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Sensoji Cherry Blossoms

Terry Mclaughlin


Behind the Shot

It’s difficult to overstate how important the cherry blossom is to Japanese culture. The practice of “hanami,” drinking under a blooming tree, usually a flowering plum, was a Chinese tradition that became popular with Japanese royals during the Nara Period (710 to 794 AD). During the Heian Era (794 to 1192), hanami became associated with cherry blossom viewing, and became a popular pastime with the imperial family and select members of the aristocracy.

The first official hanami festival was organized in the 9th century by Emperor Saga, and it wasn’t until much later, during the Edo Period (1603 to 1867) that commoners were invited to participate. By the 1700s, cherry blossoms began to be integrated into Buddhist traditions. The blossoms were seen to represent mortality, destiny and karma, and their blooming patterns became a metaphor for the passage of time and the cycles of life.