Cherry blossoms are a timeless tattoo that have a strong link to Japanese and Chinese culture, as well as tying in with Buddhist beliefs. Despite the strong symbolism to Japan, many people with tattoos will cover them up and Japan’s hot springs may ban visible tattoos due to a strong link to the Japanese mafia. Despite this, the delicate image of a cherry blossom has remained strong, particularly in Japanese tattooing, for both men and women. Cherry blossoms seem to have become so common that many people have them without really knowing what they symbolize, choosing them for their aesthetics instead. However, their symbolism is important and is ultimately based on the short time they spend in bloom before the petals float away.
Japan has the strongest symbolism for cherry blossoms, where it’s the national flower and known as sakura. They’re sometimes considered a symbol of the clouds as they bloom en masse and are often near-white. The cherry blossom was used in World War II to motivate the Japanese and encourage ‘Japanese spirit’. Pilots would paint them on the side of their planes or carry branches with them if they were on a suicide mission to symbolize their short life cycle that they hoped would end in rebirth . The government also encouraged people to believe that cherry blossoms were the reincarnations of fallen soldiers. Today, cherry blossoms are prominent in Irezumi, the traditional form of Japanese tattooing.
Today’s Japanese Meaning
Today, cherry blossoms are a symbol of happiness in Japan, as well as a symbol of the life cycle. Once the petals of a cherry blossom fall to the ground and are scattered around by the wind their true beauty is appreciated by the Japanese. Inspired by Japanese beliefs, incorporating cherry blossoms into your next tattoo can be done to remember a loved one who has passed or to celebrate getting your life back after recovering from an illness. A more delicate approach to the design is best, such as pale pink petals and intricate leaves that look like they could blow away at any moment. Including other elements of Japanese culture or nature, such as koi fish, dragons and tigers, can make a beautiful Japanese-inspired tattoo. You could go small and feminine with this tattoo, such as a dainty piece on your wrist or foot, or big and bold, such as a full back piece or a sleeve.
The Chinese Symbolism
In Chinese culture, the cherry blossom is a symbol of love and is associated with female beauty, being sexual and empowered, making them a common choice of tattoo for women. Chinese herbal traditions relate the flower to love and passion too. Chinese symbols have been a very popular tattoo choice for many years, so cherry blossoms can pair well with them. You could go for a strong pigment of pink to color the petals to match what they represent in China and have them surrounding the symbols or use the branches and twigs to form the symbols with the petals growing out of them.
Buddhist Beliefs And Cherry Blossoms
Cherry blossoms only last for around 1-2 weeks before their petals begin to fall off, making them a short-lived, but beautiful flower. Similar to Japanese, for Buddhists this represents their beliefs that life is short, and so it’s important to live in the present moment before it’s over. Practicing Buddhists also associate the flower with wisdom as it’s only once the flower begins to open that they reveal their beauty. Tattoos of the Buddha are often done in black and white, so adding some cherry blossoms can inject some gentle color.
Cherry blossoms hold a great deal of meaning and symbolism in many cultures and countries and have become prominent in tattoos around the world. The petals vary from almost white to rich shades of pink, making them easy to incorporate into any design or have as a standalone piece. Cherry blossoms should be depicted delicately, often with falling petals and accompanying other iconic cultural pieces.