It’s That Time Again: Cherry Blossoms!

I don’t know why, but I love spring. But of course, one of the most memorable things about Spring are blossoms! In Japanese these are known as sakura (桜) and in Korean I think1 these are known as peotggot (벚꽃), and often begin blooming in February or March in the southern regions, and the blooming moves northwards. By April, you can see cherry blossoms everywhere. You can easily recognize cherry blossoms by their five petals, which have a small notch at the end. The color will be white to deep pink depending on the variety.

Even at my home here in Seattle, we are lucky to have cherry blossoms blooming:

Spring is here!

I literally took this photo at my doorstep, on my iPhone, filtered by Instagram. The previous owner of our home planted both peach and cherry trees in the front of the house, so we get to see both blooming around the same time:

Cherry and Peach blossoms

As my wife and I are both new to gardening, we’re still struggling to learn how to maintain the yard, but are getting better at it.

Anyhow, you can find many festivals and outdoor activities at this time of year in both Korea and Japan. In Japan, people really gather around Kyoto and Tokyo during this time of year, and news shows will have special segments when cherry trees bloom in Ueno Park for example. This post was inspired by an excellent article by the Japan Times too.

Here’s a photo I took in 2010 of the temple of Todaiji in April:

The Daibutsuden and Cherry Blossoms

You can see the cherry blossoms nicely here. 🙂 In Tokyo, you can find many places to organize picnics for cherry-blossom viewing or hanami (花見), though space fills up fast. This excellent site has lots of suggestions in the Tokyo area. Here’s an even better site in Japanese.

Likewise, Korea has many excellent festivals at this time of year for viewing blossoms. One of the most famous is Jinhae Gun Hang Je (진해군항제) which is way down south in the city of Changwon:

Jinhae Gunhang Festival 20080405

The photo above comes from Wikipedia, since I haven’t been to Korea yet. But I think it shows how lovely this festival is. The website linked above even has a “live” camera feed of the blossoms there, though it didn’t work on my browser. 😦

Seoul also has lots of cherry festivals both at Gyeongbok Palace and on the famous island of Yeouido which sits within the Han River. Yeouido apparently gets super-crowded during this time of year as people swarm to see its excellent gardens and blossoms, so if you do go there, be prepared to fight crowds. Also, a lot of streets may be shut down on certain days, so be prepared to walk.

As a final note, I want to post a poem by Ki no Tsurayuki (c. 868-945) from the Hyakunin Isshu anthology that seemed fitting. I originally posted this on my other blog, but felt like re-posting here:

人はいさ Hito wa isa
心も知らず Kokoro mo shirazu
ふるさとは Furusato wa
花ぞむかしの Hana zo mukashi no
香に匂ひける Ka ni nioi keru

Which Professor Mostow translates as:

With people, well
you can never know their hearts;
but in my old village
the flowers brightly bloom with
the scent of the days of old.

Anyhow, wherever you are, I hope you can enjoy cherry blossoms. Better yet, I hope you can share the moment with friends and family. 🙂

….unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere. Sorry guys. 😉

Correction: Figured out later that cherry blossoms are peotggot (벚꽃), while cherry trees are peotnamu (벚나무). Blog has been corrected accordingly. I still have a lot to learn about Korean. 😛

P.S. The Wikipedia article on “Sakura” mentions something about the origin of the modern sakura, coming from Jeju Island possibly. I’d be curious to know more about how the Korean and Japanese species are related.

1 Used my handy Naver iPhone app (thanks to a recent reader suggestion) to translate sakura into Korean, then search by Google and found a Wikipedia article about it. So, I’m pretty sure I’m right. Any Korean experts are welcome to chime in further.

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Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

5 thoughts on “It’s That Time Again: Cherry Blossoms!”

  1. Spring flowers always remind me Japanese Cherry Blossoms and ceremonies… We have a wonderful garden, every year I want to visit but I miss the time always… I hope this spring I can go… Thank you, Blessing and Happiness, with my love, nia

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  2. I really wish to see the cherry blossoms someday myself. So far I’ve only visited Japan on summer, but when I get the chance I plan on visiting there in spring just to see the blossoms.

    Interesting to hear about the blossoms in Korea as well, as cherry blossoms are so strongly associated with Japan, that it’s hard to think that they exist anywhere else. But I suppose it’s also because in the West Korea remains generally less well known as a whole than Japan.

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  3. Hi Everyone, sorry for the late, late reply:

    niasunset: I miss it too. I’ve only been to Japan in the Spring, once (airfare is expensive), but it was worth it.

    Cocomino: I hope you had fun at お花見. 🙂

    Jan: And that’s why I changed the blog! 🙂 Although I love Japanese culture, I felt there was just too much focus on it, when other cultures get ignored or overshadowed by Japan. So, I wanted to explore other cultures, starting with Korea.

    iamchp: ?

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