A common symbolic element in anime and other Japanese media, falling sakura petals have several interconnected meanings, depending on who they are falling on and the context thereof. Cherry trees bloom en masse in early spring, usually in the month of April, but the white-to-coral petals shed and rot very quickly and the peak bloom is only a week or two. There is a celebration called hanami associated with the peak bloom, which often entails picnics and drinking with old friends under the cherry trees.
Sakura season is thus a highly visible sign of spring, the beauty of nature, renewal of life, and first love...but can also represent the transiency and fragility of beauty, life (especially a samurai's life), and love. Since the meanings are highly romantic, the sakura motif is especially common in media aimed to the shoujo audience.
Japanese mythology often also connects cherry blossoms with death; a legend goes that originally, the flowers of the tree were white; after a body was buried beneath it, the petals turned pink. Anime will sometimes take this further, putting a body beneath a cherry blossom and turning the petals a deep red. (The fact that they last, at most, two weeks is a more mundane contribution to the symbolism.) When it doesn't show any romantic subtext, it can simply be used for a nice Scenery Porn.
As the Japanese academic year begins in April and ends in March, scenes of graduation from high school or the coming of a new transfer student are often given atmosphere with a liberal sprinkling of cherry blossoms in the air. In this context, sakura evokes both the "new beginning" of spring and the transiency of passing from one stage of life to another.
Sakura also happens to be a somewhat common name for women and men in Japan, and as such, characters in anime and video games will often show up bearing the name, such as in Naruto, Street Fighter, Cardcaptor Sakura (naturally), and even Command & Conquer. See Cherry Blossom Girl for uses with characters with strong themes of this. See also Petal Power for attacks that actually use Cherry Blossoms.
Not to be confused with the trope currently titled Third-Option Love Interest, or the Trope Namer thereof, although this is the likely origin of her name (without any of the attendant symbolism).
Early episodes of Ranma ˝ highlight the birth of Ranma and Akane's relationship with a near-constant flutter of falling blossoms.
Harumaki and Gyouko promised to meet each other and elope when the cherry trees bloomed. When the spirit of Harumaki goes on a date with female Ranma (who reminds him of his old love) he tries to find those same cherry trees, but is devastated to discover a construction site in their place. In the manga, this causes him to finally let go of the past, and peacefully return to his deathbed (he gets better) but in the anime, female Ranma convinces him that the trees are still there, he's just not looking hard enough. Sure thing, they all see the cherry trees and Harumaki is at peace.
The gag is, Harumaki and Gyouko have been married for decades, and Harumaki's just incredibly senile (even when he's ethereal), at least in the anime version (I forget about in the manga version).
In the InuYasha anime, Sesshomaru smells Kagura's blood on a bloody sakura petal before breaking his sword and rushing to her side.
The opening credits of Love Hina—a show centered around romance—show the Hinata Inn amidst a grand flurry of cherry blossoms.
And the opening theme is "Sakura Saku" ("the cherry blossoms will bloom"), no less. Subtle, it ain't.
Cherry blossoms are more or less ubiquitous in Ai Yori Aoshi. The theme is echoed in the name of the lead character Sakuraba Aoi and in the sakura blossom motif on the obi she almost always wears.
The 4th opening song of Eureka Seven is titled "Sakura" and has "Cherry Blossom" repeated in the lyrics. The lyrics of the song is actually symbolic to the ending of the show.
CLAMP are addicted to cherry blossoms (among other shoujo tropes), using both sides of the metaphorical coin (petal?). The most prominent uses of sakura appear in Cardcaptor Sakura (where they represent the hope and youth of the main character, though they aren't actually Sakura's motif, which is wings), in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle (where they are once again connected to Sakura as a symbol of hope, but also represent her vulnerability), and Tokyo Babylon/X1999 (where they represent betrayal and death lurking behind beauty).
