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A cherry blossom is the name for the flower of cherry trees known as Sakura (Japanese kanji : 桜 or 櫻; hiragana: さくら) in Japanese. In English, the word "sakura" is equivalent to the Japanese flowering cherry. Cherry fruit (known in Japanese as sakuranbo) comes from another species of tree.
Natural historyCherry Blossoms are indigenous to many Asian states including Japan, Korea, China, and India. Japan has a wide variety of cherry blossoms (sakura); well over 200 cultivars can be found there.
Flower viewingDuring the Heian Period (794–1191), Japanese sought to emulate many practices from China, including the social phenomenon of flower viewing (hanami: 花見), where the imperial households, poets, singers and other aristocrats would gather and celebrate under the blossoms. In Japan, cherry trees were planted and cultivated for their beauty, for the adornment of the grounds of the nobility of Kyoto, at least as early as 794. In China, the ume "plum" tree (actually a species of apricot) was held in highest regard, but by the middle of the ninth century, the cherry blossom had replaced the plum as the favored species in Japan.
Every year the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public track the sakura zensen (cherry-blossom front) as it moves northward up the archipelago with the approach of warmer weather via nightly forecasts following the weather segment of news programs. The blossoming begins in Okinawa in Jan. and typically reaches Kyoto and Tokyo at the end of Mar. or the beginning of April. It proceeds into areas at the higher altitudes and northward, arriving in Hokkaidō a few weeks later. Japanese pay close attention to these forecasts and turn out in large numbers at parks, shrines, and temples with family and friends to hold flower-viewing parties. Hanami festivals celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossom and for many are a chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful view. The custom of hanami dates back many centuries in Japan: the eighth-century chronicle Nihon Shoki (日本書紀) records hanami festivals being held as early as the third century CE.
Most Japanese schools and public buildings have cherry blossom trees outside of them. Since the fiscal and school year both begin in April, in many parts of Honshū, the first day of work or school coincides with the cherry blossom season.
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