This month at Carpe Diem I’m exploring the “Motherland” of haiku, Japan.
Today we are taking a look Sakura, Cherry Blossom.
The National Pride of Japan.
Welcome to Japan’s pink and modern world of cherry blossoms.
It is impossible to think of springtime Japan without an iconic image of a sea of cherry trees awash with perfect pink blooms instantly coming to mind.
Japan has a wide variety of cherry blossoms (sakura); well over 200 cultivars can be found there.
The most popular variety of cherry blossom in Japan is the Somei Yoshino. Its flowers are nearly pure white, tinged with the palest pink, especially near the stem.
They bloom and usually fall within a week before the leaves come out.
Therefore, the trees look nearly white from top to bottom.
Photo Credit “Hanami” is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura or ume tree.
The custom is said to have started during the Nara Period (710–794) when it was ume blossoms that people admired in the beginning.
By the Heian Period (794–1185), cherry blossoms came to attract more attention and hanami was synonymous with sakura.
Tokugawa Yoshimune planted areas of cherry blossom trees to encourage this.
Photo Credit Himeji Castle, Japan
Did you know?
Cherry blossoms and leaves are edible and both are used as food ingredients in Japan.
Sakurayu is a Japanese infusion created by seeping pickled cherry blossoms with boiled water.
This combination becomes a type of herbal tea and has been enjoyed in East Asian culture for many generations.
The main ingredient, cherry blossoms petals, are harvested when the cherry trees bloom from mid to late spring.
After the calyxes are removed, the petals are then pickled in plum vinegar and salt and the product subsequently dried.
The dried cherry blossoms are then stored or sealed in tea packets and sold.
In order to produce sakurayu, a few such dried, salt-pickled blossoms must be sprinkled into a cup of hot water.
Once covered in hot water, the collapsed petals unfurl and float.
The herbal tea is then allowed to steep until the flavor reaches its desired intensity.
The resulting drink tastes slightly salty.
“Sakura-yu” is served at weddings as it represents “beginning,” which is most appropriate for a wedding.
My tanka poem using the study of Sakura – Cherry Blossom
cherry blossom petals
pickled in plum vinegar
perfect herbal tea
prefer white wine at weddings
instead – salt pickled petals