The flowering cherry tree is one of the cliché Western images of Japan, conjured up along with geisha, sushi, and samurai. However, within the country itself, the cherry blossoms have been a cultural event for over a thousand years. The annual hanami, cherry blossom viewing parties, the many cultural symbolic interpretations of the cherry blossoms, and the extensive use of the blossoms in art, for both their innate beauty and the symbolism they carry, have ensured the blossoming trees’ position in the cultural identity of Japan.
The cherry blossom holds much symbolism within Japan. According to the Buddhist tradition, the breathtaking but brief beauty of the blossoms symbolizes the transient nature of life. The flowers last for at most a few weeks, but during that time, both the mountains and the cities are full of the delicate pink flowers, be the trees wild or cultivated. “The traditional Japanese values of purity and simplicity are thought to be reflected in the form and color of the blossoms.” (Osamu, 1983) The cherry blossom is also tied with the samurai culture, representing the fleeting nature of the samurai’s life and symbolic of drops of blood. (Frederic, 2002)
The Yoshida Hiroshi print “Cherry Tree at Kawagoe” is part of the series “Eight Scenes of Cherry Blossoms”, which depicts a variety of views during the cherry blossom season. In each picture the blossoms are in a different state of development, rather than each depicting the blossoms at the height of their season and beauty. This highlights the transient nature of the blossoms which makes them all the more beautiful. One of the prints, “Yozakura in the Rain” depicts two brightly clad women under umbrellas in the middle distance gazing at slightly bedraggled trees in the background. The distance by which the viewer is removed from the events of the print contributes to the sense of melancholy and transitivity depicted in the print. This contrasts with...
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