What are sakura, and what do they mean in Japan?
Cherry blossoms, also referred to by their Japanese name, sakura, are perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the country and its culture. Blooming a splendid pink for a total of about two weeks in early spring (coinciding with the start of Japan's academic and fiscal year), the blossoms commonly appear in Japanese literature and media to represent renewal, and the passage of time. The blossoms are also seen to be representative of the fleeting nature of beauty, and of life itself. Despite this wistful symbolism, cherry blossom season is very much a celebration – both of their flowers’ beauty, and of every unique opportunity that this cycle of change provides. Each year, Japan's residents seize the opportunity to get out and enjoy these splendid flowers - checking the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Sakura Forecast to find out when the sakura are expected to bloom. It is common for Japanese people to plan parties, picnics, and pilgrimages to famous parks – and even specific trees!