The Japanese people have cherished sakura cherry blossoms in many ways ever since antiquity. The tree is admired for its baby pink blossoms, and its petals and leaves are frequently used in cooking. Although the Japanese noun hana means "flower," it has also referred specifically to "cherry blossoms" for as long as a millennium. Event today, outdoor parties called hanami (cherry blossom viewing) under blooming sakura blossom season coincides with many academic graduation and entrance ceremonies, and thus the flowers evoke a sense of new beginnings.
To make sakura-yu (hot cerry water), which is used in many wedding ceremonies, hot water is poured over cherry flower peals preserved in salt. Rice cakes wrapped in salted cherry leaves, called sakura-mochi (cherry rice cakes) are famed for their refreshing fragrance and flavor.
Japan’s 100 yen coin carries an image of cherry blossoms. Japanese cities often send cherry trees to their counterparts outside Japan as a sign of friendship. In so many ways, sakura is representative of the nation. If you visit Tokyo this spring, take the opportunity to see this iconic tree in full blossom.