On any given day, customers who search Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen for products bearing the image or pattern of the delicate cherry blossom will find over 100 items matching their request. A revelation such as this leaves many to wonder what it is about the cherry blossom that elevates it to iconic status not just in its country of origin, but also in a location 6,778 miles (10,908 km) away.
The cherry blossom (sakura) is Japan’s national flower and has been prominently celebrated for centuries. Many believe it was China’s social practice of gathering imperial households, poets and aristocrats to view and celebrate under the blossoms was the reason Japanese nobilities were influenced to do the same. That practice became known as hanami, the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers. The annual Cherry Blossom Festival keeps that tradition alive.
The festival usually begins in late March and ends sometime in April. Blossoming varies by region, with trees in southern Japan blooming first. As the season continues north, the Japanese public keeps track of the sakura zensen, or cherry blossom front, so that they know exactly when to head to the parks or temples with family and friends for a flower viewing gathering. Cherry blossoms are known for their transient quality and fleeting beauty. During the festival, cherry trees everywhere bear soft pink and white flowers which last only a few days.
It is because of their short life span that cherry blossoms have been linked to samurais. Falling blossoms are considered metaphors for fallen warriors who fought bravely and died in battle. People believed the blossoms were the reincarnated souls of downed warriors. Today, the Japanese police and even its military use the cherry blossom in its emblems and flags to symbolize national pride and loyalty.
Over 100 varieties of cherry trees exist in Japan, but it is the most popular varieties that are planted in public places such as parks and schoolyards. The Somei Yoshino is considered to be the most popular, its white flowers tinged with pale pink. Other varieties include the shidarezakura, a weeping cherry tree whose branches droop like that of a weeping willow with pink flowers, and the winter sakura, which begins blooming in the fall and continues to do so sporadically throughout winter. Most trees have blossoms consisting of five petals, although some varieties can have ten, twenty or more. Despite its brief loveliness, the cherry tree is also known for its wood. Cherry wood has a fine grain and rich dark color and is used to craft quality furniture, kitchen cabinets, flooring and more.
In 1912, Japan presented the United States with a gift of sakura trees as a symbol of their growing friendship. The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. commemorates the event every spring. Like Japan, the festival is timed to coincide with the peak blooming period of the trees. During the two week long festivities, hundreds of thousands of the city’s residents and its visitors from around the nation and world come to admire the blossoming cherry trees and partake in an array of activities. There are daily cultural performances by local, national and international entertainers, art exhibits, fireworks, arts & crafts demonstrations and more. This year, the festival commences March 29 and will run until April 13.
Not able to travel to Washington D.C. or Japan? There are similar celebrations held annually in areas such as Brooklyn (NY), Philadelphia (PA) and Macon (GA). If your neighborhood is blessed to have its own cherry tree, why not start your own hanami tradition? Afterwards, invite family and friends back to your home for a cherry blossom celebration. Hang a Cascading Cherry Blossom Noren in the doorway, display a Cherry Blossom Parasol overhead, don a Cherry Blossoms on Lavender Apron to protect clothing while offering snacks to guests served on plates from the Cascading Cherry Blossom or Cherry Blossoms in Black dinnerware collections.
If the prospect of spring energizes you, why not keep that feeling all year round by surrounding yourself with the magical beauty of cherry blossoms? Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen carries a variety of cherry blossom-themed sake sets, chopsticks, tea sets and more to help you do just that.
OUR 2008 NEWSLETTERS
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Celebrating Cherry Blossom
The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan
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Spring Blossoms Chopsticks (10432)
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Beautiful Cherry Blossom Print Chopsticks Gift Set (11501)
Cherry Blossom Pattern Porcelain Bowl Set of Ten (10955)