Cherry blossom is more than just an Instagram cliche — sakura season in Japan is a potent annual reminder of mortality and the ephemeral nature of life, no less. The flower is so integral to Japanese culture that it was adopted a nationalist symbol during the Second World War to boost morale during the dark days of the conflict. It might sound morbid to Western sensibilities, but the cycle of death and renewal is seen as something to be embraced in the East, not shied away from. This process is photogenically embodied by the cherry blossom tree, which blooms with glorious intensity for a short time, before fading away and making way for new growth. Unfettered beauty, #nofilter.
Cherry trees in Spain’s Jerte Valley produce a flurry of distinctive snowy white blooms that cover the hillsides in March, an event that’s marked by the Fiesta del Cerezo en Flor festival.
In southern Korea, near the city of Gwangju, Juknokwon Bamboo Forest’s cathedral of dense bamboo stems is struck through with bursts of pink and white blossoms from late March to early April.
The Sakura Matsuri festival runs from 28-29 April at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the heart of New York City. The event draws hordes of Japanophiles as well as enthusiastic Instagrammers.
Sakura bloom from late June to early July at the Botanical Garden of Curitiba in Brazil. The trees are vestiges of a surge of Japanese immigrants to Brazil in the first half of last century.
Published in the April 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)