Where does the cherry-viewing buzz come from?

this is a serious cultural article!

Cherry blossom period is starting in Japan. It is the time when Japanese people are enjoying watching flowers blooming everywhere:

- trying to find out the first sakura bud of the year and take a picture of it,
- having pique-nique under the trees (well, usually, drinking and karaoke-ing a lot under the trees - no wonders the flowers are falling down so fast),
- are walking around them in awe,
- are visiting famous sites to see their sakura with 1 million other visitors,

Nothing stops them from enjoying the sakura. But where does this habit come from exactly? Why do the Japanese enjoy watching sakura so much ?

I think that the seed was implanted by Emperor Shotoku, 6th century - Nara period, who introduced Buddhism to Japan, with the help of Kukai. But the habit flourished under Heian period, 10th century.

During Heian, Buddhism emphases the fact that everything is ephemeral: meaning that life is short and that its end comes fast. So the link with the cherry blossom is easy: it is the first sign of nature's revival, a promise of beauty, maturity and of its end. And also of life as a never-ending cycle.

You therefore have to enjoy it when you can, and remember that you too, will be gone before long. For them, cherry blossom is not supposed to be a dark moment. On the contrary, every year, sakura are blooming back, and they are the symbol of revival, and hope.

So, around the 10-12th century, sakura time was an important moment in the life of the aristocracy (maybe also in the life of commoners) as it reminded them about life's ephemeral character. It was a moment both to enjoy and to purify your soul from earthly attachments such as jalousy, envy...

Today, ephemeral life is very very very far from Japanese people's mind when they are karaoke-ing under the sakura but I believe that their commun cultural (un)consciousness, acts as a catalysis to go out and enjoy the first flower buds.

by Claire

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