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Motif Information
Rōmaji Sakura
English Japanese Cherry Blossom
Kanji 桜 櫻
Kana さくら
Season spring
Seasonal Exceptions Yes
Auspicious No
Motif Type Flower

Sakura (English: Japanese Cherry Blossom, botanical: Prunus serrulata) is one of the most well-known flower motifs, found on almost any kitsuke item.

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

Sakura bloom in January in Okinawa, and as late as May in Hokkaido. [1]

The Unofficial National Flower of Japan (Japan has no official national flower)[2], it has a blooming season mostly dependent on the number of petals. Those with 5 petals bloom first, and the blossoms with more than 5 petals bloom later. There are even some sakura that bloom in the winter (juugatsuzakura [October Cherry, blooms from Oct to Jan][3] , fuyuzakura [winter cherry]). Because of the long blooming period and the deep representation of the flower and association with Japan, it has nearly progressed from a specific season to a non-seasonal motif, often worn throughout the year. It's also a common motif on yukata.

Since Japan is a small country but rather vertically long, sakura starts to bloom earlier (not Someiyoshino but other kind of sakura) in southern area and then keep blooming until early summer in Hokkaido.(For example a kind of sakura starts to bloom in January in Okinawa and blooms in May in Hokkaido).

Actually kimono or obi with the design inspired by sakura - petals and blossoms can be worn without worrying about seasons. However many people say very graphic sakura, especially with branches or trees must be very suitable for sakura seasons only. [4]

Motif Connotations & Symbolism

Sakura kamon

Sakura are associated with new beginnings due to their blooming in spring, which is the start of the new year for Japanese schools and businesses.

Sakura blossoms are also associated with the Japanese sense of impermanence, or "mono no aware", due to their short but beautiful life. The blossom's life is likened to that of the samurai, and the image has been used in military history, including in World War II. [5]

Sakura may also be used in kamon.

Common Motif Pairings

  • With the moon and snow the motif is called setsugekka (雪月花). This motif can be further stylized with a rabbit replacing the moon and a snow crystal replacing snow.

Identification & Style Variations

Sakura are usually rendered as five petaled flowers with notches in the petals. The flowers range in colour from white to dark pink, though other colours are certainly possible, especially in more artistic and abstract versions. Sakura are usually not pictured with leaves, as the most commonly known cultivars bloom before the leaves are present.

Sakura is not usually depicted on branch; it's most commonly used just as a blossom and petals. If a branch is illustrated, it's usually graceful and willowy (as in shidarezakura).

Sakura is commonly confused with ume, another 5-petaled flower with centre stamens. However, ume petals are quite rounded, and often shown on a thick, sometimes knobby branch.


Motif sakura 04.jpg
Romaji Sakura
English Standard cherry blossom
Kana さくら
Audio Coming Soon
Notes Typically portrayed as a 5-petaled flower with notched petals. Stamens may be illustrated as a spoked ring.
Motif sakura 02.JPG
Romaji Yaezakura
English Double sakura
Kanji 八重桜
Kana やえざくら
Audio Coming Soon
Notes Sakura with more than 5 petals, usually depicted with 10.
Motif sakura 03.jpg
Romaji Shidarezakura
English Weeping Sakura
Kanji しだれ桜
Kana しだれさくら
Audio Coming Soon
Notes Similar to a weeping willow, the sakura are on a flexible branch that hangs downward from the larger support branches.

Motif Examples

Motif in Literature & Other Usage

Once the practice of flower viewing became popular in the Heian period, the use of hana (flowers) and hanami (flower viewing) in poetry referred to sakura.

Sakura are highly symbolic, and often used in anime, manga, film, media, music, and art. They are also a common motif used in irezumi, traditional Japanese tattooing.

The back of the 100 yen coin has sakura blossoms.

In Song

Possibly the most famous Japanese tune in the Western world is "Sakura Sakura" (さくら さくら), a tune composed in the Edo Period. It was popularized as a piece for koto. The current lyrics were composed in the Meiji Period.[6]

桜 桜 sakura sakura Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms
野山も里も noyama mo sato mo In fields and villages
見渡す限り mi-watasu kagiri As far as you can see
霞か雲か kasumi ka kumo ka Is it a mist, or clouds?
朝日に匂う asahi ni niou Fragrant in the morning sun
桜 桜 sakura sakura Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms
花ざかり hanazakari Flowers in full bloom
桜 桜 sakura sakura Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms
弥生の空は yayoi no sorawa Across the Spring sky
見渡す限り mi-watasu kagiri As far as you can see
霞か雲か kasumi ka kumo ka Is it a mist, or clouds?
匂いぞ 出ずる nioi zo izuru Fragrant in the air
いざや いざや izaya izaya Come now, come now
見に行かん mini yukan Let’s look, at last

Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions

Authors & Contributors

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  1. Japan-Guide.com, When do the cherry blossoms bloom?
  2. Wikipedia, Floral Emblem entry
  3. Japan-Guide, Cherry Species
  4. Kimono Flea Market ICHIROYA's News Letter No.392
  5. Wikipedia, Cherry Blossoms
  6. Sakura Sakura on Wikipedia