The Japanese cherry blossom tree, also known as sakura, is a beautiful and iconic symbol of Japan. These delicate and vibrant flowers have captivated people’s hearts for centuries. While many countries claim to be the cherry blossom capital of the world, Japan is certainly my favorite, having a long history with these fascinating trees, is home to several of the oldest and most beautiful ones, and enjoys fascinating cherry blossom festivals each year. In this article, we will explore 20 amazing facts about cherry blossom trees in Japan.

Japan Spring Cherry Blossoms
Japan Spring Cherry Blossoms

Fact 1 – Sakura or Cherry Blossom?

Have you heard the word Sakura? Cherry blossoms and sakura are both terms used to describe the same phenomenon – the flowering of certain varieties of cherry blossom trees. In Japanese, the term sakura refers specifically to the species of cherry blossom known as Prunus serrulata, which is native to Japan and is the main species seen in Japanese gardens and parks. Cherry blossoms, on the other hand, is an umbrella term referring to any species of flowering cherry tree, including Prunus serrulata and several other varieties found outside Japan.

Fact 2 – Yoshino Cherry Dominance

While there are over 600 varieties of cherry trees in Japan, the Yoshino cherry (Prunus × yedoensis) is the most common and widely recognized variety. It makes up about 80% of the cherry blossom trees in Japan. Another popular one is the Kwanzan cherry.

Fact 3 – Bloom Predictions and Peak Bloom

This is my favorite time of the year! Sakura typically starts to bloom in Japan in late March or early April, usually beginning in Okinawa prior to blooming in other parts of the country. Cherry blossom season typically lasts for about one to two weeks, although it can be as short as a few days or as long as a month, depending on the weather. Once the cherry blossoms bloom, their fragile petals gradually fall to the ground, creating a mesmerizing carpet of pink and white.

Sakura Japanese Cherry Blossom in a blue sky
Sakura Japanese Cherry Blossom on a beautiful day in Japan

Fact 4 – Japanese Weather Records

In Japan, there are records dating back over 1,200 years referred to as “sakura-zensen,” which translates to “Cherry Blossom Front”, and is used to describe the annual flowering of Spring cherry blossoms in Japan, referring to the front line of the cherry blossom bloom across Japan. This annual event is based on the scientific observation of phenology, or the study of climate and seasonality effects on plants and animals. These records are vital for tracking climate change and have been used to analyze long-term temperature and weather patterns.

Fact 5 – Japanese Tradition Hanami and Yozakura, Cherry Blossom Festival Picnic

Hanami and Yozakura are two terms related to the Japanese tradition of viewing cherry blossoms, or sakura, each spring. Hanami, meaning “flower viewing”, specifically refers to viewing cherry blossoms in order to appreciate their beauty. Yozakura, on the other hand, refers to the tradition of viewing cherry blossoms at night. 

In Japan, Hanami is often celebrated by having a picnic and feast beneath the trees and can include singing, playing music, eating, and drinking sake in the spring sunshine. The beauty and cultural significance of cherry blossoms has inspired the creation of cherry blossom festivals in various countries around the world, not just in Japan. These festivals celebrate the arrival of spring and Japanese culture. In contrast to the US, there is the National Cherry Blossom Festival celebration in Washington, D.C. which commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to the United States, and celebrates activities such as the Blossom Kite Festival, the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival, and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. Cities like Macon, Georgia, and Amsterdam also have cherry blossom festivals where you can enjoy the beauty of these trees.

Fact 6 – Medicinal and Culinary Uses

The Japanese Cherry Blossom is an edible flower that is widely used in both medicinal and culinary applications in Japanese culture. Medicinally, sakura has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, insomnia, headaches, and skin conditions. Culinary uses of sakura include adding the petals to salads, adding them as decoration to drinks and desserts, making jam, and pickling the petals. It is also used to flavor teas, ice cream, noodles, and other dishes. Sakura is also used in traditional Japanese medicine as a tonic to invigorate the spirit and enhance overall well-being.

Fact 7 – Symbolism of Impermanence

Cherry blossoms are not only admired for their beauty but also serve as a powerful metaphor for the impermanence of life. This concept is deeply rooted in Japanese culture and philosophy, known as “mono no aware,” which appreciates the fleeting and transient nature of existence.

Sakura Japanese Cherry Blossom art
Sakura Japanese Cherry Blossom art

Fact 8 – Historical Connections

Some cherry blossom trees in Japan have connections to historical figures and events. For example, the Miharu Takizakura, a 1,000-year-old cherry tree in Fukushima, is considered one of Japan’s national treasures. Since Cherry blossoms represent the beauty and fragility of life, the symbolism can be seen in the traditional Japanese arts, such as haiku poetry, poets like Matsuo Bashō often incorporated cherry blossoms into their verses. In the Edo period (1603-1867), cherry blossoms became a popular expression of love, and in the Meiji period (1868-1912), Sakura was seen as a symbol of hope.

