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Washington’s Cherry Blossoms

March 2000

The Jefferson Memorial gleams in the spring sunshine

Cherry trees have been a symbol of Japan for centuries. In feudal times, the life of a samurai was compared to the life of the blossoms (lasting "no more than three days") to signify that a samurai was ready to sacrifice himself at any time for his master. Another old saying is "the cherry is among flowers as the samurai among men."

The double petals are sometimes preserved in salt to make akura-yu ("cherry hot water"), a drink which literally consists of a few petals floated in hot water. This celebratory beverage may be appropriate at, for example, the first meeting of a would-be bride and groom.

Especially during the annual Doll Festival, sweet shops in Japan sell dumplings called sakura mochi, in which a pickled cherry leaf is wrapped around sweet bean paste.