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Cherry Trees

Date Added: October 26, 2007 09:21:37 PM

One of the best-known symbols of Japan is the cherry blossom (sakura in Japanese), and one of the most glorious sights in Japan is the flowering of the cherry trees. The Japanese celebrate this annual spring blooming with cherry blossom viewing parties called Hanami (hana is Japanese for flower), where groups of people picnic under the cherry trees and enjoy the beauty of the blossom. Some of these parties continue into the night, and the trees in some of the most popular spots such as Ueno Park in Tokyo are illuminated with paper lanterns or floodlighting.

Cherry blossom viewing parties have been going on for centuries, as might be expected in a country with longstanding traditions. They appear to have originated at the Imperial Court during the Heian era around a thousand years ago, a time when life was highly ritualised and when the flowering of the cherry tree was believed to signal the abundance of the year's harvest. The custom gradually spread from the Imperial Court to the samurai and eventually to the common people, losing its symbolic and religious overtones and becoming an opportunity to step back from the bustle of day-to-day life and revel in the beauty of nature for a few short weeks.