marks the beginning of flowering on March 27. During the beginning of spring, the whole of Japan follows the bloom of the Sakura through calendars and TV shows that indicate exactly the date of each region.

Sakura - all about japan cherry trees
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Stages of flowering sakura

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:

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PortugueseJapaneseRomaji
Buttonつぼみtsubomi
Blooming of buds咲き始め(る)sakihajime (ru)
50% flowery5分咲きgobuzaki
Flowery 70%7分咲きshichibuzaki
100% - Reaches full bloom満開mankai
Petals start to fall散り始めchirihajime
Green leaves after flowering葉桜 hazakura
Rain of petals桜吹雪Sakurafubuki
Sakura - all about japan cherry trees
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Different types of cherry trees from Japan

Somei Yoshino (染井吉野) is the most popular variety of sakura in Japan. It has five petals and is usually white with a pink hue. 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. This type of cherry is common and usually grows in nature, its flowers are slightly pink and small. The leaves usually develop together with flowering.

Kawazu-zakura (河津桜) is a modern variety and usually flowers 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 the city of Kawazu in Izu.

Sakura - all about japan cherry trees

Shidarezakura (枝垂れ桜) is a weeping variety, with fallen branches that live a long time, 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 blooming in January and February. Kanzakura (寒桜) is another type of cherry tree that blooms earlier than normal, where it stands out in small parks because of this early blooming.

Sakura - all about japan cherry trees

Cherry trees with many petals that take time to bloom

Ichiyo is a type of sakura that has 20 light pink petals 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 tone and coppery brown leaves. These three cherry trees tend to bloom later than the others.

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Kikuzakura (Cherry Chrysanthemum) can have up to 100 petals and is white with shades of pink. Shogetsu it has about 30 petals with white flowers and bloom 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 is cherry tree that blooms in autumn? Jugatsuzakura (十月桜) literally means October sakura, a variety that blooms in autumn and winter with small, sparse flowers that combine the colors of autumn with snow.

Sakura - all about japan cherry trees

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 battlefield. Sakura was also a symbol of love, where women decorated their hair with cherry branches to show that they were looking for a partner.

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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 called according to the number of petals as: 一重 hitoe (0-5) |半八重 hanyae (5-10) |八重 yae (10+).

There is a Sakura over 2000 years old called Jindai Zakura (神代桜) over 10 meters high and 13 in circumference at the root. Legends claim that it was planted by Emperor Takeru in Mikoto.

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

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The symbolism of Sakura in Japan

In Japan, cherry trees symbolize clouds due to their massive flowering, and also serve as a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life associated with Buddhism. The cherry blossom signifies feminine beauty and symbolizes love, happiness, renewal and hope. The compromise of flowers, their extreme beauty and rapid death, was often associated with mortality.

During World War II, cherry trees were used to motivate the Japanese people, to ignite nationalism and also 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 “claiming occupied territory as Japanese space”.

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

Sakura - all about japan cherry trees
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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 we will end by sharing a list of Japanese names that usually have ideograms related to Japan's cherry trees.

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

The name Sakura it can be written with more than one character such as: [幸久来]; [紅桜桃]; [佐鞍] (family, surname); [佐久羅] and [佐久良]. All of these names are usually feminine, we recommend looking for the meaning of each ideogram in the jisho.org

Tsubomi it refers to the cherry bud and can be written in different ways, the most common is 花咲実 which has the ideograms of flower, bloom and truth;

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桜々Sasa, Sakura (woman)
桜々子, 桜子, 櫻子Sakurako (woman)
桜一郎Ouichirou (male)
桜下Sakurashita (woman)
桜与美Sayomi (woman)
桜久夜Sakuya (woman)
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

I hope you enjoyed this article, it was a great job to search all that content. I want to leave credits to the site Japan Guide which served as a great help when writing the article. If you liked, be sure to share and comment.