Friday, April 20, 2012

The Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Mindeparken, April 2012.

The Cherry Trees in Mindeparken, Århus 
In 1988 the Japanese Sakura foundation gave 300 Japan cherry trees to Århus as a gift from the Japanese people to the Danish people. The purpose was to establish a forest of cherry trees and after an acclimatization in a gardening 146 of those trees were plant in the upper area of Mindeparken. They are of different varieties and they flower from early spring till June.

There is one tree I especially notice each year, it sometimes flowers very early, I have a photo from a year, where the first little flowers came in February. The cherry trees in Mindeparken are now big and beautiful and a joy to everyone, who come here to admire those wonderful flowers. I can imagine it must be a fabulous sight to see 1.000 flowering cherry trees in the park in Tokyo. And when the flowers begin to fall down they cover the earth with a beautiful pink carpet.  

History in short. 
The beautiful cherry flowers, called Sakura, are a symbol of Japan. To do Hanami is to go viewing the flowers. "Hanami" is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura or ume tree. The custom is said to have started in the 7th century, when it was ume blossoms that people admired in the beginning. But from the 800-1185s cherry blossoms attracted more attention and hanami was synonymous with sakura. From then on "flowers" meant "sakura." The custom was originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court, but soon spread to samuari society and, later to the common people as well.  Under the sakura trees, people had lunch and drank sake in cheerful feasts.

pink cherry blossoms and a blue sky, April 2012

The Festivals
Hanami is still an important Japanese custom and is held all over Japan in spring.  Every year the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public track the cherry blossom front as it moves northward up the archipelago with the approach of warmer weather via nightly forecasts following the weather segment of news programs. Japanese pay close attention to these forecasts and turn out in large numbers at parks, shrines, and temples with family and friends to hold flower-viewing parties. Hanami festivals celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossom and for many are a chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful view.  People in Japan have fun viewing cherry blossoms, drinking and eating. It is like a picnic under the trees. In Tokyo is Ueno Park one of the most popular places for hanami, there are more than 1.000 cherry trees near the National Museum, and in another park Shinjuky Gyuen are also over 1.000 cherry trees, in various species, so the season of the hanami is long.

The most popular kind of Japanese cherry (sakura) tree which can be found everywhere in Japan is somei-yoshino (Yedoensis). Sakura trees bloom at different times throughout Japan. Cherry blossom festivals take place all over the country. Most of them are held between March to May, though other regions have them in January, February, and June, based on their location. Festival dates are usually determined with reference to cherry blossom forecasts and vary from year to year.  The gorgeous flowers are main attractions of the festivals, but there is also a variety of traditional Japanese performing arts presented in many festivals. Joining tea ceremonies held under cherry trees, various food and souvenirs, including regional crafts and speciality food in the region. Many cherry blossom festivals hold light-up events in the evening.

training under the cherry trees, April 2012


The cherry blossoms in Japan also symbolize clouds due to their nature of blooming en masse, besides being a metaphor for the nature of life, an aspect of Japanese cultural tradition that is often associated with Buddhistic influence. The transience of the blossoms, the extreme beauty and quick death, has often been associated with mortality; for this reason, cherry blossoms are richly symbolic, and have been utilized often in Japanese art, mange, anime, and film, as well as at musical performances for ambient effect. There is at least one popular folk song, titled Sakura, and several pop songs. The flower is also represented on all manner of consumer goods in Japan, including kimono and dishware. Cherry blossoms are a prevalent symbol in Irezumi, the traditional art of Japanese tattoos. In tattoo art, cherry blossoms are often combined with other classic Japanese symbols like koi fish, dragons or tigers.

photo Mindeparken, Århus, 12 April 2012: grethe bachmann


Joan said...

Hello Grethe. Your cherry blossom photos are beautiful. I have just returned from Japan and the cherry blossoms were beautiful. So interesting to read of your Danish sakura.

Out on the prairie said...

Very nice blossoms

Thyra said...

Hello Joan! It must have been a wonderful tour for you in Japan. I've just watched a video with the Sakura festival with cherry trees with the purest white flowers. So beautiful.
Have a nice week-end
Grethe ´)

Hello Steve! yes, they are so pretty. I hope you are enjoying spring now? We've still got some cold days, but next week will be better. Have a nice week-end.
Grethe ´)

Wanda..... said...

Hi Grethe...your photos of the cherry blossoms are lovely. I blog with Yoko at...

...she lives in Japan and shows us the cherry blossoms each spring, you may enjoy her blog.

Thyra said...

Hello Wanda, thank you so much, I have now joined Yoko's blog. Such beautiful, poetic pictures of her place. I'll tell my son, because he's absolutely fascinated by Japan and its culture. Right now I'm learning how to make Japanese tea and Miso soup!! I'm not so interested in Sushi - yet!! But it has become a trend here.
Have a nice Sunday.
Grethe ´)

Teresa Evangeline said...

I love these blossoms, so thank you for the lovely photos and information. I think the tea ceremonies of Japan are so nice - peaceful and mindful - taking time to appreciate life. What a good thing to learn. I also just heard where the oldest living person is in Japan, I believe, and sake is one of their habits, in moderation, of course.

stardust said...

Your comment has brought me to this lovely blog, Grethe. I’m grateful to Wanda for being a go-between of two of us, she is such a dearest blog friend of mine. How nice you live close to the cherry trees forest and your photos took my breath away. I’m amazed how well you know about cherry blossoms and Japanese cultural and aesthetic meaning of them. I look forward to seeing you here again.

Greetings from Japan

Thyra said...

Hej Teresa, yes, this is one of the things bout the Japanese way of doing it I like. I think we really need some peace and quiet in our daily life. I like to live in a city, but I also like the peace and quiet out in the country. I like a cup of black coffee but I also like a nice cup of tea !

Thyra said...

Hello Yoko, I'm very glad that Wanda told me about your blog. It's fantastic and with the most beautiful photos from Japan. It's also very informative and I like to read about the Japanese culture. I found - among many other interesting things - the protected village with the thatched houses(via your label: age and depopulation). A fascinating place with a pretty situation downside hills and mountains. (saw the video too). The two kites on the roof-gable of one of the fine houses caught my eye at once. The story about the mythic bird is interesting. And the history about this special village too of course! I just mention the birds, because I love those birds of prey!
See you later!
Grethe ´)