Why we love cherry blossoms this much?

”この杯を受けてくれ Take this cup, 
どうぞなみなみ注がしておくれ Let me fill it to the brim.
花に嵐のたとえもあるぞ Since Like flowers in a storm,
「さよなら」だけが人生だ”
Life is full of goodbyes.

If you have lived in Japan for a while, you would notice how we love cherry blossoms. Not only “Hanami” (cherry blossom viewing party), we have cherry blossom flavored donuts and snacks, tea and yogurt, even Starbucks Sakura Frappuccino.

But why we love cherry blossoms this much?

The poem above is written by Masuji Ibuse, but the original one is from Yu Wuling, a Chinese poet of the late Tang dynasty. Ibuse translated the Chinese poem, and it became one of his most famous works afterwards.

When the season of cherry blossoms comes, it always reminds me of this poem.

Because the part “Like flowers in a storm, Life is full of goodbyes” matches really well with cherry blossoms. I wonder if Yu Wuling meant cherry blossoms by the word “flower” , when he originally made it though.

But for us, for Japanese people, “the flower that falls often by storm” means cherry blossoms. Because it is really true, when Spring comes we have many rain and storms. And it sometimes brutally intense for flowers that started blooming at last. As a result, cherry blossoms often falls soon because of rain and wind. And we feel sad when we see the petals dispersed after storm.

But at the same time, we feel cherry blossoms are beautiful because it’s very fragile. This seems to be an unique Japanese mentality we have. And it’s called 無常観(Mujo-kan), a concept of “Nothing stays and lasts forever”.

無常観 originally came from Buddism, but the concept spreaded widely among people during Karakura-era, 1185–1333. At this time Japan was in the age of rival barons, people were seeing the transition of power everyday.

鴨長明(Kamo no Chōmei, a poet in the same era) once composed,

”The flowing river never stops
and yet the water never stays the same.
Foam floats upon the pools,
scattering, re-forming,
never lingering long.
So it is with man
and all his dwelling places
here on earth.”

A king was born and fell, then another king stands…this is how the fragility of human life was likened to cherry blossoms, and we found the beauty.

無常観 accepts fragility and transient of life. But it also emphasizes the present too.

Let me back to the poem of Ibuse. In the poem he offers a cup of sake, because he knows no one is 100% sure when, or how he can see the guest again next time. Just like we are not sure when cherry blossoms falls in a storm.

Seeing cherry blossoms let us know the importance of embracing the moment.

I think that’s why we love the flower this much.

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