Discover unique and interesting facts about cherry blossoms in Japan, from the best places to view them to the significance of sakura in Japanese culture.
Cherry blossoms, called Sakura in Japan, are flowers with a stunning appearance. As soon as the spring season arrives, these blossoms paint the landscape with their gentle pink hue.
No matter what, we Japanese people always make time to see them in full bloom. Their beauty has an aura that makes them appear in art, poetry, and even food & drink!
You probably only have seen them as beautiful flowers, but these blossoms are more than that.
Yes, there are several facts about cherry blossoms in Japan that can make your jaw drop in awe. Some are surprising, some are weird, and some are fascinating!!
And today, I will reveal all of those facts here, so get ready to be amazed.
Japanese Cherry Blossom Facts
When I think of cherry blossoms, the first thing that comes to mind is the cherry blossom festival.
So, I am starting with this fact.
The Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan Has Long History
If you are familiar with Japanese culture or festivals, you have at least once heard about the cherry blossom festival. And the celebration is called Hanami (flower viewing).
When these flowers start to bloom, people of all ages begin to visit parks and gardens to enjoy their beauty.
But, what you probably don’t know is that this tradition of Hanami has been rooted in Japanese culture for centuries, dating back to the Nara Period (710 to 794).
Emperor Saga, who was the 52nd emperor of Japan, started a practice of flower-viewing parties and feasts underneath the blooming sakura trees.
Poems would have been written praising the blossoms, which were viewed as a metaphor for life itself, as dazzling and beautiful as they were but transitory.
We Japanese have been keeping this custom alive for ages from then till now.
I still remember all the nostalgic memories of celebrating this feast with my family during my childhood. My mom used to pack a special lunch box full of our favorite foods. The name of this box is Hanami Bento, which features items like sushi rolls, Japanese-style omelets, and many more.
My dad was in charge of securing a place for us in the park by placing a blanket under the cherry trees. Now I celebrate Hanami with my friends and colleagues.
So, if you come to Japan during the spring season, don’t miss the chance to enjoy some quality time under the pink blossoms.
By the way, this isn’t the end of the history of sakura in Japan.
Sakura was initially used to predict the harvest and to signal the start of the rice-planting season.
There was a widespread idea in past eras that deities, such as the god of the rice fields and the god of the mountain, were enshrined in sakura trees. And farmers used to pray to cherry blossoms to help them increase their harvest.
However, those days are long ago, and now the concept has grown and modified over time, with the tranquil beauty of the sakura trees being the focal point.
Japan Has Cherry Blossom Viewing Parties
The practice of gathering for “Cherry Blossom Viewing Parties”, known as hanami in Japanese, has been part of Japan’s culture for centuries.
These parties are a way to celebrate not only the beauty of nature, but also the beauty of life alongside friends and family, and it’s a custom that has been held close to many Japanese hearts.
The ritual of hanami starts with the anticipation of the delicate cherry blossom buds bursting into full bloom — a magical moment that some would describe as a “ballet of spring”.
Once the delicate petals open, it’s time to revel in the delightful sight with a party full of food, music, and of course, lots of sake.
The practice of hanami has been especially popular at night, when illuminated lanterns and lights, which are sometimes only hung for alluring effect, enliven the petals and the celebration.
It’s a tradition for friends and families to gather under the illuminated cherry blossoms to stay up all night and appreciate the sight of each miraculous flower.
Customary foods like pickled vegetables, various sushi dishes and fried sakura blossoms are just some of the delicacies prepared for the occasion.
With food and drinks, joyful music and laughter, a hanami party is an expression of joy and exhilaration as the magic of the pink blooms and the promise of spring captivate all of those present.
The traditional practice of hanami is so popular and enjoyable, it is considered an important part of Japan’s cultural heritage and is practiced by the young and the old alike.
Even those living in cities who don’t have easy access to cherry blossoms will make the journey to parks and other outdoor locations just to marvel at the beautiful blossoms.
And when hanami season is in full swing, tourists from all over the world will flock to Japan to join the fun and partake in the festivities.
What we learn from a hanami party is perhaps not just an appreciation for the beauty of nature, but also an appreciation for what we can experience and where relationships with friends and family can take us.
After all, it is the relationships we make in life that can truly make us happy.
So gather your friends and family, join a hanami party, and create a time of joy and appreciation that can last a lifetime.
The Hanami Picnic Is more Spectacular at Night
Although the daytime festivity is exciting, nothing can compare to the late-night party known as “Yozakura.”
Yozakura means night cherry blossom; therefore, viewing cherry blossoms at night is called Yozakura.
