Cherry Blossoms / 桜 さくら

Updated: Mar 29


It would not be an overstatement to say that sakura (cherry tree) is the most beloved type of tree in Japan. Pale pink petals of their flowers look so soft and delicate, but the abundance of the flowers filling asymmetrical tree trunks creates a majestic vision that reflects the beauty of Japan and intricate nature of Japanese people. Many Japanese consider sakura as the national flower. In the United States, viewing the cherry blossoms in Washington DC is a famous tourist attraction. It is a well-known story that approximately 3,000 cherry trees were sent as a gift to the US by the mayor of Tokyo in 1912.

In pursuit of creating more beautiful cherry blossoms, the Japanese people started hybridization of the tree back in Heian period (794-1185 AD). Now, several hundred different sakura varieties have been bred. Even after spending a millennium of experimentation, they haven’t found one that can hold those breathtakingly beautiful flowers for longer than two weeks. However, it may be the short-lived magnificence that draws people to this tree. Outings to view the flowers is a springtime tradition. Since the blossoming period is about two weeks and varies from year to year, people are vigilant about the forecast. Thankfully, it is reported daily on the news along with the weather forecast using the blossoming status ratio that is specific to sakura: sanbu-zaki (30% blossoming), gobu-zaki (50%), nanabu-zaki (70%), and mankai (fully blossomed). One of the most famous Japanese songs written in 1888 is titled Sakura Sakura. In the song, there is a line that reads “…endless sight of sakura in the sky of May”. Well, 134 years later, the earth is a much warmer place. Sakura have long passed by May, and there aren’t even petals on the ground. Now a days, the sakura-front (called Sakura-zensen) begins on the southern island Kyushu in late March and reaches the northern most island of Hokkaido in late April. One can enjoy a full month of Sakura viewing if you travel from Kyushu to Hokkaido. In the southern most islands, Okinawa, sakura blossoms much earlier since they have subtropical climate.

At parks and other places with ample sakura trees, people hold ceremonial parties under the trees to appreciate the arrival of spring and beauty of cherry blossoms. It’s called Ohanami (literally means flower-viewing). Since the viewing window is limited, and especially in cities, there aren’t enough sakura trees to serve the population, races occur to grab the best spot to spread a seating mat or blanket. For company events, younger workers are sent to the park early in the day to secure the most ideal spot. Some parties might bring a karaoke machine, and some people enjoy too much to drink getting overly excited for this special outdoor event. Personally, it is more meaningful to have a quiet moment alone under a fully blossomed sakura tree and be grateful to experience another spring.

ohanami, hanami, Japanese, tradition, cheery blossoms
Ohanami party under cherry blossom trees


A: だいぶ暖(あたた)かくなってきましたね。

B: そうですね。桜の花(さくらのはな)も咲(さき)き始(はじ)めましたね。 西公園(にしこうえん)のさくらはもう三分咲き(さんぶざき)だそうですよ。

A: そうですか。今週末(こんしゅうまつ)には五分咲き(ごぶざき)ぐらいになりそうですね。 ご近所(きんじょ)に声(こえ)をかけてお花見(はなみ)をやりませんか? 満開(まんかい)の桜の木の下での宴会(えんかい)、気持ち(きもち)がいいですよ。

B: 花見ですか… 花見にはあまりいい思い出(おもいで)がありません。

A: えっ、どうしてですか?

B: いやー、会社(かいしゃ)の花見で、飲(の)みすぎちゃって、恥(は)ずかしい思(おも)いをしたことがあるんです。

A: ははは、若い頃(わかいころ)の話し(はなし)でしょう? 若い時(わかいとき)は誰(だれ)でもたくさん恥ずかしい思い出(おもいで)があるものですよ。 気(き)にしない、気にしない。 今度(こんど)はいい思い出を作(つく)ればいいじゃないですか

B: そうですね。じゃ、今週末(こんしゅうまつ)にやりましょうか。早(はや)めに行(い)って、いい場所(ばしょ)を確保(かくほ)しますよ。何人(なんにん)ぐらい集(あつ)まりますかね? 

A: さあー、十人(じゅうにん)ぐらいじゃないですか?

B: わかりました。じゃ、大(おお)きめレジャーシートを持(も)っていきましょう。


だいぶ adv. Much, here “it’s getting much warmer.”

なってくる gradually changing. Here, it’s getting warmer, てform + くる

さきはじめましたね started blooming. A compound verb: ますform+はじめる

だそうです hearsay: noun+だ+そうだ

なりそうですね It seems to be. Compare with hearsay usage of そうだ

声をかけて ask around

ませんか invitation form of ます, “why don’t we do”

宴会 n. party (usually alcohol being served)

思い出 n. memory 

いやー interjection. well (about that).. similar to それが…, used more often by men.

飲みすぎちゃって had too much to drink. 飲みすぎてしまって is more formal expression. てform+しまうexpresses regrettable action.

したことがある have done. Expresses past experience.

あるものです  a common social practice.

気にしない no worries.

今度はいい思い出を作ればいいじゃないですか Wouldn’t that be all good if you created a nice memory this time? This “じゃない” is not a negative conjugation of です。By attaching to a plain form of an adjective, it creates a tone of “assurance”. There are other usages of “じゃない” adding tones of “speculation” or “condemnation”. Identify an example of “speculation” usage in the dialogue.

やりましょうか Let’s do. Here, やる is used instead of する since やる has stronger connotation of motion. やるalso has a connotation of drinking alcohol.

確保します v. to secure

ぐらい p. approximation

さあー interjection. Ummm, used when you are uncertain.

大きめ n. larger size. め adds a sense of “ish”. Identify another example in the dialogue. Compare with the usage of め used with numeric expressions e.g. ひとつ目

レジャーシート n. picnic mat