The Cherry Blossom (or Sakura in Japanese) is the flower of the Japanese Cherry tree. It is said to be native to the Himalayas, but is widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere and can be found in Europe, Korea, China, Japan and parts of the US. Most varieties cultivated for ornamental purposes do not produce fruit.
"Hanami" is the popular tradition of picnicking under the Sakura. The blossoming of the Sakura lasts for about a week or two and reaches Tokyo and Kyoto usually at the end of March or early April, signalling the Spring season arriving. At this time, Japanese people hold flower viewing parties and celebrate the beauty of the Cherry Blossom.
The Cherry Blossom represents the ephemeral nature of life - the transience, extreme beauty and quick death is symbolic of mortality.
I was lucky enough to visit Tokyo during the Sakura season and took many photos of the beautiful pink and white colours of the blossoms. They look best against a bright blue sky, unfortunately it was cloudy and rainy most of the time I was in Japan, so was not able to get the nice shots of the pink against the blue background and had to improvise the colours in my above painting. The older trees are valued for their thick clusters of the pale pink flower. It was very spectacular to see many of these trees in a row in some of the parks and flower viewing areas of Tokyo.
Sakura are very popular motifs in traditional Japanese painting. Below are some woodblock prints by famous Ukiyo-e artist Hokusai. My above left small painting tries to capture this traditional style of painting the Sakura. The above middle painting was done in a modern style from a photo I took in one of Tokyo's parks.
Once a year, Kyoto's Geisha community puts on a show allowing ordinary people to see Geisha perform their arts. The most famous show is the Miyako Odori. "Miyako" means capital city and "Odori" means dance. So the Miyako Odori is the Capital city dances, as Kyoto used to be the capital city of Japan. This performance is also known as the "Cherry Blossom Dances" as they take place in Cherry Blossom season (April). The dances are held in the historic Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theatre.
We booked in for a tea ceremony first, where we saw a Geisha and Maiko (apprentice) prepare the tea. We then entered the theatre to watch the show. Each performance has about eight scenes which depict aspects of Japanese life. Performances include dancing, singing and mini-dramas with an orchestra of Geisha playing traditional instruments. The performance lasts about an hour. The kimono and costumes were truly amazingly beautiful, as were the Geishas and their dancing, and it was very interesting to see the traditional arts being performed after having read so much about it in various books and novels. If you ever have the chance to visit one of these performances - I thoroughly recommend it !
Some more detailed information about the Miyako Odori can be found here: http://www.unmissablejapan.com/events/miyako-odori
Below are some Geisha paintings I have done in the past - all available as posters and prints:
Sacha Grossel is a practising Visual Artist from Australia.