Generally, at all the Hanami spots, cherry blossom trees are illuminated with lights. Also, traditional Japanese lanterns are hung from the trees.
The illuminated flowers and dimmed light of lanterns create a magical environment to enjoy, especially for couples. So, in case you are planning a romantic date night with your partner, don’t miss this opportunity.
Now, if you seek some tips for seeing cherry blossoms at night in Japan, I can offer a few to you.
Personally, I love the illumination of the Chidorigafuchi Walkway and Meguro River. These two spots are my favorite, and if you stay in Tokyo, you may consider dropping by these places to experience breathtaking views at night.
Apart from Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are also perfect for enjoying Yozakura.
You Can Eat Cherry Blossoms
Are you confused, or do you already know this fact?
The fact that cherry blossoms and their leaves are edible surprises many people. If you want to learn more about their edibility, you may check this article which explains everything regarding this thing.
Anyway, during the blooming season, you will often find traditional Japanese sweets and tea made out of the petals of cherry flowers.
The fresh flowers are first picked and then used in making mochi cakes, candies, and even cookies. You can also concoct drinks with preserved sakura blooms or brew sakura blossom tea.
Now, if you live in the USA, I know a great place where you can enjoy a sakura dessert. There is an international chain called Kyoto Matcha. They sell a special dessert named “Dream of Sakura,” which is a must-try item.
You can check the shop’s location by visiting their official site.
And in case you come to Japan, you will easily find shops or restaurants selling different sakura-themed items.
Cherry Blossoms Has A Deep Meaning in Japan
Generally, cherry blossoms symbolize the temporary nature of life. But, they have contradictory meanings as well. They signify both birth and death, as well as beauty and violence.
They are a major motif in Japanese nature worship, but they have also historically represented the one samurai’s brief but colorful existence. So, the fallen cherry blossom is symbolic of a dead samurai who lost his life in battle.
During World War II, kamikaze pilots’ planes were also decked with Sakura symbols.
All of these things made sakura an important part of Japanese culture. While we appreciate the beauty, we also know how these flowers have a deep root in many of our nation’s sacrifices and sad stories.
However, these flowers are no longer associated with sacrifice and are now only appreciated for their heavenly beauty
Japan Has 100+ Varities of Cherry Blossom Trees
Can you guess how many cherry blossom varieties are found in Japan?
Well, there are over 200 species of cherry in Japan, including wild and cultivated types. In Tokyo’s Ueno Park alone, there are over 50 varieties, some of which are cultivated through cross-breeding.
Somei-yoshino (Prunus x yedoensis), a cherry blossom variety, was initially brought to Japan in the mid-nineteenth century. 1Its cultivation extended across the country from the late 19th century onwards, resulting in it becoming the most common cherry tree species.
Somei Yoshino has white flowers with a hint of pink. And because this tree is mostly found, many people think that cherry blossoms are only pink in color.
Let me tell you that the color range is much wider and pink is just one of them.
Cherry Blossoms Aren’t Just Pink in Color
Most varieties produce white to light pink blossoms, but there are also cherry trees that have dark pink, yellow, and even green flowers.
Some rare cherry trees, such as the Prunus Ukon have yellow flowers, and Prunus Gyoiko has pale green flowers.
Moreover, the color of some types of cherry blossoms may change while they are in bloom. For example, a blossom may bloom as a white flower and change color to pink over a few days.
The Age of The Oldest Cherry Blossom Tree in Japan Will Shock You
What do you think the age will be? 100, 200, 300, or 500 years old.
No! The oldest cherry blossom tree in Japan is around 2,000 years old! And the name of this legendary tree is “Jindai-Zakura.”
Located in Hokuto city in Yamanashi Prefecture, this tree is famous for being the oldest as well as the biggest Japanese cherry tree.
It has been approved as a national natural treasure since 1922.
It is said that Yamato Takeru (a Japanese mythological figure) planted this sakura tree.
Like a large potted plant, it has branches that stretch out in all directions. I think it’s truly one-of-a-kind, almost like a work of art!
After 2,000 years of growth, the tree was on the verge of dying due to aging. Fortunately, the local university’s agricultural department and tree physicians took on the task of rehabilitating it.
They Only Bloom for About A Week
Apart from Japanese people, cherry blossoms attract a huge number of foreign tourists each year. With the arrival of spring, travelers visit Japan to catch the spectacular view of these flowers.
But, one thing that many of them don’t know is that the blossoms only last for one to two weeks.
