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sakura | 11 things you never knew about japanese cherry blossoms

Although sakura cherry blossom trees have spread all throughout the world now, nowhere other than Japan is it more celebrated and cherished. Here are some intriguing facts about the Japanese cherry blossoms:

Typically, they only last about 16-20 years. But certain species have a much longer life expectancy. Black cherry trees, for example, can live up to 250 years.

2) The oldest tree in Japan is over 2,000 years old.

Although we just talked about the cherry trees short life-span, there are exceptions to the rule. You can find Jindai Zakura within the grounds of the Jissoji Temple in Yamanashi near Mt. Fuji, with a root circumferences of 13.5m!

3) There is a Cherry Tree Whose Seeds Travelled in Space

Inside the same temple that holds the Jindai Zakura, Jissoji Temple, there is another interesting tree—the Uchu Zakura (or space cherry blossom). It is a bit smaller, but it was cultivated from seeds taken from the Jindai-Zakura, There’s more though. Back in November of 2009, these seeds from the Jindai-Zakura were taken into space by NASA, and they spent about eight months in the space station circling the globe. They brought a total of 118 seeds to space but only two managed to bloom. One being the Uchu Zakura at Jissoji Temple. What’s even more interestingly though, is that although a typical cherry blossom has five petals—the blossoms of this tree have six!

4) Over 200 Varieties of Cherry Blossoms

There are several types of cherry blossoms, at least 200, but different sources have also placed that number at 800 as well. With all of the cross breeding and hybridizing of species the number is hard to pin down, needless to say, it’s a lot.

This will be noticeable when you see that some are light pink, some are deeper shades of pink, and some are even white. Somei-Yoshino is the most common varietal in Japan. One thing's for sure; they're all equally beautiful.

5) The World Cherry Blossom Capital Isn’t in Japan

The cherry blossom capital of the world is actually in the US. Macon, Georgia to be axact, with about 350,000 Yoshino cherry blossom trees. Each year it holds the International Cherry Blossom Festival. While these trees are not native to the South, William A. Fickling Sr., a local realtor, discovered one in his own backyard in 1949. On a business trip to Washington, D.C., he learned more about cherry blossoms and sought out to bring more to his hometown.

6) Hanami Flower Viewing

Picnicking beneath cherry blossom trees is a Japanese tradition. The century-old custom is known as "hanami," which means flower viewing. Early records hint that the tradition began with emperors and members of the Imperial Palace feasting under the trees' blooming branches. Hanami can also refer to Ume plum viewing, although most people associate it with cherry blossoms because it’s a little later in the season when you can reserve your spot outside under the tree and sit and enjoy it all day. 7) Cherry blossoms are native to the Himalayas.

These flowers likely originated somewhere in Eurasia before migrating to Japan. Both China and South Korea claim to be the originators of the cherry blossom, which is still undetermined, but the undoubtedly the popularity and appreciation of the cherry blossom tree flourishes mostly in Japan.

8) Cherry blossoms are Japan's national flower.

The cherry blossom is Japan’s national flower and it appears on the 100 Yen coin

these pale blooms are a symbol of more than just spring — they stand for renewal and hope.

9) The flower petals are edible.

Sakura are often referred to as ornamental cherry trees, and shouldn’t be confused with cherry trees that produce fruit for eating, but, the cherry blossoms and the leaves are edible and used in many traditional Japanese sweets and teas. Salt-pickled blossoms in hot water are called sakurayu, and drunk at festive events like weddings in place of green tea.

They are first pickled and then used in recipes for mochi cakes, candies, and even cookies. You can also brew sakura blossom tea or make cocktails with preserved blossoms. The leaves, mostly from the Ōshima cherry because of the softness, are also pickled in salted water and used for sakuramochi.

10) Cherry blossoms symbolize renewal and Impermanence.

Known as "sakura" in Japanese, these pale blooms are a symbol of spring because it is a time of renewal. However, because the blooms are short-lived, they are also symbolic of the fleeting nature of life.

The association of the cherry blossom with mono no aware dates back to 18th-century scholar Motoori Norinaga. The transience of the blossoms, the exquisite beauty, and volatility, has often been associated with mortality and graceful and readily acceptance of destiny and karma;

11) Peak Bloom Time is April (maybe)

Although individual trees may only bloom for a few weeks each, when different varieties are planted together you can often see an extended blooming season. Early April is probably your best bet to view the blossoms, but the weather each year can make it difficult to plan a trip around.

The blooming season throughout Japan extends from mid-march to early May. Because of the wide range of climate, the southern area of Kyushu blooms first and then progressively blooms northward through Osaka, Tokyo, and then finally in the Hokkaido area, the northernmost island farthest away from the equator.

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