National Flower Series – East Asia 1 – Japan (De-facto or non-official)
Japan do not have officially declared national flowers like other countries. However, two flowers that have significant influences in Japanese cultures and histories : Chrysanthemum (菊花) and Cherry Blossom (樱花) were deemed to be the de-facto national flowers.
Chrysanthemums, often called mums or chrysanths, are perennial flowering plants of the genus Chrysanthemum in the family Asteraceae which are native to Asia and northeastern Europe.Chrysanthemum are herbaceous perennial plants growing to 50–150 cm tall, with deeply lobed leaves with large flower heads that are generally white, yellow or pink in the wild.
Chrysanthemum had a deep rooted relationship with the royal family as evidenced by the following observations. It is believed that chrysanthemum may have been brought to Japan in the eighth century AD and the Emperor adopted a 16 petals yellow chrysanthemum flower design as his imperial seal (菊花印章) which shall solely be used by the members of the Japanese Imperial family. The Emperor also have chosen to name “Chrysanthemum Throne” to represent the periods reigned by Japanese emperors. A number of formerly state-endowed shrines (官国弊社), kankokuheisha) adopted chrysanthemum in its crest, most notably Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine. In addition, the Japanese honor awarded by the emperor were named as the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum.In Imperial Japan, small arms were required to be stamped with the Imperial Chrysanthemum, as they were considered the personal property of the Emperor.
Cherry Blossom (Sakura)
A cherry blossom is the flower of any of several trees of genus Prunus, particularly the Japanese Cherry, Prunus serrulata, which is sometimes called sakura after the Japanese (桜 or 櫻; さくら). Many of the varieties that have been cultivated for ornamental use do not produce fruit. Edible cherries generally come from cultivars of the related species Prunus avium and Prunus cerasus.
In Japan, cherry blossoms are richly symbolic, and have been utilized often in Japanese art, manga, anime, and film, as well as at musical performances for ambient effect. There is at least one popular folk song, originally meant for the shakuhachi (bamboo flute), titled “Sakura”, and several pop songs. The flower is also represented on all manner of consumer goods in Japan, including kimono, stationery, and dishware.
The Sakurakai or Cherry Blossom Society was the name chosen by young officers within theImperial Japanese Army in September 1930 for their secret society established with the goal of reorganizing the state along totalitarian militaristic lines, via a military coup d’état if necessary.
During World War II, the cherry blossom was used to motivate the Japanese people, to stoke nationalism and militarism among the populace. Even prior to the war, they were used in propaganda to inspire “Japanese spirit,” as in the “Song of Young Japan,” exulting in “warriors” who were “ready like the myriad cherry blossoms to scatter.” A cherry blossom painted on the side of the bomber symbolized the intensity and ephemerality of life;in this way, the aesthetic association was altered such that falling cherry petals came to represent the sacrifice of youth in suicide missions to honor the emperor.The first kamikaze unit had a subunit called Yamazakura or wild cherry blossom.The government even encouraged the people to believe that the souls of downed warriors were reincarnated in the blossoms.
In its colonial enterprises, imperial Japan often planted cherry trees as a means of “claiming occupied territory as Japanese space”.
It is such a coincidence that the two countries (Japan and China) I have selected to kick off the EAST ASIAN COUNTRIES NATIONAL FLOWER SERIES do not have officially declared national flowers. However, its is still included as part of the National Flower Series because of their significant influences in these countries’ culture; that particular species’ origins; uniqueness to the countries; likability and perception by the people that rendered their de-facto status.