Tokyo Babylon is actually the source of the story where cherry blossoms are dyed pink from the blood of corpses resting beneath them. It can be argued that they're citing a story written in 1927 by a Japanese man named Kajii Motojirou who died from tuberculosis. His story is called 'Under the Cherry Trees', and begins with the phrase 'dead bodies are buried under the cherry trees.' He claimed that his original intention in saying that was that since the cherries were so beautiful, they had to have some special type of nourishment, and he couldn't think of anything that would be as special as a human corpse...
Honey and Clover uses the annual cherry blossom viewing party as a way to tie the storylines together once a year. Even though the original cast all move apart and have their own plot lines after a point, most of them still attend.
Invoked twice in Bleach: Captain Shunsui Kyouraku likes the aesthetic of falling sakura, so he has his subordinates drop them on him as he enters battle. And Byakuya Kuchiki's special move is a thousand tiny but deadly blades (or a nigh-infinite number of them, in Bankai), which reflect light to look like sakura floating on the wind.
Early in the first episode of Full Metal Panic!, Kaname enters the story showered in Cherry Blossoms, depicting the very essence of love—until she starts shouting at her best friend for setting her up on a disastrous blind date.
Likewise when Kaname suggests that Sousuke, weird as he is, might yet find a nice girl someday, a sudden gust of wind showers her with cherry blossoms (and gives us a gratuitous Panty Shot), lampshading their future romance.
RahXephon'' takes the "body beneath the cherry tree" theme and associates an aberrant blue-leaved tree with a member of a blue-blooded race of humans.
Tony Tony Chopper of One Piece has a lot of cherry-blossom themes (in his attacks and his character), which he got from his father figure, Dr. Hiruluk. Hiruluk was a quack doctor who believed in the power of miracles after one cured him of a fatal disease, and whose dream was to cause cherry-blossom bloom in the eternal winter of the Drum Kingdom. In the end, that dream does come true, resulting in one of the most heartwarming scenes in the series.
In the first anime, Zoisite is always surrounded by swirling cherry blossom petals when he teleports (and later when he dies, thanks to Kunzite/Malachite.)
Another anime-exclusive episode has the Sailor Senshi, Haruna-sensei, Naru and Umino having a picnic under the cherry blossoms, as a part of the cherry tree watching tradition. Then, they're captured by the cherry-tree-themed Monster of the Week. Fortunately, that's also the episode in which Moon gets her first power-up, as with some help of Queen Serenity's spirit she engraves the Silver Crystal in her Transformation Trinket and gets to use its powers better.
Kaitou Saint Tail once had to steal a painting called "Cherry Blossoms"; the episode was filled with the actual flower.
During the Kyoto Arc in Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin daydreams of a blood red plum blossoms falling in front of him into a stream. Plum blossoms have a similar symbolism for spring and female beauty and purity. Kenshin's first Tomoe Yukishiro used a plum blossom perfume and they are used as a symbol for her, especially in the OVA.
The climactic departure of Kenshin to Kyoto also happens under a shower of cherry blossoms.
In the Seisouhen OVA, Kenshin and Kaoru die beneath the blossoms.
Subverted in Hayate the Combat Butler, where one butler, who uses roses as a weapon, makes dramatic appearances amid falling blossoms, only for the scene to reveal a moment later his master following behind him with a basket of petals, showering him by the handful. Also used straight elsewhere, particularly with Isumi and when Hinagiku and Ayumu are walking home from work in one scene.
Whenever the two sisters in Binbou Shimai Monogatari share an intimate moment—which is several times per episode—the screen gets filled with a flurry of cherry blossoms.
In an episode of Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, Dr. Shamal infects Hibari with the 'Sakura-kura' disease at a cherry blossom picnic, rendering him weak whenever he so much as looks at them. The disease comes to bite him in the ass later when Mukuro conjures up an illusion of cherry blossoms during a crucial battle to weaken him, but Gokudera gives Hibari an antidote afterwards. He still hates looking at them now.
One of the more memorable moments in the Gintama series involves the Yorozuya vs. the Shinsengumi in a rock-paper-scissors match to determine who will get the best spot at their own cherry blossom picnic. Fisticuffs and tequila are involved. (And in the animated adaptation, a Humongous Mecha as well!)