Fact 9 – Engraved on currency

Yes, Sakura (cherry blossoms) is engraved on the 100 yen coin in Japan, which is the country’s smallest denomination coin. The coin was first released in November of 1959 and is still in circulation today. The design on the coin shows a tree branch laden with five Sakura blossoms, as well as two blades of grass beneath them. The coin is an important part of Japanese culture, as it is representative of the beauty and fragility of life. The coin is also symbolic of good fortune and prosperity and is often given as a gift or token of appreciation.

Fact 10 – Japanese Cherry Blossom Ice Cream!

Did you know that cherry blossom trees have edible leaves? The blossoms themselves can also be used to make tea or other culinary creations. In Japan, young cherry blossom leaves, known as “sakura no ha,” are often pickled and used in traditional cuisine. These leaves add a subtle cherry blossom flavor to dishes and are a culinary delicacy during the cherry blossom season. Cherry Blossom tea, like many herbal teas, is caffeine free and contains no tea leaves. Cherry blossom tea is said to have a sweet floral fragrance and taste. It is usually served hot and may be enjoyed either plain or with various added ingredients like jasmine, green tea, or sugar and is believed to have many health benefits, such as aiding in digestion and sleep, reducing anxiety, and helping to reduce inflammation. It also contains antioxidants and vitamins, which may help to protect the body from disease.

One delicious way to enjoy cherry blossoms is through cherry blossom ice cream. This treat captures the delicate floral essence of the blossoms and is a popular snack during the cherry blossom season. Many ice cream parlors and dessert shops offer this unique flavor, allowing visitors to taste the sweetness of Sakura.

Sakura Japanese Cherry Blossom in the Park
Sakura Japanese Cherry Blossom in the Park

Fact 11 – Cherry Blossom Fragrance

Cherry blossom fragrance is a popular and recognizable floral fragrance often associated with springtime and sunny days. It is generally described as light, fresh and sweet with notes of cherry, rose, and jasmine. The scent is often used in perfumes, body lotions, candles, and various other scented products. Cherry blossom fragrance is commonly used to evoke a feeling of innocence, elegance, and peacefulness and is said to be calming, uplifting, evoking feelings of nostalgia, joy, and romance.

Fact 12 – Cherry Tree in Space

In 2008, cherry blossom seeds were taken aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as part of an educational project launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) aboard its Kibo laboratory module aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 200 The experiment was part of JAXA’s Space Environment Utilization program and aimed to investigate the effects of microgravity and radiation on plant growth. The experiment was conducted by exposing five to ten cherry blossom tree seeds to the vacuum of space and then comparing them with a control group grown on Earth. The results showed that the cherry blossoms grown in space flowered sooner than those grown on Earth. After their return to Earth, these “space cherry blossoms” were planted in various locations across Japan.

Fact 13 – 800,000 Piece Lego Cherry Blossom Tree

Yes, it is true that a Lego cherry blossom tree set consisting of 800,000 pieces set the Guinness World Record in 20 The tree was created by Japanese Lego builder, Yoshihito Isogawa, and was verified by Guinness World Records at the Lego Festival in Nagoya, Japan, on April 22, 201 The tree stands nearly 5 meters tall and is made up of various shades of pink and green Lego pieces. It was part of Isogawa’s Landmarks of Japan series and is the world’s largest Lego building ever constructed.

Fact 14 – Five is the magic number of petals

Yes, the majority of cherry blossoms have five petals per flower, but there are some varieties of cherry trees that have fewer petals, such as the Yoshino cherry tree which has four petals per flower. There are also some cherry blossoms with up to 10 petals per flower, such as the Shidare-sakura cherry tree.

Fact 15 – 2000 Year Old Sakura in Japan

Sakura trees can live for over 1000 years. They usually reach their maximum height and bloom within 10 or 15 years and begin producing fruit within two to four years. The majority of trees live around 50 to 80 years, while some of the oldest trees live for centuries. The oldest known Sakura tree is the Jindai Zakura found at the Jissoji Temple in Yamanashi prefecture. The tree is believed to be over 2,000 years old!

Sakura Japanese Cherry Blossoms

Fact 16 – Sakura Trees in Japan love to grow

Japanese Sakura trees can grow up to a height of 25 meters (82 feet). They can also spread up to 12 meters (39 feet) in diameter. Some specimens are known to reach even higher heights. In order to help Sakura trees grow tall and strong, it is important to ensure they are planted in a location that receives adequate sunlight throughout the day, particularly during the growing season. While it is important for Sakura trees to receive water regularly, it is also important to provide adequate soil drainage, as many Sakura trees are prone to root rot and other soil-related problems if the drainage is inadequate. 

Fact 17 – Sakura Blossom Holiday 

Sakura Blossom Holiday in Japan is celebrated on March 27th every year to celebrate the coming of spring!

Fact 18 – Finally, Don’t damage Sakura Trees!

Damaging a cherry blossom tree is a crime in Japan. According to Article 73 of the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, it is illegal to destroy or damage an important cultural property, which includes cherry blossom trees. Offenders can face a prison sentence of up to 10 years or a fine of up to 10 million yen (approximately US$70k).

Sakura Japanese Cherry Blossom in Yamanakako
Sakura Japanese Cherry Blossom in Yamanakako