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Sakura Blossoms in Japan

Updated: May 8

The Shortest Season: The Ephemeral Beauty of the Single Week of Cherry Blossoms It is hard to imagine anyone in any country in the world that doesn't associate Japan with the cherry blossoms. Sakura are certainly one of the first images that come to mind for the average American, certainly, when they imagine that exotic far-off place that is Japan. It was somewhat surprising to me, consequently, when I learned that between the coming and the going of the Sakura petals stands only a single week. In the span of that one week thousands of Sakura trees suddenly spring to life after months of barren winter. Then, just as quickly as their leaves suddenly erupted with an ocean of pink and white, the Sakura begin to fall. One by one, the millions of petals drop, drifting lazily through the air like some sort of late-onset spring snow shower. By the end of a week they are almost completely gone.

The ephemeral nature of the Sakura petals was a profound lesson for me in the nature of beauty, and how we judge the value of things. I do not think that the Sakura actually were more beautiful than most of the other flowers I have seen in my life. But, the fact that they last for only a few short days before disappearing for another year makes them many things that most other flowers are not - mysterious, fleeting, shocking, even entrancing. Their sudden appearance fills us with delight after the long winter. Then, their sudden, painful departure leaves the whole country with a void in its heart, and an intense longing for more. A longing which will cultivate and nurture for an entire year until finally the Sakura bloom again.

When I saw the Sakura petals for the first time I understood that the shorter a thing lives, the greater one perceives its value. The greater and the more profound we esteem its beauty. This principal is at work everywhere and at every time. We love Christmas because it only comes once a year. We celebrate the famous Black Forest chocolate cake in the Black Forest region of Germany because it is only made there, in that one place, and no other. Eating that cake isn't merely a culinary experience. It is an encounter with a spacial place, a convergence with a unique unit in time and space, that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Both elements of the unit are necessary for the full experience - the unique time, and the unique place. In that sense, all such passing, ephemeral, rare and temporary things are far more beautiful and enjoyable than their counterparts. They leave a greater impression in the mind - even when there may be even tastier cakes down at the local grocery store, or, more beautiful flowers in the park next door.


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