Sakura: Cherry blossoms in Japan


Spring photographs by Surendra; “Although every year cherry blossoms bring the experience of renewal, they are also a reminder of how fragile and fleeting life is.”

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Cherry blossoms by Surendra
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Pink petals flutter
Brief blossoms under blue skies
Whispers of goodbye


Japanese cherry blossoms, sakura, flower on bare branches before any signs of leaves opening. They bring a subtle, sweet fragrance. As can be seen in the pictures, the petals are almost white. They carry only a hint of pink. This gets emphasised by the red centres of the flowers. As the petals fall, only the red remains. For a short while, before it, too, falls, the red contrasts with the opening of fresh green leaves.

In Japan the main stream media gives clear details of when and where sakura will be opening throughout the country. The time frame is big, from January in Okinawa to May in Hokkaido. Each flowering lasts for up to ten days. For most of the country this happens between the middle of March and the middle of April.

Sakura have a special significance in Japan and the anticipation of the blooms is very strong. Suddenly, the buds are fully open. It seems like a blink of an eye. For a while, the flowers are fully there, reliable and present for a number of days. It is easy to imagine these blossoms will stay. But a gust of wind is enough to start a cascade of petals, creating a delicate carpet underneath the trees. Left lying on the ground, the petals soon take on a pearly translucence. Although every year cherry blossoms bring the experience of renewal, they are also a reminder of how fragile and fleeting life is.

Flower viewing, hanami, is a very important part of Japanese culture, dating from the eighth century and earlier. Small groups of friends, family or colleagues began to gather in parks or by the rivers to contemplate the beauty of blossoms. They brought light meals and something to drink to make a party. Originally, they centred on the prolonged and vigorous blossoms of the plum trees. As the tradition took root, sakura gained preference. Unlike the enduring plum blossoms, sakura emerge in a fleeting burst of beauty. They underscore the ingrained Japanese conviction of the impermanence of all living things, bringing depth with an undertone of melancholy.

Also central to Japanese aesthetics is the concept of wabi-sabi. This has many definitions including the appreciation of the simple, the quiet, the less-than-perfect. Wabi-sabi embraces the natural cycle of growth, decay and death. Delicate and transient cherry blossoms can be seen as the epitome of this cycle. They are a reminder to live in the moment. Life can be taken away in an instant.

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Surendra spent many years in Osho Communes. While teaching at Osho Ko Hsuan school, he became a passionate photographer.

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