執筆 上野陽子
2012/4 Up

第15回 桜と日本文化
Vol.15 Cherry blossoms and Japanese culture

Why do the Japanese like cherry blossoms?


* 赤い色の語句の上にマウスカーソルを移動させる(スマホの場合はタップする)と語注が表示されます

The Japanese concept of all things ever-changing

Some Japanese cultural traditions are often attributed to the influence of Buddhism, which famously adheres to the concept of all things constantly changing. It is said that the association of that concept with cherry blossoms dates back to the 18th-century scholar Motoori Norinaga, who regarded the natural spontaneity in feelings and spirit indigenous to Japan as important.


The ephemeral beauty of cherry blossoms

The transience of the blossoms - their beauty and quick passing - has often been associated with mortality. In that way, cherry blossoms became symbolic within Japanese culture. There are more poems written about the beauty of falling petals rather than about the blossoms themselves. There are many famous poems, both old and new, written about the falling petals of cherry blossoms. The following are particularly well-known examples:

―In the calm sunshine of a spring day
 Petals are falling restlessly*1
Kino Tomonori

―Every moment that cherry blossom petals fall away
 Some wishes are blown away ...*1
Sakura Kobukuro

Japanese see virtue in the nature of the cherry blooms.


―ひさかたの光のどけき春の日に 静心なく花の散るらむ

―桜の花びら 散るたびに 届かぬ思いがまた一つ


The spiritual background unique for Japanese

After the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, many Japanese people exercised self-restraint instead of holding the usual feasts, festivals and other traditional celebrations. There were many people who didn't throw traditional annual cherry blossom viewing parties. The word "jishuku," cannot easily be translated into foreign languages appropriately, but it is commonly interpreted as meaning "self-restraint." Many foreign media organizations, however, used the word "jishuku" without translation, and it was heard throughout the world. The concept has deeply influenced Japanese culture. The phrase "hana yori dango" *2 might also come from the Japanese concept that we should appreciate the beauty of cherry blossom from the bottom of our hearts.

震災後は、饗宴や宴会などあらゆる楽しみを自粛した日本人。中には毎年の行事としてのお花見をしない人たちも多く見られました。こうした“自粛”を海外では言葉(やマインド)に訳しきれず、一般的にはself-restraint (自制)と解釈をしていましたが、多くの海外メディアが “自粛”を訳さないままJishukuと報道し、この言葉は世界を駆け巡りました。これもまた、日本人文化に深く根ざした日本人らしい言葉なわけですね。「花より団子」も、そもそもは日本人ならではの心から“花を愛でよ”の気持ちがあるからこそ、生まれた言葉なのでしょう。

桜も散り始めると、今度は民族大移動のゴールデンウイークもすぐそこです。ゴールデンウイークって、そもそもどんなものでしたっけ? 次回は、そんなあたりを見ていきましょう。

One often stated reason is that cherry blossoms symbolize the ephemeral nature of life. This is because they bloom spectacularly for only a short time, and they also resonate with Japan’s spiritual background.

*1 英語の短歌・歌詞は私訳です。

*2 The attitude people enjoy the drinking and eating rather than the cherry blossom viewing. 前回の「桜とお花見」もご参照ください。

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