The Japanese love their Sakura trees and when spring arrives, everyone celebrates the "hanami" which means flower viewing festival. It symbolizes purity, life and death and is often linked with the life of a samurai. The life of a samurai is like a sakura flower.

It is short, beautiful and is not afraid of death and once it falls on the ground it represents honor even in death. The Japanese also refers to the sakura as the flower of peace and their are places in the world where the Sakura trees are planted in order to promote peace (Sakura trees are seen on Washington DC and the Berlin Wall).

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Sakura trees bloom in varying times of the year depending on the location. There are instances where it blooms as early in January on the southern islands of Okinawa. However, the normal time of the year where the Sakura bloom in Japan is usually around early April. This is the time where family, friends and acquaintances gather under the Sakura trees to drink, eat and have a great time in the company of other people. It is an age old tradition in Japan and even today, it is one of the most anticipated seasonal event in the country.

Among the many stories of the Sakura flower, this is the one I like best and I would like to share it with you.

by: Gian Carlo Cagaanan Licanda

The Legend of the Cherry Blossom Tree

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Once upon a time, there was a man named Akihito. He liked to spend his time to watch the beauty of the Apricot flowers during spring. He thought that it was the most beautiful thing that he ever saw until he met a lady that is wrapped in mystery. The first time he saw her, he felt that the whole world had stopped and he can't take his eyes off her. Without a doubt, Akihito was captivated by hear beauty.

He gathered his courage to ask the girls name. The girl replied "Sakura. My name is Sakura" and she showed him a flower petal. Akihito stared at the beautiful pink flower in her hands and thought hard, but he hadn't seen a flower like that before. He never knew that a flower more beautiful than the apricot exists.

After he regained his senses, Sakura was nowhere to be found. He searched for her and looked all over the place, but the beautiful lady that carries the name Sakura has slipped away like a fleeting dream. He searched high and low until he felt like giving up. One day, his wish was finally heard. He found Sakura sitting on the edge of a fountain humming a beautiful melody.

She was staring at a tree that has no leaves, fruits or flowers. Akihito came beside her and said "isn't it very distracting?". Sakura looked at him puzzles and he continued his explanation, he explained that it has no redeeming features and should just be cut down and turned into firewood.

Sakura just shook her head and told Akihito that he should look deeper because sometimes, we are deceived by our eyes and true beauty are hidden from sight. She reached out her hand and rested her palm on the tree and told Akihito to do the same. He closed his eyes and felt the tree and he was stunned at what he discovered. The tree has a pulse! As if it was a beating heart.

Sakura faced Akihito and asked him if he were searching for her. He said yes and Sakura just smiled and entwined her fingers with his and said "Then I will stay and never leave you again".

Spring passed and summer came and the feelings of the two became deeper and richer. Autumn came and as the flowers and leaves of the trees wilted, their love remained strong until the cold of winter arrived. For some reason, Sakura became sickly. She always had a fever and she made Akihito very worried.

She confessed to Akihito that she was destined to die when winter solstice arrive. One day Sakura simply said that she has to leave. Akihito refused to allow it telling her that she's too weak to go out. With his tears flowing down his face he said that she promised to "Never leave him again".

She gently wiped away his tears away and said "Don't worry, I will come back for you". He simply asked when and Sakura continued "when spring arrives, and every spring until then". Reluctantly Akihito agreed and Sakura left.

The seasons went by and it was once again time for Akihito's beloved apricots to bloom. However, this time around the beauty that was before his eyes failed to make him happy. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly heard a familiar melody. It was the same melody where he found Sakura sitting near a fountain on that fated day.

He closed his eyes and followed the sound and when he opened them, he was once again stunned. The tree that he once said was distracting is now in full bloom before his eyes. Beautiful pink flowers blossomed one by one as if it was by magic and Akihito was dazzled by the sight.

He slowly reached out his hand and rested his palm on the trunk of the tree and once again felt its beating heart.
With words overflowing with love he whispered "I love you Sakura".

The End.

It is a bitter sweet love story and yet it shows that sometimes, there are things in life that we take for granted and only realize their importance once they are gone. I hope you enjoyed the story and I would like to invite you to join me next time as we take a journey to find the most interesting things that is uniquely Japan!

For the full story of the Legend of the Sakura, feel free to visit this site!