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May 19, 2009

Beautiful Cherry Blossom

A cherry blossom is the name for the flower of cherry trees, also known as Sakura in Japanese. In English, the word "sakura" is equivalent to the Japanese flowering cherry. Cherry fruit (known in Japanese as sakuranbo) comes from another species of tree.

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Cherry Blossoms are indigenous to many Asian states including Japan, Korea, China, and India. Japan has a wide variety of cherry blossoms (sakura); well over 200 cultivars can be found there.

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During the Heian Period (794–1191), Japanese sought to emulate many practices from China, including the social phenomenon of flower viewing, where the imperial households, poets, singers and other aristocrats would gather and celebrate under the blossoms. In Japan, cherry trees were planted and cultivated for their beauty, for the adornment of the grounds of the nobility of Kyoto, at least as early as 794. In China, the ume "plum" tree (actually a species of apricot) was held in highest regard, but by the middle of the ninth century, the cherry blossom had replaced the plum as the favored species in Japan.


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Cherry blossom is an omen of good fortune and is also an emblem of love, affection and represents spring. Cherry blossoms are an enduring metaphor for the fleeting nature of life, and as such are frequently depicted in art.

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During World War II, the cherry blossom was used to motivate and manipulate the Japanese people, to stoke nationalism and militarism among the populace. Japanese pilots would paint them on the sides of their planes before embarking on a suicide mission, or even take branches of the trees with them on their missions. A cherry blossom painted on the side of the bomber symbolized the intensity and ephemerality of life; in this way, the aesthetic association was altered such that falling cherry petals came to represent the sacrifice of youth in suicide missions to honor the emperor.

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In its colonial enterprises, imperial Japan often planted cherry trees as a means of "claiming occupied territory as Japanese space".

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The most popular variety of sakura in Japan is the Somei Yoshino. Its flowers are nearly pure white, tinged with the palest pink, especially near the stem. They bloom and usually fall within a week, before the leaves come out. Therefore, the trees look nearly white from top to bottom. The variety takes its name from the village of Somei (now part of Toshima in Tokyo). It was developed in the mid- to late-19th century at the end of the Edo period and the beginning of the Meiji period

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Cherry blossoms and leaves are both edible and used as food ingredients in Japan. The blossoms are pickled in salt and umezu and used for coaxing out flavor in wagashi or anpan. Salt-pickled blossoms in hot water is called sakurayu and drunk at festive events like weddings in place of green tea. Leaves, mostly ƌshima cherry because of the softness, are also pickled in salted water and used for sakuramochi. Since the leaves contain coumarin, however, it is not recommend to eat them in great quantity.

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