1. Sakura
    Photo: Yu Kato/Unsplash
  2. Sakura
    Photo: Yu Kato/Unsplash

Japan has more than 70 words for cherry blossoms

You can see the influence of sakura everywhere in Japan, but especially in the Japanese language itself

Written by
Jessica Thompson

Cherry blossoms are an iconic image of Japan – the breathtaking, transient beauty of their fluffy petals of white and pink has enchanted locals and visitors throughout Japan’s history. The weeks when cherry blossoms are in bloom is a cherished time of year, with the country exploding into a series of lively hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties).

This blossom obsession is reflected in seasonal food and drink, poetry and literature, and even the Japanese language. Cherry blossoms are encoded into Japanese language and proverbs, showing their integral role in Japanese culture. There are at least 70 words in Japanese describing sakura and sakura-related activities – these are some of our favourites. 

RECOMMENDED: Your ultimate guide to cherry blossom season in Tokyo

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Hanafubuki: ‘flower snowstorm’ 

To describe the moments when, after reaching full bloom, cherry blossom petals fall from the branches and are carried in a breeze, looking like snowflakes.

Hanamizake: ‘cherry blossom-viewing sake’

Sake drunk under the blossoms for hanami parties, sometimes with cherry blossom flowers or petals added to the cup. 

Photo: Roger Steinbacher/Unsplash

Hatsuzakura: ‘the first sakura’

The first cherry blossoms  of the year.

Asazakura: ‘morning sakura’

Refers to cherry blossoms in the morning, tinged with the morning dew. These are regarded as a particularly beautiful sight.

Photo: Masaaki Komori/Unsplash

Adazakura: ‘futile sakura’

Cherry blossoms that fall easily from their branches, which are considered a typical example of fleeting things.

Sakura zensen: ‘sakura front’

This is the annual sakura forecast released by the Japan Meteorological Agency, referring to the ‘front’ of sakura that moves up Japan, starting in Kyushu and finishing in Hokkaido. Locals watch this forecast with much anticipation to find out when the blossoms will appear in their area.

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Hanagasumi: ‘sakura haze’

When a lot of cherry blossom trees are in full bloom together, creating a vision blurred with flowers.  

Hana yori dango: ‘rice dumplings over flowers’

A proverb meaning that substance is more important than style. The phrase is a humorous observation that people are usually more interested in the food and drink at hanami parties than actually looking at the flowers. 

Photo: Kamil S/Unsplash

Sakurabito: ‘sakura person’

Someone who is an avid sakura fan and lover of hanami celebrations.

Ubazakura: ‘old-woman sakura’

A metaphor for a woman who is still beautiful and alluring after her youth has passed.

Photo: Al Soot/Unsplash

Hazakura: ‘leaf sakura’

The time when the cherry blossom trees start sprouting young green leaves, signalling the last chapter of the cherry blossom season.

Mikkaminumanosakura: ‘cherry blossoms for three days’

An idiom used for situations where change happens very quickly and dramatically, like cherry blossoms going into bloom and then falling.

Photo: Robbin Huang/Unsplash

Hanakumori: ‘cloudy flower’

The phrase used to describe cloudy weather during cherry blossom season, which is typical of that time of year.

Ame no sakura

When a gentle spring rain falls on cherry blossoms. This is regarded as a beautiful, poetic sight.

Photo: Zhaoli Jin/Unsplash

Yozakura: ‘night sakura’

The popular pastime of viewing sakura by night. 

Photo: Zhipeng Ya/Unsplash

Sakuragari: ‘sakura hunting’

The act of seeking out sakura trees in bloom, with the intention of admiring them.

Photo: Ruby Doan/Unsplash

Iezakura: ‘house sakura’

A sakura tree in the garden of a private home.

Photo: Yu Kato/Unsplash

Zanou: ‘remaining sakura’

Cherry blossoms that remain in bloom even after spring has passed.

More Japanese vocab

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