It’s early April and still cold here in Leeds, but the sun has been shining on and off, and the cherry trees are in blossom.
Their pink blossom stands out all the more because most other trees are still bare, without even leaves.
The cherry blossom is the national flower of Japan and it has been painted by Japanese artists for centuries because not only is it beautiful, but it is the symbol of life.
The tree blooms and the early spring winds soon blow the blossom to the ground. That echoes the transient nature of life, which is a theme that appealed to the Japanese samurai warrior class because of their creed of bushido – of honor, obedience, sacrifice – which dictated that they had to be ready to give their lives at moment’s notice.
That poignant melancholy is a constant theme in the samurai way of life, and the cherry tree with its graceful, arching branches – alive and yet fragile – is a perfect visual metaphor for this.
And the shape is a gift for artists and photographers because of the way the shape translates so well from the three dimensional branch to the image on paper.
For a haiku on the theme of cherry blossoms, see the end of this article on pairing images with Japanese prose and haiku.
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