“Such a special feeling these petals give to the human heart. Where one story ends, another begins. Such is the way of the Sakura tree. A tale spoken with each bloom.”
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
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: Red Alert 3
. 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).
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Anime and Manga
Films — Animated
- 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.
- Spotted in Grave of the Fireflies, and it's a Justified Trope since the movie itself takes place in the Japan of World War II.
Films — Live-Action
- 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.
- 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.
- A.E. Housman's "Loveliest of trees" is a rare Western example.
- In The Zombie Survival Guide, Imperial Japan's attempt to weaponize zombies was codenamed "Operation Cherry Blossom."
Live Action TV
- Happens in season 2 of Heroes, in medieval Japan.
- Korean Series love this symbolism too:
- 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.
- Another rare non-Japanese one by Air, called "Cherry Blossom Girl".
- Fall Out Boy invokes this in "Centuries": And you're a cherry blossom / you're about to bloom / You look so pretty / but you're gone so soon, perhaps in contrast to the singer's claims of historical immortality.
- The concept is obliquely used by Hey Rosetta! in "Yer Spring," though it doesn't specifically mention cherry blossoms: While everything is blooming / you know the wilting always waits / to steal away your body / to steal away your brain
- 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.
- 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.
- In Super Robot Wars Original Generations, Dygenguar(d)'s final attack begins with a cut-in of Sanger drawing his sword while cherry blossoms float by. They come again as Dygenguard poses at the end of the attack, despite the fact that they should be too small to be clearly visible compared to the Humongous Mecha.
- 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.
- In Lightning Legend: Daigo no Daibouken, cherry blossoms are Mayu Uzaka's Flower Motif. They appear during her In the Name of the Moon speech, her Victory Pose and her Limit Break; her stage is a park filled with blossoming cherry trees; and she has pink hair.
- 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.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 includes a cherry blossom-themed camouflage pattern for weapons in multiplayer.
- In A Witchs Tale, Florin is filled with these; there's even a Fetch Quest where you help two souls in different gardens reunite. When you first see a particular sakura tree, the Mad Hatter talks about their connection to death.
- Murakumo's Super in Akatsuki Blitzkampf Ausf. Achse has him slashing the foe upwards several times and then stabbing them back to the ground while some cherry blossom petals fall on them. This is a bowdlerised version of the original Super, which is pretty similar save for the lack of petals and the borderline Rain of Blood...
- Also, the pre-Ausf. Achse game's pre-fight screen had cherry blossom petals raining down on the rivals's portraits.
- CLANNAD has enough to cover a whole town, being Key Visual Arts' spring game (summer being AIR, winter Kanon).
- 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.
- Cherry blossoms are strongly associated with Kanzaki Nami of Triangle Heart 3: Sweet Songs Forever. There's also a haremette in Triangle Heart (who reappears in 3) named Sakura.
- 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.
- The gratuitous appearance of Cherry Blossoms during a fight scene is lampshaded in this Adventurers! strip.
- Joked with in this Fey Winds comic.
- Odd use in Homestuck, Terezi is blinded by staring into the sun while leaves that look like cherry blossoms fall. Probably a rare use in that it's solely because it looks cool.
- Used twice in Red String; both relationships crash and burn later on.
- Right at the start of Nineteen, Twenty-One and lampshaded.
- 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.
- SCP-143 is, basically, a grove of Senbonzakura trees.
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 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.