Usually, they start to bloom from late March and continue till early to mid-April. And in the northern part of Japan, the blooming starts 2 or 3 weeks later.
The ideal viewing time (full flowering) begins 5–7 days after the first blossoming, and petals begin to fall down about another 7 days later. So, if you don’t want to miss the peak beauty, you have to be here at the right time before they fall.
I recommend you plan your trip in late March or the first week of April so that you won’t miss it anyway.
But, what if you can’t come during spring. Is there any way you can still see cherry blossoms in other seasons?
Check the next section to know the answer.
Apart from Spring, You Can Find Cherry Blossom at Other Times Too
When it comes to thinking about cherry blossom season in Japan, only spring comes to mind for most people. It’s because the most common type of sakura, which is Yoshino, blooms during this time of year.
However, just “spring” doesn’t cover up the potential dates of the cherry blossom season!
Yes. Japan’s length is 3,008 kilometers (1,869 miles), and its climate is subarctic and subtropical. That’s why, in Okinawa, cherry blossoms can bloom as early as January, and in Hokkaido, as late as May!
So, the best time to see cherry blossoms varies depending on your trip destination.
Even if you come during the autumn season, you will be able to see cherry blossoms.
Shikizakura (which means “all-season cherry blossoms” in Japanese) blooms twice a year, once in the spring and again in November. Just drop by the Obara District in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, where approximately 10,000 trees bloom in November.
Fuyuzakura is another cherry blossom that flourishes between autumn and winter. You may visit Jomine Park in Saitama Prefecture to see them.
Cherry Blossom Is Japan’s Unofficial National Flower
I think this fact is obviously expected. Cherry blossoms have been designated as Japan’s unofficial national flower due to their cultural significance.
They stand for renewal and hope. And that’s the reason that Japan gave cherry blossom trees to the U.S to establish peace.
The Washington D.C’s Cherry Blossoms Trees Were A Gift from Japan
You are probably familiar with the cherry blossom festival in Washington, D.C. But did you know that Japan gifted them?
Yes, in 1912, the mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, gave the United States 3,000 cherry trees as a gesture of friendship.
On the Tidal Basin’s northern side, about 125 feet south of what is now Independence Avenue, SW, Helen Herron Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted two Yoshino cherry trees.
The first lady presented Viscountess Chinda with a bouquet of “American Beauty” roses at the end of the event.
And it was from this simple rite, that the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC was born, which a few people only witnessed. These two original trees can still be found a few hundred yards west of the John Paul Jones Memorial on 17th Street, SW.
Now, you may think that the cherry blossom capital of the world should be either Japan or D.C, right?
Hmm, is it?
Neither Japan Nor D.C Hold The Title of Cherry Blossom Capital of The World
By far, you have learned that Japan owns the cherry blossom tree in many ways. But, when I say that our country doesn’t hold the title of cherry blossom capital of the world, you are bound to be stunned.
Now, the question is, who has the title?
Well, it’s Macon, Georgia, home to around 300,000 Yoshino cherry blossom trees.
While these trees are clearly not native to the South, local realtor William A. Fickling Sr. found one in his own backyard in 1949. He learned more about cherry blossoms on a business trip to Washington, D.C, and vowed to bring more to his hometown.
He even started a cherry blossom festival there, still being celebrated every year.
There Is A Cherry Blossom Tree Made Entirely from Lego
While all the cherry blossom trees in Japan have a short bloom period, one tree is in bloom all year round!
And that cherry blossom tree is entirely made from lego bricks. It was created in 2018 by Legoland Japan (a theme park situated in Nagoya) in celebration of the park’s first anniversary.
It weighs 3,333 kg (7,348 lb) and achieved a new Guinness World Record for the “biggest LEGO brick cherry blossom tree” at 14 feet tall and nearly 5 feet wide.
The project, which was designed in the Czech Republic and brought to Japan for assembly, took over 6,500 hours to finish with 881,470 bricks.
It features a grassy base, enormous branches, and a canopy with thousands of flowers. At night, the structure is illuminated with lego lanterns.
Cherry Blossom’s Smell Is Subtle And Delicate
When you look at these attractive flowers, there is a high possibility that you may think they have a sweet and captivating aroma.
But, actually, the scent of sakura is delicate and subtle, including the flowers of Somei Yoshino. Even if you hold a flower under your nose, you will have the tiniest hint of scent.
The aroma and flavor of cherry blossoms are most commonly associated with salted leaves and petals or the traditional aromatic sweet known as sakura mochi.
