The cherry-blossom: Japans national flower that is waited on by many to bloom forth during Spring. This time, the popularity of the cherry-blossom will be explained thoroughly while also touching on their history!
Lets Look At The Popularity As Well As The History of Cherry Blossoms
- Asuka Period
In the oldest known historical Japanese text, the「古事記」(Kojiki), there is a goddess called「木花之佐久夜毘売」(Konohana sakuya-hime) written in it. This goddess, who was written as very beautiful, was written as the guardian god of Mt. Fuji. Just like the cherry-blossom, her lifespan was short.
- Nara Period
As there was influence from Chinese culture during this period, the word “flower”「花」indicated plums, not cherry blossoms. Cherry-blossoms were something holy that were worshiped by the people.
- Heian Period
As the envoys to China were abolished, Japanese culture started to develop. During that time, due to people being attracted by the cherry-blossoms beauty, its popularity skyrocketed. This period is when emperor Saga did the very first cherry-blossom viewing in Japan. After that, in the year 831, the emperor sponsored them, with cherry-blossom viewings becoming a trend among the nobles.
- Kamakura Period
Cherry-blossom viewing had not only become a trend among the nobles but among the samurai and the common people as well. In Kenkocho Yoshidas「徒然草」(Tsure-dzuregusa), the scenery at that times cherry-blossom viewing is written as so:「The nobles are elegantly enjoying the cherry-blossoms, on the other hand, the hicks are talking and frolicking under the cherry-blossom tree.」
- Adzuchi-momoyama Period
In this period, the scale of cherry-blossom viewing has grown even bigger.
In the year 1594, it is said that the cherry-blossom viewing sponsored by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, spanned for 5 days and about 5000 people came. Interestingly, warlords such as Ieyasu Tokugawa, Date Masamune, and Toshie Maeda participated while in cosplay as well!
In the year 1598, Hideyoshi Toyotomi held a cherry-blossom viewing in Daigo, Kyoto prefecture, inviting around 1300 people. Famously known food had been taken to there and it had been very exciting. What they ate then was the「花見だんご」(Hanami Dango).
Today’s cherry-blossom viewing banquets originated from the cherry-blossom viewing banquets held by Hideyoshi Toyotomi!
- Edo Period
Iemitsu Tokugawa replanted the cherry-blossoms that were originally in Yoshino, Nara prefecture to Uenokan-eiji in Tokyo to enjoy cherry-blossom viewing. During that time, the general public was not allowed to enter Uenokan-eiji. The cherry blossom there became the origin of Ueno Park where, what is called today, one of Japans Three Great Night Cherry Blossoms, resides.
In the year 1720, Yoshimune Tokugawa planted cherry-blossoms at Asakusa and Asuka-yama, so common folk could enjoy cherry-blossom viewing. He even did flood control work. It is said that, due to the many people going to see the cherry-blossoms that were planted along Sumida River, where flood damage often occurred during long rain, the grounds had hardened and became a levee. This is the reason why cherry blossoms across the country are usually planted along rivers.
In the late Edo period, a type of cherry-blossom called the Somei yoshino appear. It was made by cross-fertilizing the Oshima and Edo higan cherry blossoms and the name comes from the village that it came from, Somei village (which is now Komagome, Toshima district, Tokyo).
- Meiji Period
Cherry-blossoms have been planted in many areas but, after the Meiji Restoration, mansions and gardens became ruined, causing a lot of cherry blossoms to be cut down.
- Since the Taisei Period
The Kohoku district director, Kengo Shimizu, had rows of cherry-blossoms planted. Furthermore, some of their horticultural varieties have been preserved by the Koshigawa Botanical Garden.
During the warring times, the cherry-blossoms short life inspired the names of special attack weapons, giving the cherry blossom a sorrowful image as well.
The Reason Cherry Blossoms Are Popular
As can be seen throughout its history, the cherry-blossom has been very popular since old times.
Now, is it understandable as to why cherry-blossoms have been popular even until now? We have picked up on some reasons!
- Cherry-blossoms can not be seen throughout the year as, just to signify the coming of Spring, they bloom only then.
- One whole tree blooms only the cherry-blossom flowers, making it look very gorgeous.
- Wabi-sabi can be felt by the cherry-blossoms short and fleeting life span.
- After the cold winter, the cherry-blossoms bloom at the same time as the end of it.
Just as thought, the beautifully gorgeous cherry blossom that blooms after a long cold winter and only having a short life that goes away in a flash is what pulls peoples hearts. When you get to enjoy them, try and enjoy that one time as well.