During Cosmo's death in the finale of Sonic X, she matures to her adult form and turns into a blossoming tree. Therefore she actually is her own cherry blossom.Tails then has to shoot her with the power cannon resulting in her death - the blossoms fly everywhere, surrounding a Superformed Shadow and Sonic as he says goodbye. It's quite a Tear Jerker.
In Yami No Matsuei, the bureaucratic headquarters of the afterlife are surrounded by sakura in eternal bloom, representing how time has stopped for the dead and they remain forever as they were in life. Hisoka was also killed (and raped) by Muraki under a cherry tree in full bloom, and when they meet again in the manga, Muraki reminds him of their meeting "beneath the cherry trees where corpses sleep."
At the ending of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha's third season, the Forwards are brought to a place filled with cherry blossoms from Earth for their graduation party, and Fate explains that the flowers symbolize a farewell and the beginning of a new season.
.hack//Legend of the Twilight: an early episode sees the characters trying to clear an event by making a (virtual) sakura tree bloom. The trick to it is to figure out that an undead monster ("body") is buried underneath it and defeat it. Of course, things don't go as planned by the event organizers...
Cherry blossoms are shown falling in the first episode of Elfen Lied.
During the first episode of Yes! Pretty Cure 5 GoGo!, Syrup is introduced leaning against a wall as cherry blossoms fall, all in shadow.
One of the most poignant episodes of Azumanga Daioh involves "flower watching," and showing how three sets of friends (Yukari and Nyamo, Tomo and Yomi, and Kagura and Chiyo) enjoy the spectacle of the cherry trees in bloom in their own ways.
In the first episode of Excel♥Saga, we see a brief flashback to Excel's high school graduation. The cherry trees are in bloom, and Excel is singing the word "ACROSS" to a tune that sounds suspiciously like the traditional song "Sakura Sakura". (Note that she's using the closest Japanese pronunciation, "akurasu". Say it a few times fast...)
In one chapter of the manga, the Department of City Security has a picnic at a cherry blossom festival that the ACROSS girls are working at as vendors.
Mahou Sensei Negima! has these on occasion. Several special attacks of SetsunaSakurazaki also produce these. It also uses them in a somewhat more disturbing way: people who get erased by the Code of the Lifemaker explode into Cherry Blossoms when they go.
In Saki, the titular Saki sees Nodoka for the first time as the latter is surrounded by cherry blossoms. Cue the Les Yay.
Sakura Taisen has the full quota you'd expect from a series with the title.
Westernized slightly in the first chapter of Please, Jeeves, the manga adaptation of P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster stories. Is it a coincidence that the rose petals in Jeeves's basket start floating on the wind while Bertie is watching him? And that the top half of the next page is devoted to even more of those petals? No, I think not. Inverted slightly by the fact that Jeeves is insulting Bertie's intelligence in that same panel.
Yasako from Dennou Coil has cherry blossoms rain down on her while she has her (probably) last phone conversation with Isako.
Fushigi Yuugi has the sakura trees in bloom (quite literally) at the end of Volume 1 when Miaka and Tamahome (or Taka, depending on whether you follow the anime or the manga) meet again. As it's the beginning of the Japanese school year, this is justifiable.
Harukanaru Toki no Naka de - Hachiyou Shou has falling sakura petals in the beginning the opening, and a few instances within the series itself. And then, of course, there's the series' ending(s); judging from the picture collection, this also applies to the Kyou endings in the game's remake. After all, what can be more romantic than your favourite Bishōnen meeting you under the blooming sakura trees?
The opening theme for an earlier OAV, Harukanaru Toki no Naka de - Ajisai Yumegatari is "Sakura Fubuki" ("Cherry Petals Storm").
Shakugan no Shana subverts this. In the first episode, the wind blows up the sakura bloom as Yuji walks A street of Miyasaki. What happens next, however, is a nasty surprise - the first Fuzetsu shocking the hell out of him followed by Shana explaining to him about torches and that he's already dead and bound to disappear anytime soon. Ouch.
