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In Japan the Plum Blossom is known as "The Flower of Peace" and has a very important place in Japanese literature and symbolism.
Much Japanese art, literature, and ceremony revolves around Seasons as symbolized by various flowers. Plum Blossoms symbolize Spring and everyone should visit Japan when the Plum Blossoms are blooming.
Festivals surround this flower, as well as textile patterns (the background pattern at the top of this page appears to be an Ume (Plum Blossom) style, but is possible a Small Cherry (Kozokura) style.
Tea Centerpieces, Kimonos, and Obi's, and even Tsuba's use various styles of these symbols.
In the Japanese Incense ceremony known as Kodo (The Way of Incense) there is always a symbol of the current season, as well as night and day, etc. The games, called Kumiko, are often designed around the seasons. Sanjonishi Sanetaka and his friends who really originated Kodo and the Tea Ceremony (Chanoyu) were renga poets first of all!
Renga like Haiku has "Season Words" called "Kigo" which are extremely important in emerging one in the poem. If there is no feeling you are inside the Haiku then it is like wind rustling through the trees without you noticing.
These seasons Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer are further divided into three: early, middle, and late. Ume, the Japanese plum (more of an apricot) is a kigo for early spring, and sakura, cherry blossoms are a kigo for late spring.
"a few slices of
konnyaku no | sashimi mo sukoshi | ume no hana
The Sword Guard (Tsuba) below is courtesy of Jim Gilbert from his collection. It not only displays the Ume pattern but also the Genji-mon and symbol for Smoking Incense.
This is the Genji-mon for "The Branch of Plum" chapter in the "Tale of the Genji."
It is difficult to look anywhere in Japanese culture without finding some style of expression of the Plum Blossom, afterall, as we said in the beginning: "It is known as the Flower of Peace"
Copyright 2007 - David Oller