NAGANO '98 Kids' Info Center



Cherry Blossoms: A Symbol of Spring

Takato'o, a town in the middle of Nagano Prefecture, is famous around the country for its breathtaking display of cherry blossoms in the spring. Nearly 1,500 cherry trees planted around the remains of Takato'o Castle attract throngs of visitors from all over Japan eager for a view of the dazzling curtain of light-pink petals.

The Japanese love for cherry blossoms dates back to ancient times, and they have been the subject of countless paintings and literary works. The blossoms epitomize the Japanese notion of fleeting beauty: The brilliant blossoms appear suddenly and scatter almost as quickly as they bloomed.

The flowering season, normally in early April, is symbolic of new beginnings. The school year starts when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, and it is common for entering kids to have their snapshots taken against the backdrop of blossoming cherries.

Excursions and picnics to view the cherry blossoms are among the most popular Japanese seasonal pastimes. Flower-viewing parties were popular among the aristocracy in ancient days, and the custom spread to commoners around the early seventeenth century. People today still like to flock under the blooming flowers, picnicking and drinking with family and friends.

Forecasts of the approach of the "cherry blossom front" where buds are just flowering--with the blossoms appearing first in southern regions and gradually working their way up north--are regularly featured in newspapers and on television news, and festivals are held throughout Japan in places renowned for their blossoms.

The cherry tree is an integral part of Japanese people's lives. Salted petals and leaves are used in teas and to wrap foods in; the wood is used for furniture and woodblock printing; and the sap is used as medicine.