Also, Shana is surrounded with cinders during fight scenes. It's probably no accident that this sometimes looks uncannily like a shower of sakura petals.
In Saiyuki Gaiden, the cherry trees in heaven bloom all the time and as a result nobody pays them much attention. The symbolism of this and the value of mortal lives vs. eternal ones is played up throughout the manga.
A heartbreaking episode of Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae tells the true story of Yuzuki's past, and we see her bury her mother in a mound of sakura petals.
The episode "Ichō no Naka no Sakura" of Maria-sama Ga Miteru uses the image of a sakura tree amidst ginkgo trees to describe Shimako's apparent aloofness. Both Shimako and sakura trees are also involved in arguably one of the series' most romantic moments, when Shimako picks sakura petals out of Noriko's hair.
Another example playing up the death angle: Battle Angel Alita: Last Order has Zekka converting a space-station-consuming giant blob (and presumably the preceding fight's casualties) into a giant cherry tree by karate chopping it. This is instantly labeled a miracle.
In Kekkaishi, there is a cherry tree that blooms out of season a lot. Every time this happens, the Kekkaishi have to stop the hordes of demons that come to the tree.
ARIA has the scene in which Alicia and Akari visit the remote part of an island, where a huge sakura tree blooms, covering the abandoned train car under it with cherry blossoms.
A plot point in the seventh Detective Conan involves the blooming cherry trees in Kyoto where Heiji Hattori saw his first love, a little girl in a very fancy kimono, many years ago. He spends quite a part of the movie searching hints about who could she be... and it turns out she was Kazuha, his Tsundere love interest.
Nekogami Yaoyorozu has Yoshino, the goddess of cherry blossoms. Mayu helps Yoshino get back the blooming ash (that Mayu was responsible for losing in the first place) so the viewing can take place.
In Mushishi, Ginko has to deal with a mushi-infested cherry tree that's connected to a girl whose beauty inspired several generations of men to keep her alive by grafting her head to other women's bodies. It blooms magnificently just once when they both finally die.
Not just the petals, but the dog himself in Ginga Nagareboshi Gin. In fact, Benizakura's name means "Crimson Cherry Blossom". When he drowned while tying Mosa to a log underwater, his blood floats up to the surface to take on the shape of a cherry blossom.
These show up prominently in Kamisama Kiss when Jirou and Nanami first meet.
When Japan makes his first appearance in the anime version of Axis Powers Hetalia he has cherry blossoms falling around him. He also occasionally appears with them in official artwork. Justified Trope as cherry blossoms are one of Japan's national flowers.
He also invites America to celebrate hanami with him.
Slam Dunk begins when Sakuragi and his friends are starting highschool, so the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. At some point, a depressed Sakuragi stares at them and says his heart is still "in winter". And then Haruko Akagi shows up to "defrost" it.
Cherry blossoms not only are mentioned in the title of Sakura Gari, but are a constant presence in the plot. e.g., Sakurako was locked away because of her Creepy Child behavior in a cherry blossom watching party among other things, Masataka's younger brother Mitsugu makes many paper cherry blossoms as charms to wish Masataka good luck in his studies, and later Katou snaps over Sakurako's suicide and stabs Souma, who then collapses under the blossoming cherries.
A Running Gag in My Bride Is a Mermaid is Sun Seto explaining a matter of her family's honor while surrounded by cherry blossoms. The petals appear no matter her location, and witnesses will often point it out. "Where are these petals coming from? We're in the middle of the ocean!"
While less present in Sakura Trick than the title may have you expect, they were there for Haruka and Yuu's first kiss, probably the most important scene in the series.
In the Love Live! anime, it marks the beginning of the school year during the first three episodes.
Sneakily used in Candy Candy, a series that lacks of any Japanese symbolisms otherwise since it's ambiented in the USA. The nursing school that Candy attends and the nearby hospital that she works in has several of these, and they just happen to be in full bloom when Mr. McDermott, a patient whom Candy holds an Inter Generational Friendship deal with, passes away in peace after a long illness.
