Cherry blossoms in Japan

More than three decades ago when we lived in Calgary, Magellan and I thought we’d go to Japan in the spring for the sakura (桜), the Japanese word for cherry blossoms derived from saku , which means to bloom. I even studied Japanese in anticipation. For some reason that I don’t recall, we didn’t go. How foolish we were to even think we had to travel that far for hanami—viewing cherry blossoms—you only need to go as far west as Vancouver, which now has its own Sakura Festival every April. Since April is also National Poetry Month, we’ve curated a collection of our favourite sakura haikus, adding Spice’s own attempt as well.

Ancient Sakura Haikus

For thousands of years In Japan, the gentle sakura has symbolized the ephemeral beauty and transience in the passage of of life. The Japanese have a very evocative word for this: mikkaminumanosakura—change that happens suddenly and intensely, like cherry blossoms that go from full bloom to scattered in a brief space of time. An entire vocabulary exists for their beloved spring ritual of hanami. Swirling cherry blossoms are likened to a snowstorm and called sakura-fubuki. A gentle spring rain during hanami is called hana-no-ami, flower rain. The Japanese make pilgrimages to their favourite hanami spots and the sakura season is still the country’s busiest time for tourism.

Jôha (1602)

no wind, either
for the blossoming of
an open mind

Kôyû (1645)

cherry blossoms
they surprise you twice
coming and going

Naokata (1680)

blowing afresh
the blossom wind plays
a leaf of flute

Seibi (1748-1816)

my thoughts
covered with petals

Hyakuga (1773)

blossoms with
all that beauty show us
how to fall

Basô (1777)

the eyes, blossoms riot
in my heart

Chora (1780)

how still it is
the sound of petals
sifting down together

Tayojo (1775-1865)

cherry blossoms
I view knowing there must be
something more

Issa (1827)

cherries in bloom
one at a time shows off
its bravery

Shiki (1896)

cherry blossoms
scattering in the breeze
a million breaths

Sakura in Vancouver

We were astounded when we moved to Vancouver twenty-one years ago to find our neighbourhood lined with various varieties of cherry trees, each one blooming at a different time. (There are fifty-three different cultivars in the city, most of them ornamental.) Many of Vancouver’s 43,000 cherry trees originated as gifts from Japan. The cherry trees that line the street behind us “take their time to dress;” they’re the last in the city to turn confetti pink, a bittersweet bloompeak.

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival began in 2006 and has grown to include all sorts of community events. Some of the Japanese restaurants even have special sakura cocktails, sushi, rolls and desserts on their menus. It’s a treat we indulge in when we’re not celebrating the season at Casa Magellan and Spice with scallop/sakura nigiri or petal-pink macarons (which I will leave to pastry chefs) made with Sakura Extract.

In addition to meaning “to bloom,” saku can also mean ” to smile,” which certainly happens when the season’s first sakura decorate the cherry trees after their rain-beaten Vancouver winter. We smile. But my favourite time is near the end when petals swirl and scatter, soundlessly floating to the ground into a spring bed of sakura snow.

Spice (2019)

afloat, a pink petal falls
softly, soundless as a feather
down for a blossomy bed


Gill, Robin D. Cherry Blossom Epiphany. USA: Paraverse Press, 2007. The Poetry and Philosophy of a Flowering Tree, a Theme in Praise of Olde Haiku, with Many More Poems and Fine Elaboration are the subtitles—fully explaining this 720-page volume of sakura wonderment. Each of the ancient haikus above is from Robin’s book, which includes various translations and reworkings of original verse.

For more info on Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Festival, connect here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Kumano Kodo Day One

It was my fault that we were drenched when we arrived at the start of the Kumano Kodo. Grey sheets of rain were pounding down

Read More »
Eaton's 1948 Xmas Catalogue

Christmas Memories

What are some of your fondest memories of being a child at Christmas? For me, Christmas started with the arrival of Eaton’s Mail Order Christmas

Read More »

Colour in Castle Valley

Castle Valley is one of our last blogs from our travels in Utah. And with the US midterm elections this week, the future of Utah’s

Read More »
Molson Pond

On Mowson Pond

Do you know about the South Chilcotin area of BC? Until this summer, all we knew was that it was home to gold-rush miners, wild

Read More »

September 1: Happy New Year

“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all” Forget the Gregorian calendar. For as long as

Read More »

Temporal Flexions

What did you do to celebrate your retirement? Magellan chose Palm Springs. Figured he’d improve his golf score. Take in the BNP Paribas Open—the tennis

Read More »