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Goin’ Japanesque!

11 Beautiful Landscapes Created by Blossoming Cherry Trees

Together with the chrysanthemum, the flowering cherry (called “sakura”) is the representative flower of Japan. These beautiful pink blossoms have been sung of in poetry like senryū and haiku since ancient times, and they’ve also featured regularly in paintings and illustrations. Since the Heian period (794–1185), the status of cherry blossoms has been so notable that when the character for “flower” (花) is used, it sometimes specifically means “sakura” (桜). Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at the many faces of sakura and how they’ve been spoken of in Japan since time immemorial. Photo:


1. Ippon-zakura


The sight of a single (“ippon”) cherry tree, an ippon-zakura gains a profound depth precisely for its lack of neighbors.

Related (Ippon-zakura): 5 Must-see Japanese Cherry Trees


2. Yo-zakura


The “yo” refers to “night” and the “sakura” to cherry blossom. So, “night cherry blossoms.”

Related (yo-zakura): 3 Great Spots for Nighttime Sakura: Fantastical View of Cherry Blossoms


3. Hana-akari



This phrase refers to how the white of cherry blossom petals can seem to radiate light (“akari”) even in the darkness, making for a fantastical scene.


4. Ōun


Translating literally to mean “sakura cloud,” this describes a scene completely covered in blooming cherry blossoms. In this spirit, Ōun-kyō (“Sakura Cloud Bridge”) in Takatō Castle Site Park is famous all across the country as a stellar spot for sakura.


5. Sakura-kage


This phrase refers to the reflection of cherry blossoms in any surrounding water features. “Kage” generally means “shadow” or “reflection”: when a sakura simply casts a shadow, the kanji used is 陰, but when it refers to the reflection of the flowers, then 影 is used.


6. Hana-gasumi


“Kasumi” means “mist,” and this phrase refers to how layered sakura seen from far away resemble a white mist.


7. Hana-ikada



Also called sakura-nagashi (桜流し), this is seen when cherry blossom petals are pushed along the surface of the water by the wind like a raft (“ikada”) in the current.


8. Hana-mushiro



One of the most gorgeous sights you’ll see at hanami, this describes a surface completely covered in petals, like a mat (“mushiro”).


9. Hana-zakari


This means “the peak time (‘sakari’) of the sakura.”


10. Kobore-zakura



These are the cherry blossoms once they’ve bloomed and are falling (“kobore”) to the ground. It’s also used to describe those conditions, as well.


11. Sakura-fubuki / Hana-fubuki



These phrases are used to describe kobore-zakura that are sent scattering in a blizzard (“fububi”) when the wind picks up. Owing to this sight’s resemblance to snow (“yuki”), it’s also called “hana no yuki.” In emulation of this, even now sakura-fubuki (in actuality, confetti) is used in performance arts like kabuki.

Related: Strike a Pose, Kabuki-Style: The Meanings of “Mie”


Do you feel like you’ve got a good grip on the many moods spun and woven by sakura? Perhaps naming the falling cherry blossoms and enjoying the beauty found in transience is one of those perfectly Japanese experiences. If you happen to travel to Japan in the spring, make sure to tuck these phrases under your hat beforehand and have fun trying to figure out which applies to what when you go and see the flowering cherry trees!

Related: 7 Beautiful Faces of Mount Fuji

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