The Cyclical Beauty of Sakura Sunday

  Hanami in Goten-yama,  Tokyo Metropolitan Library 

Hanami in Goten-yama, Tokyo Metropolitan Library 

There’s no better sign of the coming of spring than the bloom of cherry blossoms in Fairmount Park, and after a seemingly never-ending winter, this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival feels especially welcome. The week-long festival culminates in Sakura Sunday, a Philadelphia tradition since 1926 that celebrates Japanese culture in Philadelphia by following the centuries-old custom of hanami, or flower-viewing. Held at Fairmount Park near the Shofuso Japanese House, Sakura Sunday celebrates not just the return of the blossoms, but also its connection with Japanese identity.   

 "Cats and Sakura" by  Tadashige Nishida .

"Cats and Sakura" by Tadashige Nishida.

 "Flower-Watching in Spring" by Marcos Chin, The Washington Post.

"Flower-Watching in Spring" by Marcos Chin, The Washington Post.

Traditionally associated with the coming of spring, the cherry blossom symbolizes both the cycle of life and rebirth of the soul. Because they bloom for such a short period, Japan has long used cherry blossoms as metaphors for the ephemeral beauty of life. Throughout the ages, its symbolism has evolved to reflect contemporary Japanese culture: samurais identified with the flower because it fell at the moment of greatest beauty, and World War II kamikaze pilots flew planes pained with cherry blossoms for courage and faith in a spiritual rebirth.  Most recently, the return of the cherry blossoms in Japan after the devastation of the 2012 tsunami became a symbol for the Japanese people of perseverance in the face of great adversity. Ultimately, the cherry blossom symbolizes both a beautiful, short life as well as the noble Japanese soul who does not fear death- in that way, admiring and celebrating the blooming cherry trees has become synonymous with the resilience of the Japanese spirit.

The cherry blossom festival runs April 6-12th at the Shofuso Japanese House in Fairmount Park. Tickets are $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For parking information, events listings, and other questions, visit their website. We’ll be set up at Little Akiba (the marketplace) selling Tabi socks and Seisuke88 products. Come say hi!

WORDS BY MAGALI ROMAN