An important element in the climactic scene of The Last Samurai. Katsumoto has had trouble coming up with a final line to his death poem. When he sees them on his deathbed, it finally comes to him, and he knows his actions have not been in vain.
In possibly the weirdest coolest damn use of blossoms ever, seen in the Japanese garden in Iron Man 2 when Rhodey and Tony battle the Hammer Drones.
Used for foreshadowing effect in The Forbidden Kingdom. There's a big fight scene that has a literal storm of them, and its a scene where a character ends up dying.
Cherry blossoms are scene during the early scenes in Japan in The Warrior's Way. And then the ninjas apparently bing the blossoms with them when they show up in the American desert.
Used in Legend, and short gloriously, as a symbol for the fragility of life and the temporary nature of feelings hapiness and safety.
In Memoirs of a Geisha Sayuri attends a gathering in the Baron's garden which is covered in flowering cherry blossom trees. The Chairman comments that even the cherry blossoms are envious of her beauty.
Mulan's father uses cherry-blossom as a metaphor for her being a late-bloomer to try to cheer her up in the Disney movie.
Utilized rather beautifully in Kung Fu Panda. Oogway's death scene takes place in a flurry of blossoms, and Po's new life as the Dragon Warrior really gets underway after a pep talk near those blossoms. The blossoms are peach blossoms, not cherry blossoms, but the symbolism is still mainly the same.
At one point in Elysium, Max and Kruger are fighting in what appears to be a factory with random cherry trees dancing everywhere. Fittingly, Kruger uses throwing stars and a katana.
In The Silmarillion, we have the silver-white tree Telperion. When describing the Trees of Valinor in his letters, Tolkien likened the blossoms of Telperion with the blossoms of Sakura trees.
In Thief of Time, the monastery of the History Monks is in a temporal pocket whereby it is always spring, and therefore the cherry blossoms are always falling. This is by design, as the History Monks believe this to be the most beautiful time of year.
Though, in the end, Lobsang makes the cherries actually ripen as a gift to Lu-Tze.
Older Than Print: The Tale of Genji uses cherry blossoms as a visual motif. Genji and other characters quote poems from the Manyoshu about the beauty of cherry petals. It was already a trope when Murasaki Shikibu wrote it, 1000 years ago.
Can You Hear My Heart: Cha Dong Joo stood beneath the falling petals and used spoken imagery to test the voice-recognition software that will enable him to begin a new adult life hiding his deafness from a hearing public.
Best Love: Do Ko Jin takes Gu Ae Jeong to a park overlooking the river, and attempts to tell her how he feels, all while standing under the flowering trees.
The City Hall: The trees flowered just when the corrupt Mayor resigns, ushering a new era for Inju City.
Iljimae: He met his first love when they were children, saw his father assassinated, then meets up again with his first love as an adult, each time while the trees bloomed. He ultimately uses a painting of a flowering branch as his symbol.
Lie To Me: The petals fall as Ki Jun and Ah Jung discover thier attraction for each other. Later, she cries because the flowers are gone.
Twinkle Twinkle: Han Jung Won takes her mother driving along the cherry tree-lined streets of a park in Seoul. It's a bittersweet scene because they both are aware that her mom has a degenerative condition in her eyes and that she may be blind the next time the trees blossom.
In Smallville, Clark uses this to set the mood when he's finally ready to propose to Lois Lane.
In Dracula (the 2013 TV show) there is a cherry blossom tree outside Dracula's castle. Though the blossoms don't fall exactly, it's still a potent symbol of life and death considering Vlad Dracul was killed in front of it, and later Mina Murray has a vision of it (triggering her lost memories).
During the graduation season, Japanese bands will release tons of songs featuring the word "sakura" in the title. A short list: Ikimono-gakari ("SAKURA"), NIRGILIS ("sakura"), Remioromen ("Sakura"), Yazima Beauty Salon ("SAKURA -ハルヲウタワネバダ-"), YUI ("CHE.R.RY"), Kobukuro ("桜"), capsule ("さくら").
The biggest one is Naotaro Moriyama's "Sakura". It's sung at nearly every school graduation in Japan.
