Cherry Blossoms

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Significance of Sakura: Cherry Blossom Traditions in Japan. … Cherry blossoms are a symbolic flower of the spring, a time of renewal, and the fleeting nature of life. Their life is very short. After their beauty peaks around two weeks, the blossoms start to fall.

During World War II, the cherry blossom was used to motivate the Japanese people, to stoke nationalism and militarism among the populace. Even prior to the war, they were used in propaganda to inspire “Japanese spirit”, as in the “Song of Young Japan”, exulting in “warriors” who were “ready like the myriad cherry blossoms to scatter”. In 1932, Akiko Yosano poetry urged Japanese soldiers to endure sufferings in China and compared the dead soldiers to cherry blossoms. Arguments that the plans for the Battle of Leyte Gulf, involving all Japanese ships, would expose Japan to serious danger if they failed, were countered with the plea that the Navy be permitted to “bloom as flowers of death”. The last message of the forces on Peleliu was “Sakura, Sakura” — cherry blossoms. 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.

In the springtime from mid to late April and May there are two species of cherry trees in season in Central Park. The Kwanzan Cherry and Yoshino Cherry are in both in bloom for tourists and residents to gaze upon, as they blend in perfectly, completing the park’s stunningly aesthetic scenery during these months.

The Yoshino Cherry is the most popular ornamental cherry tree planted in Central Park.Before the leaves appear on the trees pale pink flowers emerge in clusters of five or six. Then as the tree’s leaves grow, they are usually a bronze color when they first develop then change to a darker green as the summer approaches. The origin of the Yoshino Cherry, which produces a hybrid cherry, is not specific. However, it is known that the first trees were brought as a gift into the U.S. from Japan in 1912. These trees, which grow up to 30 feet, are believed to be the ones along the east side of the Reservoir.

The cherry blossom season is relatively short. Full bloom (mankai) is usually reached within about one week after the opening of the first blossoms (kaika). Another week later, the blooming peak is over and the blossoms are falling from the trees. Strong wind and rain can cut the blooming season even shorter.

 


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