Fluttering and Flurries of Flowers

Fluttering and Flurries of Flowers – ひらりひらりと花吹雪

[Japan Savvy – April 2024 Issue]


Japanese people cherish and prefer cherry blossoms as something special. The blooming of cherry blossoms not only signals the arrival of spring but also symbolizes a fresh start in life.


At schools, a new term begins, new employees join companies, and people take hopeful steps forward adorned by cherry blossoms.


The famous variety of cherry blossoms is called Somei Yoshino. It was cultivated by gardeners in Somei village (now Komagome, Toshima City, Tokyo) known for its planting place at the end of the Edo period (17th to 19th century).


And, named after the famous cherry blossoms of Yoshino in Nara, renowned for TOYOTOMI  Hideyoshi’s big cherry blossom viewing, it was named “Somei Yoshino” and became a huge hit.


Tokyo boasts many famous cherry blossom viewing spots. The weeping cherry at Rikugien Garden and the cherry blossom-lined paths seen from yakatabune boats on the Sumida River are particularly stunning, offering a soothing beauty that touches the heart.


Become a Cherry Blossom Savvy | になる


Warm Up: Useful Words


開花(かいか)- blooming

満開(まんかい) Full bloom


桜吹雪(さくらふぶき) Cherry Blossom Blizzard




花見(はなみ)-cherry blossom viewing

癒やされる(いやされる)-being soothed

~と同時に(とどうじに)-at the same time as …

Warm Up: Ice Breaking Questions

Have you ever seen cherry blossoms? When and where?


What symbolizes spring for you?


What is your favorite flower?


What is the national flower of your country?


Have you ever participated in cherry blossom viewing or similar events?


Do you have any traditions you always follow when spring comes?


Work up: Discussion

Ken: When did cherry blossom viewing start in Japan?


Yumi: The custom of cherry blossom viewing is said to have begun in the Nara period. However, initially, it seems that people admired plum blossoms rather than cherry blossoms.


Maya: Did cherry blossoms not exist during that time?


Yumi: No. Cherry blossoms existed since the earlier Yayoi period, around 300 BC.


Ken: In the Western context, it would be during the time of ancient Rome, right?


Yumi: In Japan, since ancient times, rice planting has been done to coincide with the full bloom of cherry blossoms.


Maya: Cherry blossoms act as navigators for rice cultivation, don’t they?


Yumi: Rice has been a vital staple for the Japanese, so you could say cherry blossoms act as navigators of life. By the way, the origin of the word “ine” (rice plant) is also said to be “the root of life.” And there’s a theory that “Sakura” (cherry blossoms) means “kura” (storehouse) where the spirit of the rice plant “sa” resides.

ゆみ:お米は日本人にとって命のもとのような存在だったので、桜は命のナビゲーターとも言えますね。ちなみに、米がなる「稲(イネ)」の語源は「命の根」とも言われています。そして「サクラ」は、稲の精霊である「サ」が鎮座する「クラ」 という説もあるんですよ。

Wrap Up: New Knowledge

The state of cherry blossoms is expressed as “X % in bloom.” For instance, “70% in bloom” indicates about 70% of full bloom.


Buds are counted as “ikko, niko” or “hitotsu, futatsu, ” while bloomed flowers are counted as “ichi-rin, ni-rin,” and petals as “ichi-mai, ni-mai.” Petals falling off are counted as “ichi-hen, nihen.” Japanese counting for flowers is nice, isn’t it?


Cherry blossoms in a state where the flowers fall and new leaves emerge are called “hazakura” (leafy cherry blossoms).


Every year, the cherry blossoms that adorn the banks of the Potomac River in Washington were gifted from Tokyo City (now Tokyo Metropolis) in the 45th year of the Meiji era (1912) as a symbol of friendship between Japan and the United States.


The emblem of the Japan national rugby team features three fully bloomed cherry blossom petals aligned in a row. When the team was formed in 1930 (Showa 5), the emblem depicted three types of cherry blossoms: buds, halfway bloomed, and fully bloomed.


Alongside spring’s “sakura” (cherry blossoms), autumn’s “kiku” (chrysanthemums) also represent Japan. The chrysanthemum is a symbol of the imperial family and is depicted on the cover of Japan’s passports.


“Ine” (rice plant) is the “root of life.” Rice, also read as “yone,” signifies “the root of the world.” The “ko” in “kome” (rice) represents “man,” and the “me” represents “maiden.” In other words, “kome” embodies life. The “ko” in “kome” (rice) represents “man,” and the “me” represents “maiden.” In other words, “kome” embodies life.


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