From Kayleigh by Marillion: Do you remember / The Cherry Blossom in the market square / Do you remember / I thought it was confetti in our hair
It's hard to find a song by Kagrra, that doesn't mention cherry blossoms.
In Carousel, tree blossoms are falling when Julie and Billy kiss for the first time.
Julie: You're right about there being no wind. The blossoms are just coming down by theirselves. Just their time to, I reckon.
Perfect Cherry Blossom (of the Touhou series) bases its story almost entirely on the "body beneath the cherry tree" myth, and its scoring system is cherry-themed too. The game's final boss, Yuyuko Saigyouji, whose body is buried underneath said tree in the netherworld of Hakugyoukurou, also makes full use of Butterfly of Death and Rebirth imagery as well.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater doesn't use cherry blossoms, but the white petals in Rokovoj Bereg turn a deep shade of pink after The Boss is killed. It's clearly symbolic, as one petal Snake took with him becomes white again once he lets go of it.
This may be a reference to another culture's flower symbolism. In Iran, when a martyr dies; red tulips grow where they fall.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots also doesn't use cherry blossoms (at all), but the graveyard where Solid Snake spends most of his massive introspective angsting has a crap-ton of flowers whose petals are scattered wildly in the beginning when Otacon and the Colonel touch down in their helicopter. They are also falling when Snake is working up the nerve to kill himself and prevent the FOXDIE infectious disease from destroying the world as he knows it. Despite the fact said flowers resemble daffodils, the symbolism is the same.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance's first DLC, Jetstream, begins with a cutscene of Monsoon and Senator Armstrong walking through the Japanese-style garden from the main game while discussing cherry blossoms. Armstrong hates them for the same reasons Monsoon says they're so popular.
In the 2006 Sonic the Hedgehog game, this is shown during a relatively early cutscene between Sonic and Elise, foreshadowing the much-debated death and resurrection of Sonic at the end of the game. With the Ship Tease and Scenery Porn, one could view it as the frailty of Sonic and Elise's relationship.
In Kingdom Hearts, Organization XIII member Marluxia has an affinity with 'flowers'. In addition, he is perpetually surrounded with an aura of petals (not to mention that his hair is brown-pink and that he wields a huge scythe with a pink blade). In RE: Chain of Memories, however, the petals appear to be rose petals rather than sakura.
From the second game, whenever the 'Duel Stance' reaction command is triggered with the Samurai Nobodies, pink petals fall from the sky.
Alliance Of Valiant Arms had the "TAR-21 Cherry" which was a Tavor TAR-21 assault rifle painted with pink cherry blossoms. Further reinforcing this motif was the fact that the weapon was only available from mid-March to late April, which is roughly the same time that cherry trees bloom.
Setsuka's stage in SoulCalibur III made heavy use of the cherry blossom theme.
Cherry blossoms are part of Kasumi's motif in Dead or Alive. Her Vs. win icon is that of a cherry blossom head, and she uses the petals as a smokescreen when she teleports in or out of a stage.
Baiken from Guilty Gear generates spontaneous cherry blossom petal showers with almost every move she does.
In the gym teacher scenario in the first Ouendan game, cherry blossom petals are falling at the end when his students graduate. A cherry blossom also appears behind the chart at the end of the level if you get the normal ending or higher in any level.
In the sequel, cherry blossoms are everywhere. Especially if you beat the game on Insane. The blooming river is actually very similar to a similar river◊ in the location of the developers.
zOMG features Sakura trees heavily in the Zen Gardens area. The intro shows the area's NPC surrounded by falling petals. The area is filled with Sakura trees, and there are even Cherry Fluffs made from the petals. Keeping in theme with the Sakura Tree's connection with death, it is highly advised that lower leveled players avoid attacking them... The after effect is devastating. Gaia also features a cherry blossom-themed monthly collectible, complete with a shower of blossoms.
