Cherry-blossom. The Japanese cherry-tree (Prunus pseudocerasus, Lindley) is cultivated, not for its fruit, but for its blossom, which has long been to Japan what the rose is to Western nations. Poets have sung it for over a millennium past, and crowds still pour forth every year, as spring comes round, to the chief places where avenues of it seem to fill the air with clouds of the most delicate pink. Even patriotism has adopted it, in contradistinction to the plum-blossom, which is believed to be of Chinese origin—not, like the cherry-tree, a true native of Japan. The poet Motoori exclaims:
Asa-hi ni niou
which, being interpreted, signifies "If one should enquire of you concerning the spirit of a true Japanese, point to the wild cherry-blossom shining in the sun." Again a Japanese proverb says: "The cherry is first among flowers, as the warrior is first among men."
The single blossom variety is generally at its best about the 7th April, coming out before the leaves; the clustering double variety follows a little later. The places best worth visiting in Tōkyō are Ueno Park, Shiba Park, the long avenue of Mukōjima, and, in the neighbouring country, Asuka-yama and Koganei. But the most famous spots for cherry-blossom in all Japan are Yoshino amid the mountains of Yamato, and Arashi-yama near Kyōto.
The Japanese are fond of preserving cherry-blossoms in salt, and making a kind of tea out of them. The fragrance of this infusion is delicious, but its taste a bitter deception.