A Fleeting Beauty

words and photos by  Jane J. Panganiban

It is quite well known that flowers have always played an important role in Japanese culture since ancient times. But out of all the flowers, none captivates and captures the hearts of the Japanese people quite like the cherry blossoms, or sakura, as they are better known.

Each year, people in Japan wait in eager anticipation for the blossoming of this symbolic flower as it signals the beginning of the spring season. Sakura represents the beauty and ultimate fleetingness of life. Hence, it has been customary for the Japanese to celebrate the profound meaning of the blossoming of the sakura through hanami, or flower viewing festival, where people gather to enjoy the magnificent view of sakura flowers that are in full bloom while spending time with their loved ones and friends.

Cherry blossoms in bloom are truly a sight to behold. When one stops to watch the Sakura as they explode in a flurry of pinks and whites, fluttering by the thousands in the wind, one cannot help but be left speechless and in awe at the splendor and grandeur of this majestic sight. Seeing all those petals dancing away forces one to stop and enjoy the moment… a moment you realize will never come again.

Much like life itself, one tends to look inward to better appreciate the meaning behind this beautiful and fragile flower as it signifies the beauty, serenity, and overall transience of our existence.

SPRING BEGINS: A white Sakura blooms ahead of the other buds, too excited to welcome the spring.
FULL BLOOM: The Osaka Castle moat gets adorned with sakura trees in full bloom providing a panoramic view of the castle’s surroundings.
PINK POPS AND THE PAGODA: Late-blooming cherry blossoms surround the pagoda of Kofukuji Temple in Nara giving it a cheerful vibe amidst an overcast morning.
SERENITY: A sakura tree in full bloom provides a tranquil ambiance that complements the majestic architecture of The Pheonix Hall in Byodoin Temple.
BEAUTIFUL CANOPY: Early risers of Osaka start their quiet morning with a picturesque canopy of sakura trees in full bloom as they jumpstart their day.
HANAMI: A 1.4-kilometer sakura tunnel in the Sewaritei District, south of Kyoto City, provides a lovely hanami spot for people of all ages.
YAEZAKURA: A special treat for those who missed seeing the full bloom of cherry blossoms in February and March – yaezakura or double-flowered cherry blossoms, offer an enjoyable hanami experience when this unique and puffy-petaled sakura blossoms bloom in late the months of April to mid-May.

Editor’s Note:

These photos captured by Jane Panganiban are exceptional. More than just their aesthetic quality though, I believe that what makes this essay so enjoyable is the mercurial journey of perspectives that Jane takes us through. There are moments where she looks at the blooms closely, as if asking the reader to appreciate the them as a wonder of flora.  She then steps back and shifts the focus, using the sakura as a compliment to the ethereal architecture of ancient Japan. She changes the view again, showing the human side of sakura – a gathering under the trees, a bike ride through the blooms – a serene and uncomplicated type of delectation that befits the cherry blossom. In the end she comes back to where it all began, but not quite the same. 

This journey of seven images is quick and fleeting just like sakura, and just like  sakura, the feeling remains even after the blooms themselves have gone.

  – Spike Acosta, JFM Program Coordinator for Public Relations

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