One of Citan's Deathblow combos in Xenogears has a spray of sakura blossoms blow across the screen after he hits the enemy, which can be very disorienting when fighting in snowfields or deserts
In the first Fatal Frame, Kirie and the man she loves meet for the first time under a cherry tree with petals falling around them, although technically it should be winter. Both of them die soon afterwards.
In the first Boktai game, the Solar Tree recovers gradually as you absorb more sunlight. When you hit the maximum, it becomes a sakura tree in full bloom. Love interest Lita is deeply moved.
Freya Crescent, the dragoon PC from Final Fantasy IX, has an attack called "Cherry Blossom." It hits all opponents for damage and scatters petals all over the place. It's pretty much hitting all of the above-cited meanings - Freya's deadliness, her search for her first love, and her maturation.
Since Heart Aino of Arcana Heart is both the resident Love Freak and canonically possesses the Arcana of Love, it's no surprise that cherry blossoms are associated with her. If you use Arcana Force in her stage, the background graphics will be replaced with one that's absolutely filled with cherry blossoms.
The ending of Mega Man 2 shows Mega Man walking amongst falling cherry blossoms (while equipped with the Quick Boomerang, perhaps to give a reason for the odd pink color scheme of the weapon). He similarly walks among other symbols of death/destruction associated with the other three seasons (driving rain, dead leaves, and snow) during said ending. Anyone's guess as to what it means, though.
In Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, there is an ace named Zipang early in the game. Shooting him down gets you an unlockable paint scheme for the F-14D Super Tomcat, which is primarily purple with cherry blossoms all over. The paint scheme returned in later games as an unlockable bonus or DLC.
In Pokémon, most of the grass attacks involve either leaves or vines, but the Oddish line (and a rare few others later) uses an attack called Petal Dance. In the anime and the Stadium games, this filled the air with what are quite clearly cherry blossoms, despite the line being based on the mandrake and rafflesia plants. It isn't until the fourth generation of games that a Pokemon based on the cherry is created, at which point almost all of the flowering grass-types can learn the move...and it still uses pink cherry petals.
In Gen. VI the move Retaliate has pink blossoms follow the attacker after hitting the target.
Even Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 includes this trope. Of course, it's way backwards. It's the final Soviet mission against the Japanese Empire. The Cherry blossoms are blooming, love is in the air, and the Red Army is on the march.
Super Metroid: take a close look at the background in the green areas of Brinstar — you'll notice it's raining sakura petals. This fits with green Brinstar's role as the only more-or-less friendly part of the planet. (Among other things, it's home to the only two native creatures that don't try to kill you.) Don't get your hopes up for natural beauty elsewhere on Zebes... unless you really like lava and acid.
Ōkami is made of these. They're everywhere, but they're all dead until you resurrect them for Experience Points. The various cursed zones are only dispelled when Amaterasu locates a particular cherry tree maintained by the wood sprite Sakuya, known as a Guardian Blossom, and makes it bloom again. At that time, the power of the Guardian Blossom will force the curse out and nature back in in a very spectacular fashion.
Animal Crossing has an annual cherry blossom festival, even if you don't have any cherry trees in your town.
Occurs when fighting Yakisoba the Executioner in Kingdom of Loathing (The fact that the opponent's name translates to "Fried Noodles" shows you how seriously the dev team takes this trope - or anything at all).
Flower has them during the final level when the purification the city is underway or completed.
A gameplay mechanic in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess's fishing hole. Cherry blossoms filling the trees lets you know that the current season is spring, which affects the likelihood of finding certain fish.
The Ayame-only level "Cherry Tree Hill" in Tenchu 2.
Both the orginal Persona and Persona 3 have this in spades. The empathsis seems to be on change, as the orginal game has it at the main characters graduation from high school. Persona 3 also uses it for the New Transfer Student, the main protagonist, and appears again at the end of the game, in which, s/he dies on graduation day.
Konohana Sakuya, Yukiko's initial persona in Persona 4, also has this theme. Especially visible in her finishing move from Persona 4 Arena. Justified: it's named after Konohanasakuyahime, the goddess of flowers and Mount Fuji.
