Culture

Cherry Blossom Season: Why Japanese Culture Embraces Sakura

When spring arrives in Japan, there’s just one thing on people's minds: cherry blossom season. Here’s why sakura in Japanese culture is so important.

Cherry Blossom Season: Why Japanese Culture Embraces Sakura

What is Cherry Blossom Season? 

sakura-lake

Because America is so vast, our concept and experience of "the seasons" varies greatly from state to state. In fact, most seasonally-inspired spectator events are regional—like the leaves changing color in New England or the Mojave desert’s wildflower Super Bloom.

However, Japan, as an island with a total land area that's smaller than the state of California, is uniquely positioned to not only experience each distinct season, but does so with its entire population—a fact that has shaped and defined Japanese culture for thousands of years. While springtime might mean different things to different people across the United States, to every Japanese person it means just one thing: cherry blossom season. 

 

The blooming of cherry blossoms, or sakura, occurs every year usually in the last week of March through the first couple weeks of April. This event is so significant and eagerly anticipated that, in 1955, the Japanese Meteorological Agency began forecasting the sakura zensen, or Cherry Blossom Front, tracking the movement of blossoms across Japan so viewers could plan accordingly. Along with the chrysanthemum, sakura is also recognized as Japan’s “unofficial” national flower. Rich in symbolism, and representing purity, spiritual beauty, and the precious and fleeting nature of beauty and life, sakura have become iconic fixtures of Japanese art, literature, fashion, food and more—they even appear on the 100 yen coin. Indeed, sakura are such an important part of Japanese culture that cherry blossom season can often be experienced with all five senses: 

 

Sights 

Perhaps the most well-known aspect of cherry blossom season is hanami, or flower viewing. In Japan, close attention is paid to the Cherry Blossom Front, and large viewing parties are scheduled for groups (including everyone from friends and family to lovers, coworkers, classmates, and more) to gather and celebrate underneath the pink floral canopies with food, drinks, and music. Not only do the lightly falling pink petals provide a magical, soothing atmosphere for observers, but the color pink itself also evokes a calming, optimistic, and cheerful mood, further enhancing what many consider to be the quintessential spring experience. 

 

Sounds 

If sakura did not exist  

How quiet would it be 

How calm could I have lived this season 

  • Ariwara no Narihira 

Sakura, with their intense beauty and deep symbolism, have been a favorite subject of Japanese poets and musicians for more than a thousand years. In the springtime, when new romances and transformational life events are on the horizon, poetry and music about sakura are ever-present. From traditional folk songs like Sakura, Sakura to modern day ballads like Naotaro Moriyama’s “Sakura”, cherry blossoms, and their representation of transient beauty, love, and life, continue to provide emotional springtime inspiration that keeps sakura on the airwaves as well as in people’s hearts and minds. 
 

Tastes 

Stores in Japan typically begin stocking sakura-themed inventory in February. This helps to ensure that there is an abundant array of sakura-derived food and drink to help set the mood for cherry blossom season. Sakura leaves, petals, and bark are all used to create springtime delicacies designed to make the most of the short-lived blossoms. Sakuramochi is one traditional Japanese treat that is ubiquitous during the spring season.

This mochi cake is filled with sweet bean paste and wrapped in a pickled sakura leaf, providing a contrast of salty, sour, and sweet that is a perfect complement to the symbolism of the blossoms themselves. Sakurayu, or cherry blossom tea, is another springtime staple. This tea is made from pickled cherry blossoms, which impart a slightly salty and subtly sweet flavor when steeped. 

Sakura Extract Benefits for the Skin 

While the sights, sounds, and tastes of cherry blossom season might be well-suited for experiencing in-the-moment, scent and touch—the remaining two senses—are perhaps the best ways to continue experiencing the benefits of sakura all year long. That’s because sakura is an ideal ingredient for skincare. 
 

Sakura carries a subtle and delicate aroma that can be difficult to detect in fresh flowers. However, when concentrated into essences and extracts, sakura provides a soothing, sweet fragrance that brightens and refreshes the senses. Products developed with sakura extract not only smell great, they also provide a whole host of nourishing and healing properties, many of which are the hallmarks of J-Beauty solutions for aging skin. Premier J-Beauty brand warew, for example, has created a unique ingredient called Cell Viable Complex which utilizes sakura extract.

This patented Cell Viable Complex formula can be found in all warew products, and works to promote skin regeneration, protect collagen and elastin, and inhibit glycation to delay signs of aging. Sakura plays a vital role by imparting essential anti-inflammatory and anti-aging attributes. 

“Sakura blossoms may represent ephemeral beauty, but sakura-infused products help to ensure that beautiful, healthy skin lasts a lifetime.”

Sakura: Anti-inflammatory

1. Anti-inflammatory

Inflammatory conditions are some of the most common skin issues people face, presenting in both chronic forms (like eczema or rosacea) and acute forms (like UV exposure or allergens). The expression of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule within our cells, is thought to be a contributing factor for many of these inflammatory conditions. Studies have shown that sakura extract actually inhibits nitric oxide production, providing a soothing effect by stopping inflammation at the source.  
 

This anti-inflammatory action means that products containing sakura extract are perfect for soothing sensitive, dry, itchy and inflamed skin—whether the cause is chronic dermatitis or the sunburn you acquired while out seeing the sights.

Sakura: Anti-aging

2. Anti-aging

Advanced glycation-end products (AGEs) are proteins or lipids that become glycated as a result of exposure to sugars. In terms of skin, an accumulation of AGEs can cause collagen and elastin proteins to become rigid and lose their ability to keep skin firm and supple—which can make it look older than it really is. Sakura contains cinnamoyl and flavonol glucosides, which significantly suppress the production of damaging AGEs and the overproduction of melanin (the cause of hyper-pigmentation). This mitigates cell damage and helps to ensure that skin looks even, bright, and healthy.  
 

Sakura leaf extract is also rich in fatty acids, containing “prunetin” (a type of isoflavone) and polyglutamic acid, both of which help skin to repair natural barriers and maintain the proper moisture balance. Products like warew Emulsion Aqua and warew Cream Aqua (also available in Emulsion Rich and Cream Rich formulas for skin types that need a moisture boost) harness these critical moisturizing properties to condition and replenish dry, tired skin and restore youthful firmness. 

J-Beauty Products Using Sakura 

Due to the pandemic, people have been discouraged from attending hanami parties this year. And while the magical spectacle of blooming cherry blossoms may only last a week or two (and many of us will miss the festivities due to circumstances or distance) there is definitely a silver lining—you can still enjoy the benefits of sakura whenever you want thanks to a plethora of sakura beauty products from expert J-Beauty brands like warew. 

The warew Travel Set (available in both Rich and Aqua depending on your skin needs) is an ideal solution. Along with a convenient sakura-print kinchaku drawstring bag, the set includes:

Ready to embrace sakura in your daily regimen and feel the refreshing essence of spring all year round? Be sure to check out the products below. 

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