Thursday, 21 March 2013

Sepia Saturday 169


 
 

Cherry Blossom Time

 
This week's prompt has an image of Photographers shooting cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. on April 4, 1922.  The Cherry trees were given to the United States in the early 1900s and it has become an annual event to photograph the blooming each spring.
 
It is to Japan and Sakura (the cherry tree) that I've gone this week.  Due to their brief blooming period, the Sakura cherry-blossoms have come to symbolise the transience of life. Cherry blossom season may only last a week or so depending on the weather.  Cherry blossom time is a big thing in Japan and each year calendars are published of the expected time of the blossom in each city.  The further south, the earlier the bloom.
 
A quick surf of the Net shows, that Cherry Blossom time happens all over the world and mostly with trees gifted by Japan.  Unfortunately, in the UK, to my experience at least, cherry blossom has been limited to Eddie Calvert's rendition of "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" and the Batsford Arboratum in Gloucestershire where they maintains the national collection of Prunus (sato-sakura Group).   There is no celebration or festivity - just a few ooh aahs when the blossom appear in somebodies' garden.
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
The traditional method to capture the essence of the Cherry Blossom was the woodcut, often made with cherry wood.
 
There is, however, a dark side to the Cherry Blossom.  So strongly is it to the Japanese psyche that it is often seen as a symbol of Nationalism and, prior to the end of the second World War, of Militarism.  Poets compared the battlefield dead to the fallen blossom.
 
I'm not sure how much symbolism counts for today certainly in the West, and especially the UK.  The Cherry and Blossom are more likely to be used as a euphemism rather than a symbol.
 
 

28 comments:

  1. I have never looked at a cherry blossom and thought "militarism," but I can see how that could be - must have caused quite a laugh around the ol' joint chiefs' table in Japan as they recalled their gift to the US. The trees ARE beautiful.

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  2. Military connotations or not those are beautiful pictures. A E Houseman in 'A Shropshire Lad' had the right idea. Capture the memory now.

    LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
    Is hung with bloom along the bough,
    And stands about the woodland ride
    Wearing white for Eastertide.

    Now, of my threescore years and ten,
    Twenty will not come again,
    And take from seventy springs a score,
    It only leaves me fifty more.

    And since to look at things in bloom
    Fifty springs are little room,
    About the woodlands I will go
    To see the cherry hung with snow.

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    1. Last line is very apt for us just now

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  3. Do I lower the tone by saying that Cherry Blossom is boot polish to me from my army days?

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    1. No, you've just triggered a memory - can you still get it?

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  4. Those are gorgeous woodcuts. I can't imagine the cherry blossoms related to militarism and war. What a shame.
    Nancy

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    1. Militarism has no shame, it preys on the baser instinct.

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  5. I like the Japanese woodcuts. I wasn't aware of the militarism symbolism. As far as I know, the gifts from Japan were symbols of friendship.

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    1. They probably were when they were given, after all they were allies in WW1

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  6. I'm very partial to both Japanese woodcuts and cherry trees in blossom, so your images are right up my alley, so speak.

    We have two specimens of "Awanui," an Antipodean variety of flowering cherry in our garden which I planted some years ago - they are now about 8 metres tall and produce a spectacular display each spring. Our fruiting cherry is only 5 or 6 metres high, but the birds get the few cherries that it does produce each summer.

    When I visited Japan 25 years ago, all I could afford was a few postcards of Utamaro woodcuts, but they are much treasured. Thanks for reminding me that I must dig them out.

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    1. Not quite your usual thing, but perhaps.... look forward to it

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  7. Beautiful prints. I would love to go cherry blossom viewing in Japan, the numbers of trees sound phenomenal. I seem to remember the Japanese have a word for the concept of beauty and transience.

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    1. A land of contradictions for the occidental mind me thinks

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  8. It's not just the beauty but the cherry tree blossom's timing of early spring and then brief appearance before disappearing in a flurry of petals. A few years ago we were traveling along an old US route in the Carolinas that followed the rail line. At a stop at a roadside farm market, we remarked about the number of cherry trees along the road, and we were told it was because in the days of passenger trains, a common refreshment was bing cherries. Passengers naturally spit the pits off the train, hence the cherry trees seeded themselves all along the track lines. Very beautiful in the Spring.

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    1. I've notice railway cutting with great floral displays where people have dumped their garden waste over the fence, but nothing as spectacular as Cherry trees

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  9. I had forgotten Eddie Calvert. I must confess I immediately thought of shoe polish when I saw which thread you had decided to follow. People don't seem to polish shoes any more.

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    1. Let's face it, it was a very long time ago - I think even Mrs calvert has forgotten her boy

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  10. I didn't know about cherry blossom in a woodcut. Love the photos you featured; my kind of art. There was a time at home we all used cherry blossom soap, but I don't know if the smell was similar as a cherry blossom. I don't think I have ever seen a cherry tree ever or I might have somewhere but didn't recognize it.

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    1. We had Cherry Blossom shoe polish - I trust bathers never got things mixed up

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  11. Hi Mike, these are so beautiful! Thanks for the history and for pointing out the symbolism too.

    Kathy M.

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  12. Ah yes, indeed a very good place to show great blossoms indeed. I'm happy you were reminded of an author you enjoyed in the past. Emile Zola was a new, great find for me this week. Although some of his quotes I have heard before, but I got a bit lost in the man this week. Reading him just hit home in so many strange ways!

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  13. I hadn't heard that about cherry blossoms but it rings true - I'm reminded of the poppies of "In Flanders Fields."

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  14. My Favorite Tree .The Japanese do plants+flowers so well.

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  15. Excellent examples of the hand colored woodcut. These are treasures for sure.

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  16. Beautiful post, but as a Canadian,
    the only cherry blossom I ever saw was this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJP_27mqleo

    :D~
    HUGZ

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  17. Ah, this post brought a smile to my face! I love Japanese art and I love woodcuts. My grandmother loved Japanese art and although she could not afford much she always had a several prints in her home. I always think of her when I see something as beautiful as these.

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  18. Delightful images. I love this style of art.

    I cannot hear the words "cherry blossom" without thinking of boot polish though. Was there a type of boot polish called that? Deeply inappropriate name, if so!

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