Dragon Age II has a rare Western example during the Mage version of the epilogue. Cherry blossoms scatter across the narrative painting as Varric, the narrator, says that Hawke's companions eventually all were forced by circumstance to leave him/her, except for his/her Love Interest. The symbolism is there: the blossoming of love, but also the transience of friendship and the end of one stage of Hawke and everyone else's life. It's also very likely that at least one of your party members has died during the endgame (depending on your choices), so the transience of life is another possibility.
Subtle and easily missed, but if Ignis activates in Fire Emblem Awakening, it will leave a burst of petals after the hit. Also a nod to how it was written in Japanese with the kanji for flower (華).
Similarly, a male Avatar's romantic support with Fallen Princess Say'ri has them mention cherry trees and promise that they will go watch them bloom.
In Something Else, World 3 in Something Else is covered in cherry blossom trees.
ef - a fairy tale of the two. parodies this phenomenon by having childishly drawn pink blossoms begin to cascade all over the game screen when Mizuki starts to go on a lovestruck ramble about Kei (and later, Chihiro).
In Kanon, where the city seems to be perpetually shrouded in winter, Yuuichi's one wish for Makoto after she dies is that she can find peace in a serene, sunny meadow, sleeping happily with sakura petals floating down all around her.
Da Capo is set on an island where the cherry trees are literally always blossoming.
When things look especially bleak for Sakura (hmm) in Fate/stay night's third route, Shirou cheers her up by promising to go watch the cherry blossoms with her when it's all over. This route has a painful Downer Ending in which Shirou dies, and Sakura watches the cherry blossoms every year for the rest of her life, never quite giving up hope that he'll return to keep his promise. On a slightly better note, in the True Ending he's fine, and everyone still alive at the end (sans Taiga) goes out to watch the cherry blossoms.
Cherry blossom symbolism appears at a few points in Hakuōki. When Hijikata first appears in the prologue, Chizuru observes that the snow falling around him looks like out-of-season cherry blossom petals; actual cherry blossoms appear during the end of Hijikata's route, in contexts involving both death (in the ending itself, which is also used for the ending of the anime adaptation) and romance (in the epilogue scene between Hijikata and Chizuru). "Hakuouki" is actually written with characters meaning "pale/fleeting cherry-blossom demon" - it's a name given to Hijikata by Kazama, recognizing Hijikata as a true demon after his defeat of Kazama in the middle of a grove of flowering cherry trees.
In DMFA, Dan strikes a cherry-blossom-enhanced pose in preparation to deal death to Dark Pegasus.
In Okashina Okashi, sakura petals are constantly falling in the shoujo manga dimension.
A strange example in the Blood-Drenched Blossoms short story from Dominion And Duchy. It takes place in a fantasy kingdom where cherry blossoms fall all year around. The story explains why the blossoms are red and also why they spread all across the world of Pandora.
In The Impossible Man, Michael Garcia made the above quote to Yuki Shimizu during the Cherry Blossom Festival. The entire scene occured under a Cherry Blossom Tree and symbolized the state of their relationship.
Document 143-A: We'll have to pick up the remains when the wind dies down in a couple days.
In 1912, the Mayor of Tokyo sent over 3,000 Sakura to Washington, DC, to be planted across the American capital as a gesture of US-Japan friendship. By coincidence, the new Congressional session started in March each year at the time, meaning that the trees' bloom matched with the beginning of a new legislative session. However, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution (ratified 1933) changed the beginning of the legislative year from March to January, so by the time of the first annual National Cherry Blossom Festival (in 1935), the interesting symbolism was lost.
Nevertheless, March remains one of the two best times to visit the Districtnote The other is October, on account of the usually-nice weather; Washington in the summer is stiflingly hot and humid, and the winter, while objectively mild, is still cold enough and wet enough to be unpleasant. Conveniently, DC winter typically begins in November/December and ends in March, while DC summer starts in April/May and ends in September. on account of the Festival. It's one of the few festivals that the locals take seriously.
During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Imperial Japanese Army planted sakura trees on conquered territory, because the cherry blossoms would mark it as Japanese space.