Though Nashville’s 2021 Cherry Blossom Festival was canceled, members of the Belmont community still gathered together virtually on April 7 to celebrate this symbol of Japanese culture.
With musical performances, art demonstrations and informational presentations from Belmont students and faculty, the Zoom event drove home the significance of the beautiful pink flowers that famously bloom across Japan every spring.
“We ask you to take time to educate yourselves about other cultures,” said Beni Frizell, a student officer in Belmont’s Japanese Culture Club. “It’s an important way to stay aware and live life with a more open mindset.”
Nozomi Takasu, a 2019 Belmont graduate who was born in Japan, spoke about the significance of cherry blossoms. In Japan, the time when all the cherry blossoms are blooming is called “sakura season,” she said, which falls in the last week of March and the first two weeks of April.
The blooming of cherry blossoms signals the arrival of spring, and blossom viewings have been a tradition in Japan since the eighth century.
Belmont faculty with specializations in Japanese history, language and literature also brought their insight to the event.
Dr. Cynthia Bisson, an assistant professor of history who specializes in Japan, presented background information about cherry blossoms — considered a symbol of friendship between the United States and Japan, she said.
Bisson also said the annual city-wide version of the festival would normally take place in the Nashville Public Square, with nearly 30,000 people attending every year to participate in cultural events and fun outdoor activities.
Over 1,000 cherry trees are planted in Nashville, creating a beautiful backdrop for the annual Cherry Blossom Walk through downtown.
The most well-known cherry blossom festival in the U.S. takes place in Washington, D.C., where 3,000 cherry trees were planted in 1912.
What’s more, Belmont’s campus has its own tie to sakura season; planted in 2008, the cherry trees by the Leu Center for the Visual Arts continue to blossom for a brief week or two every spring.
“Appreciate the brevity of the blossoms,” said Dr. Christopher Born, a Japanese language professor who led an art demonstration at the virtual event where students made cherry blossom flowers out of sponges and painted cherry trees.
Near the end of the event, Takasu performed a traditional song, “Sakura, Sakura,” that has been passed through generations since 1888. Takasu said she has been able to reconnect with the symbolism of cherry blossoms by seeing them in Nashville.
Sakura season ends after a week or two when the flowers fall to the ground by the thousands, creating a soft pink blanket on the ground that many refer to as a “cherry blossom snowstorm.”
“Sakura is beautiful, even when it is dying,” said Takasu.
This article was written by Izabel Leveille. Photo by Anna Jackson.