The Japanese Sakura (Cherry Blossom Trees) 20 Lesser-Known Curiosities

A Sakura’s Flowers Bloom And Die Quickly

Cherry blossom season is actually quite short, which is part of the reason why so many flock to areas known for sakura trees to get a quick glimpse of their magnificence. 

While there are varieties of sakuras, many often grow flowers that last for only a week or so. That’s why many sakura petals tend to cover the grass and streets in Japan in the spring.

If you have the ability to see cherry blossoms while in Japan when flowers are still intact, it’s truly a remarkable sight. 

There’s Even A Name For Fallen Sakura Leaves And Flowers 

When the flowers have all fallen off the cherry blossom trees, sakura leaves start to grow on the trees in their place. The particular state of sakura trees in which the petals start to fall is known as hazakura. 

There’s A 2000 Year Old Sakura Tree

Even though some sakura trees can die quite quickly due to rot, there’s one in Japan that has been alive for 2000 years.

You can see this enigma of a cherry blossom tree, known as the Jindai Zakura, at the Jissou Temple located in Yamanashi Prefecture. 

Japan’s Oldest Cherry Tree

Ancient Cherry (Sakura) Tree Near Mount Fuji

Sakura Trees Don’t All Live Long

Many species of sakura trees will only live around 20 years or so. However, some species are known to live hundreds of years.

Many curators of the trees in Japan will take very special care of these trees so they don’t rot. 

Cherry Trees Seen Here In Tokyo

There Is More Than One Type Of Sakura Tree

Even though many will recognize pale pink or stark white cherry blossom trees, there are actually more than 600 species of sakura trees.

Some of them can be found in their natural form in Japan and elsewhere, while many hybrid species have been created and crossbred.  

Some grow different colored flowers, some grow fruit, and some grow flowers that are either small and dainty or very large.

Sakura trees can also be found throughout the world outside of Japan, though quite a few countries recieved their first cherry blossom trees as gifts from Japan. 

Sakura Leaves Are Edible

You probably shouldn’t pluck a flower off of a cherry blossom tree and eat it – in fact, it’s illegal to pull anything off a cherry blossom tree in Washington, D.C. However, you may be surprised to learn that the leaves and petals of the tree are actually edible. 

Moreover, food made with the leaves and flowers of sakura is actually quite delicious.

These parts of the tree are usually processed, brined, or cooked before they are eaten, and accompany many delicious desserts and dishes

Sakura Mochi

Sakura mochi is one such sweet that is complemented by the sweet taste and smell of sakura flowers, and they look as beautiful as they taste.

The rice will have a light pink flavor, and sakura leaves are often draped on top of the mochi for decoration. 

Baskin Robbins in Japan will also sometimes have a cherry blossom ice cream flavor. 

Sakura Tea Is Also Delicious

The flowers are also sometimes used to make tea, often for special occasions. The tea has a lovely fragrance and a sweet, muted flavor reminiscent of an herbal tea.

The flowers are often soaked in sugar, salt, and plum vinegar before being boiled into their tea form. It’s a very unique type of tea that you must try when in Japan if you see it on a menu. 

Sakura Picnics Are A Popular Pastime 

Having a picnic underneath a sakura tree is such a staple in Japanese culture during sakura season that it has its own name; hanami.

Essentially, people will bring blankets and sit underneath a cherry blossom tree while enjoying some snacks. 

Participating in a hanami is a great way to socialize with people in the area you’re staying in if you happen to be in Japan during March or April.

The hanami is a tradition that was started by Japanese emperors who used to sit underneath cherry blossom trees and have a feast. 

Some also enjoy these picnics at night, especially when there is illumination surrounding the trees. A nighttime picnic under a sakura tree is known as yozakura.

Areas with cherry blossom trees will sometimes be decorated with Japanese paper lanterns to add illumination. 

Sakura At Night

Cherry Blossom Trees Are Huge

For those who haven’t seen a cherry blossom in person, you might be blown away by just how large these trees can grow.

On average, sakura can reach heights between 20 and 40 feet, and some have even grown as large as 80 feet tall. 

The width of cherry blossom trees can also reach incredibly wide. Typically, the branches can span between 15 and 30 feet wide. 

Japan Is Home To A LEGO Cherry Blossom Tree

If you happen to visit Nagoya in Japan, you have to seek out the incredible 14-foot sakura tree constructed entirely of LEGO.

The LEGO tree is surprisingly realistic, as the constructors managed to create a spectacular piece of art using over 800,000 LEGO bricks. As to be expected, the tree can be found at LEGOLAND Japan

There Is A Day Of The Sakura In Japan 

The beauty of the sakura tree is celebrated every year in Japan on March 27th. It’s a day recognized throughout the entire country, but it isn’t a day off for those who work in Japan.

The unofficial holiday was enacted in 1992 by the Japanese Sakura Association. 

Sakura Is A Popular Name In Japan 

The beauty of the sakura is found within the name, not just within the tree. It’s no surprise that this pretty word has inspired many parents to give this name to their daughters in Japan.

Sakurako is also a popular name, with ko at the end meaning child. 

The Yoshino Is The Most Widespread Sakura Tree 

The Yoshino variety of the sakura tree featuring bright white flowers with touches of pink is the most widespread in Japan.

Yoshino Blossoms

Macon, Georgia in the United States also has thousands of these particular cherry blossom trees. In fact, Macon is considered the sakura capital of the world. 

Cherry Blossoms Bloom At Different Times Each Year

Cherry blossom season is considered to fall between March and April. There’s a window of about a month between those two months when the flowers will start to bloom.

It’s usually only around the start of March when the official season for the year can be determined. 

In Japan, a forecast is usually posted once it gets close to cherry blossom season, so visitors can know when to head to the nearest tourist destination to see cherry blossom trees in all their glory. 

Sakura Flowers Are On Japanese Money

If you look closely at the 100 yen coin, you’ll notice that there’s an engraving of a sakura flower on one side. The placement is fitting, given that these trees have been a significant symbol associated with Japan for a very long time. 

Sakura Flowers Are Also On Japanese Military Regalia

The Japan Military Self Defense Forces have cherry blossom flowers on their flags and on some of their badges that are a part of their uniforms.

This makes military members easy to recognize as being from Japan. 

Many American Sakura Trees Were Gifts From Japan 

In 1910, Japan gifted the United States thousands of cherry blossom trees, but they, unfortunately, had to be destroyed due to an infestation.

Japan sent more clean cherry blossom trees shortly after, many of which were planted in Washington. 

Large Sakura Seen Here In Washington

The First American Cherry Blossom Trees Were From Japan 

Before Japan gifted the capital of the U.S. with cherry blossom trees, some were purchased from a nursery in Japan and brought to Maryland in the early 1900s.

They were purchased by a doctor who planted them on his property after witnessing their beauty in Japan. 

Amsterdam Has Sakura Trees With Names 

There’s an area of Amsterdam called Amsterdamse Bos, where 400 trees were planted. These trees were a gift from Japan’s Women’s Club in 2000. Each tree has been assigned its own name. 

Sakuras Are Rich In Symbolism In Japan

These beautiful trees have been assigned various meanings in Japan. Sakura is seen as a representation of new life, new beginnings, or renewal, which is fitting as they grow on the cusp of springtime.

Sakuras are also seen as symbols of grace and peace, given the calming effect they have on those who gaze at them.

A Virtual Tour Of Sakura Trees In Japan

My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.