Now, if you want to have a genuine whiff of the cherry blossom scent, just pour hot water over the flower. The rising steam will carry a sweet and pleasant perfume, which is sakura’s natural scent.
Cherry Blossom Trees Don’t Grow Cherries
Although it may seem unusual, some individuals believe that cherry blossom trees produce cherry fruit.
Don’t expect to see cherries on these trees!
Sakura is classified as an ornamental tree, which means it is grown for its blooms rather than its fruit or timber. In fact, their fruit is inedible. These small fruits are bitter, rough, and have a large pit in them.
So, when you hear that people eat sakura, that doesn’t mean its fruit; rather, its petals.
When they are still young and fragile, sakura buds are picked up and then put through a pickling and dehydrating process. They’re then put in airtight containers and ready to use at any time.
It’s Suggested Not to Pluck Cherry Flowers from Tree
Cherry blossoms are delicate, and their petals are extremely fragile. Therefore, bending branches, touching the petals, or plucking them is inadmissible.
Also, don’t shake the branches to see whether the petals fall. Since you already know that they bloom for a short period, doing such things will minimize their lifespan even more.
So, whenever you visit Japan to view these lovely flowers, I suggest you not pluck them or do any other harm.
Although not in Japan, you can get arrested for breaking off a flower in Washington, D.C.
Yep, you heard me right. Hence, you should think twice before plucking one of these pink beauties. In Washington, D.C., removing a flower or branch is considered vandalism of federal property, which can result in a penalty or perhaps an arrest.
Cherry Blossom Trees Can Be Taller Than What You Expect
The ornamental cherry trees that you are used of seeing can grow around 20 to 40 feet, with canopies spreading between 15 to 30 feet.
But, the wild cherry trees can reach up to 80 feet tall!
You Have to Go to The Mount Yoshinoyama to Get The Best View of Cherry Blossoms
In Japan, there are many iconic places where the beauty of cherry blossoms leaves people speechless.
One such place is Mount Yoshino, which has been considered one of Japan’s most popular cherry blossom viewing spots for centuries.
Approximately 30,000 cherry trees cover the mountain creating scenery like a piece of heaven on the earth.
The View of Mount Fuji Behind The Cherry Blossoms Is Also Iconic
The image with cherry blossoms framing Mount Fuji is a typical postcard view that is found throughout the Fuji Five Lakes.
So, if you are used to seeing these types of pictures all over the internet and have dreamed of viewing them in person, then pay a visit to the lake area during spring.
The view of Mount Fuji from the trees along the northern beaches of Lake Kawaguchiko is spectacular, especially when combined with the lake and cherry blossoms.
The lakeside promenade around the Kawaguchiko Music Forest and the little Ubuyagasaki peninsula next to the Kawaguchiko Ohashi Bridge are two of the nicest sites.
I recommend you to visit early in the morning as the visibility of Mount Fuji is best during that time.
Sakura Is A Highly Popular Girls Name in Japan
If you are an enthusiast of Japanese anime, drama, or film, you have already heard the name Sakura of a female character.
Not only fictional but “Sakura” is also a very famous girl’s name in Japan.
Sakurako is also named where “ko” means child and is often added at the end of the name of a female.
Keep Away Your Dog from Eating Cherry Blossoms
Cherry blossoms are now found in many people’s backyards in various countries.
One important piece of information that many of them don’t know is that a cherry tree’s stems, leaves, and blossoms are poisonous to the dog.
Even though it’s unlikely for a dog to eat them, you should be careful beforehand and rake the fallen flowers regularly.
And in case you think that your dog has eaten something poisonous, take them immediately to the vet.
Controversy Over The Origin Of Cherry Blossom
Cherry blossoms have been associated with Japan for a long time. However, there is a huge debate on the tree’s origin.
Some said it originated from the Himalayas in China, some said from Jeju in Korea, and lastly, we Japanese people said these trees are native to our country.
Whatever the origin is, I think it’s far more worthy of wondering about its beauty than engaging in debate on its ownership.
In the end, no one owns nature, and we should better leave the origin a mystery and not fight over it.
But there is one thing that no one can deny is that Japan really adores these trees and has been working on spreading its beauty worldwide.
Okay, it’s time to wrap it up, as there is nothing left to mention.
Hopefully, you had a great time exploring all the interesting facts about cherry blossoms in Japan.
Regardless of where you live, I hope you will come to my country Japan soon to experience the breathtaking beauty of sakura.
I am going to end my writing with a meaningful cherry blossom quote.
“Let’s find inner freedom in each lucky moment that we encounter, like a sun-basking butterfly that finds peace on a cherry blossom petal.”