The world knows Japan for its magnificent Sakura (cherry blossom). For Japanese, Sakura means more than just spring flower. It represents a new life after harsh cold winter. The blooming of sakura is celebrated all over Japan. People go out for picnic under Sakura trees with friends, family or colleagues. Streets are buzzing with chats and laughter. Sakura viewing is known as “Hanami” in Japanese, important event in Japanese culture. “Hana” means flower referring to Sakura, “mi” means watching or seeing. Hanami is an old tradition of Japan since Nara period (710) but became popular in Heian period (794 – 1185) until today. Hanami is what distinguish cherry blossom season in Japan with those in other parts of the world.
Unlike many other flowers, Sakura is a tree. The oldest the tree is, the more stunning the Sakura is. Sakura becomes beautiful when the tree reaches over 20 years old.
When I moved to Japan, I thought there was only one type of Sakura and because of temperature different the colour varies from one to another, but I was wrong. There are many types of sakura blooming at different time even in winter. After one and half years of staying in Japan, I can only differentiate four types of Sakura.
Pink Sakura or Kawazuzakura, blooms earlier than Somei Yoshino.
The most famous Sakura type is Somei Yoshino, a 5 petaled pale/almost white Sakura. Somei Yoshino symbolises the coming of the spring. Taking picture of Somei Yoshino is tough especially when it’s cloudy because of its white in colour. This Somei Yoshino is so delicate. It cannot survive the strong wind. Because this beauty is short lived, for Japanese seeing Somei Yoshino is precious event of the year.
Yamazakura is wild Sakura which can be easily found all over Japan. Yamazakura petal is stronger than Somei Yoshino which makes it lives longer.
This double layers Sakura is Yaezakura. It has more than 10 petals, much stronger than Somei Yoshino. Yaezakura starts blooming mid April in Tokyo.
Sakura in general is short lived, that’s why the best time to view Sakura is when it’s in full bloom. Sakura petal starts falling down or look so ‘tired’ after two days of its full bloomed.
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