The real reason why Japanese people love Sakura

I’m not sure how many people put two and two together, it took me a while to realise, but the blooming of Sakura coincides with the start of the rice planting season.

Why does this matter? Well, the ancient Japanese felt the presence of Kami deities in all manner of objects, and Sakura were felt to be the deities of the rice fields, since whenever they bloomed, it was time to plant rice.

Rice is obviously extremely important because it is food. Food is basically the object of every matsuri festival, that’s why so many of them happen around the time of the autumn harvest, and the ancient Japanese celebrated this coming of the gods by making offerings and sharing sake beneath the Sakura.

Master Hoshino, my Yamabushi master, always says that the word Sakura is made up of two words, Sa meaning the god of the rice field, and Kura from Iwakura, where the gods reside.

Starting from the Nara period (710-794), and originally with Ume plum blossoms, in the Heian period (794-1185), Emperor Saga held flower viewing parties with sake and a huge feast, and a tradition was set in stone.

By the time Emperor Saga had gotten round to it, the Sakura cherry blossoms had become more of the centre of attention. The short nature and fragility of these blossoms since became representative of the fleeting nature of life, symbolizes by the petals scattering down in a slight breeze.

So for centuries the Japanese have been celebrating the arrival of the gods of the rice fields, and that has morphed into the modern-day Hanami ritual, which is basically a good excuse to get drunk 🙂



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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan

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