March is represented by the ‘Sakura’ (Cherry) blossom. Although the Plum is the first blossom of the year, the cherry tree marks the beginning of spring and new life. Cherry blossom viewing to welcome spring is popular in Japan. People go to the parks and countryside to sit under the blossoming trees. Sometimes, a multi-coloured curtain is put up to designate the sitting area for viewing. This was so that the elite did not have to look at their neighbours. Occasionally, Sakura inspire writing poetry (which is called ‘Ontanzaku’).
The Sakura has very deep meaning for the Japanese. Buddhism is an integral part of Japanese culture. Buddhism teaches that nothing is eternal or unchanging. Everything eventually decays and disintegrates. A blossoming cherry tree is a beautiful sight but it does not last very long. In a moment, a strong wind can strip a blossoming tree bare. The cherry blossom is a symbol of the brevity and uncertainty of life. Youth, pleasure, fame, and misfortune, all blossom and fade like the ephemeral cherry blossom. The cherry blossom is a reminder to focus on the present.