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
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.