Cherry blossoms are small pink flowers produced by cherry blossom trees. They are of particular significance in Japanese culture and therefore, unsurprisingly, appear most often in Japanese-style tattoos.
In this article, we’ll go over the meaning and symbolism of cherry blossoms and look at some of the most popular ideas for cherry blossom tattoo designs.
About cherry blossoms
Let’s start by taking a look at the flowers themselves. Cherry blossom trees are native to Asia, particularly Japan, China, South Korea, and India. They bloom in the spring and are quite the sight to behold – millions of these flowers appear on the trees, in a spectacle impressive and significant enough to merit its own festival in Japan.
The delicate flowers bloom for only two weeks. At the end of this period, the petals drop down from the trees, which won’t bloom again for another year.
Cherry blossoms in Japanese culture
Cherry blossoms are the national flowers of Japan, where they’re known as sakura, and are highly significant in the country’s culture. The most prominent example of this is the centuries-old tradition of hanami.
The word ‘hanami’ literally means ‘watching blossoms’, and the custom involves bringing food and drink to viewing spots to enjoy the sight of the blossoming trees with friends and family.
During hanami, schools and workplaces also hold welcome parties. This is a chance to bond and make new friends.
At night, hanami is called yozakura. Couples take advantage of the romantic atmosphere granted by the blossoming trees at night.
Cherry blossom tattoo meaning
In general, cherry blossoms are associated with spring, a time of renewal, and the impermanent and fleeting nature of life.
Japanese cherry blossom tree tattoo meaning
From a Buddhist perspective, cherry blossoms can be seen as a metaphor for human existence and its impermanent nature. Since the flowers bloom for such a short period of time each year, they serve to remind us of the fleeting nature of life – which ties in with Buddhist themes of mortality, mindfulness, and living in the present moment.
Optimism is another meaning tied to cherry blossoms, again related to the flowers’ short-lived nature. They are often understood as a metaphor for the belief that regardless of how hard life gets, there always comes a time of renewal and beauty.
At the same time, they serve to remind us that even something as impressive and beautiful as the cherry blossoms doesn’t last forever, so we should live every moment to the fullest and take advantage of every good thing that happens in our lives.
In Japan, cherry blossoms were also closely tied to Samurai traditions. Samurai were thought of as both brave and noble – the cherry blossom tree reflects this through its juxtaposing elements of a strong and steady trunk and delicate, fragile flowers.
The samurai were also aware that their lives could be cut short at any moment and had to treat death with acceptance – which again refers back to the cherry blossom’s short-lived flowers.
Cherry blossom flowers that have fallen to the ground are supposed to be symbolic of a fallen Samurai. Interestingly, kamikaze pilots used this flower as a symbol of their mission. Kamikaze were Japanese pilots during World War II whose missions involved deliberately crashing into enemy targets, killing the pilot in the process.
Chinese cherry blossom tattoo meaning
The meaning of cherry blossoms is somewhat different in China than in Japan, though the flower has no less symbolic value. In China, it’s considered symbolic of power – most often feminine power and feminine dominance, including notions of feminine beauty and sexuality.
Cherry blossom tattoos from a Chinese standpoint also symbolize beauty, life, and good luck.
Cherry blossom tattoo designs
Cherry blossoms can be represented in tattoos in a number of different styles, and can be combined with other elements to create even more meaningful designs. Popular choices include:
- Realistic cherry blossom tattoo – photo-realistic tattoos, sometimes referred to as 3D tattoos, aim to represent reality as closely as possible, sometimes to the point of creating an optical illusion. Cherry blossoms don’t make for particularly complex tattoo elements, which means it’s not overly difficult to represent them realistically in a tattoo. Oftentimes, the flowers will be scaled up – made larger than in real life – for the purposes of the tattoo.
- Watercolor cherry blossom tattoo – the watercolor tattoo style mimics the look of watercolor paintings – using colors that are vivid but light as if slightly watered down in places and running into each other. In the case of cherry blossom designs, the entire tattoo can be done in watercolor style, or it may include more solid outlines.
- Cherry blossom and samurai tattoo – as we’ve already seen, in Japanese culture the cherry blossom is closely tied to the samurai. It’s understandable, therefore, why these two elements are often combined – usually in the form of the image of a samurai surrounded by cherry blossom flowers.
- Cherry blossom and Buddha tattoo – if the meaning of cherry blossom related to Buddhism is the one that speaks to you most and reflects your understanding of the symbol most accurately, this design is definitely worth considering. It’s important to remember that for Buddhists, a tattoo with the image of Buddha placed anywhere below the waist (such as on your thigh or anywhere on your legs) is likely to be seen as offensive and disrespectful to the religion – so it’s best to place the tattoo on the top half of your body, such as on your arms, back, or shoulders.
- Cherry blossom and kanji tattoo – kanji are the characters used in the Japanese writing system. Cherry blossoms can be combined with words or sentences written out in kanji for a fully Japanese-themed tattoo.
- Cherry blossom and hummingbird tattoo – this one’s a highly popular choice in recent years in particular. Although hummingbirds aren’t native to the same countries as the cherry blossom, as symbols the two go together really well. Among other things, hummingbirds are symbolic of being present in the moment (mindful), enjoying life, and positivity.
Cherry blossom tattoos are a great choice for both men and women, representing a range of deeply significant values and meanings in Japanese and Chinese cultures and beyond.
Additionally, capturing a symbol of the fleeting nature of time in a timeless, permanent tattoo carries its own meaning and weight. Check out our huge gallery of cherry blossom tattoos below for design ideas and inspiration!