What lies behind one of the most popular tattoo designs ?
Cherry blossoms ("sakura") are a national symbol and treasure of Japan. Every spring, during the first weeks of the season, Japanese people practice "Hanami" (the viewing of flowers) in the parks and streets of their cities, sometimes even crossing the whole country with the sole purpose of watching the flowers fill the landscape. The cherry blossom embodies a time of joy in the archipelago of the Rising Sun. Crowded public spaces are filled with those who celebrate the start of a new year.
Hanami has a ancient purpose: to admire the end of the winter and the blossoming of new life. These flowers, however, do not last long. Because of this, the practice also implies a reflection upon the passing of time and the evanescence of life.
Culturally, Japan has not only associated time and the seasons with the cherry blossom. In both the literary and visual crafts and arts, this particular blossom has been used as a symbol related to all things explosive and beautiful since the coming of the Heian period in the eighth century. The cherry blossom has been related, for example, to the concept of coming age and the fleeting nature of childhood.
Cherry blossoms have been considered a feminine symbol. Virginity, for example, has been associated with these flowers to due to its frail and transitory nature. This flower, however, has also been considered an image for virility. This is because the samurai related the cherry blossom to "seppuku" (also known as "harakiri"), a suicide ritual where samurais perform a disembowelment with their own swords in order to die in a pious and honorable way. The warriors associated the flower with this ritual because it represented a brief but also beautiful existence. They also considered their hue similar to drops of blood, as if the falling of these flowers represented the life dripping from the trees where they held their beautiful existence.
In a sense, cherry blossoms represent the frail, delicate, ephemeral quality of our existence. However, they are also a reminder that even though life may be short and transitory, to perceive the beauty in it is enough reason to live.
Tattoos that represent cherry blossoms make your body the landscape for your own personal Hanami. Getting these passing flowers on your skin is to remind yourself that even though life is short, great part of its beauty lies exactly in how it passes by.
Cherry blossoms remind us that our existence is brief, in a classic memento mori sort of way. However, they also remind us how beautiful and transcendent our existence can be. Isn't that something that you would like to be reminded of every time that you look at a gorgeous tattoo?