In Bloom: The Many Meanings and Designs of Cherry Blossom Tattoo

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Flower tattoos generally symbolize your softer side. A rose tattoo on your ripped chest could mean you’ve been bit by the love bug. A tattoo of an orchid can symbolize your spirituality. A wildflower tattoo may represent your enigma or mystery, signifying your untold secrets (and perhaps that inexplicable urge to spill your guts to someone).

Although a cherry blossom tattoo can symbolize a gentler, kinder you — like every other flower from a flash sheet — it can also mean strength. (So don’t think of the delicate ink as a mark of being a pushover.)

The tiny light pink flowers, which come in other colors as well and bloom in spring for only two weeks, can represent the polar opposites of life — and its representation will likely depend on where it is you call home.

What is the Meaning of a Cherry Blossom Tattoo?

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Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

The meaning of a cherry blossom flower tattoo is different in many countries. Yes, the delicate looking flower is more popularly associated with Japanese culture, and it is that country’s national flower. But a cherry blossom tree doesn’t only grow in the Land of the Rising Sun.

It also grows in the US, Taiwan, China, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Korea, Thailand, India, Canada and parts of Europe. Each of those countries interprets the flower according to their history, beliefs and practices.

So a cherry blossom tree tattoo could mean peace if you’re an American whereas a tattoo of fallen cherry petals could symbolize the end of someone’s life if you’re Japanese.

What a Cherry Blossom Means in the US

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Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

The cherry blossom found in Washington DC, around the Potomac Park and the National Mall, has come to represent tranquility and peace. A stark contrast to how the capital city can get pretty turbulent and mired in disharmony when political forces butt heads.

But these delicate flowers have come to symbolize what they symbolize because they were given by Japan as a way to restore the friendship and alliance between the two countries. Yokohama sent 3,020 cherry blossom trees to Washington in 1912, and ever since, the city has celebrated the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Even during 1939, when Hitler’s armies marched into Europe and Great Depression ravaged the world, some Americans found solace under a sakura tree as cherries bloomed in spring. 

What a Cherry Blossom Means in China

chinese-with-a-cherry-blossom-tattoo
Photo by Yohann LIBOT on Unsplash

Cherry blossoms take on a sensual appeal in China. People here believe the flower represents female sexuality and dominance as well as beauty. Instead of fragility, it symbolizes strength and power.

So if you’re looking to get empowered, a tattoo of cherry blossoms in red running down the lengthy, smoldering side of your body or your voluptuous back could make you feel more adventurous, unrestrained in bed (or the living room or kitchen, wherever passion hits you).

What a Cherry Blossom Means in Japan

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Photo by Davide Cap on Unsplash

But if you want to mark your journey into a new life and signify your renewed hope for a productive year, a Japanese cherry blossom tattoo is a perfect ink to convey your rebirth and resurrection.

Because this glorious tiny flower blooms in spring, it inevitably means a fresh start and it is considered as a sign of good fortune. So if you’re asking whether cherry blossoms mean good luck, they can. Japan celebrates the season every April, which the country deems its sakura season. “Sakura” being the Japanese name for cherry blossoms.

And what do people do when they celebrate? Have a rousing good time.

When the country welcomes the season with “hanami” (which translates to “watching blossoms”), it does so with viewing parties. Hanami is a ceremonial reception involving excursions that allow people to gather in parks with friends, family and coworkers. Alcohol, and heaps of it, is generally included along with favorite Japanese fare in bentos.

But the cherry blossom meaning in Japan is deeply rooted in tradition and religion, with the custom going back thousands of years. So don’t expect hedonistic, New Year’s type level of partying where you wake up the next day not knowing why your recent Instagram post has you in a sumo wrestler’s outfit.

Nope. This tree has a respectable legacy that traces back to the samurai class.

The Japanese associated cherry blossoms with folk religion from 710 to 794, deeming it a sacred tree because they thought it carried the soul of the mountain gods to the people. The spiritual tree gained its esteemed status among the aristocracy when Empress Henmei formed a new Japanese identity using it.

So how did the cherry blossom go from aristocratic status to beloved samurai symbol of death?

The samurai began to identify with the cherry blossom in the 12th century when the warrior caste adapted ritual suicide or sepukku as part of its Bushido code. These noble Japanese warriors related to the delicate flower because its petals fell at a time when it was at its most beautiful. In this sense, it rendered the samurai’s honorable death with a kind of perfection.

Poetic, right?

Your cherry blossom flower and Samurai combo tattoo don’t have to be as dramatic. What if you just want something epic for the sake of visual art. No deeper meaning attached to it. Just be the canvas for an artist’s custom work.

So get inked with a, for example, killer sleeve tattoo of Kenshin from “Samurai X” as he wields his sword under a blooming cherry tree. Or you could even get John Wick tattooed as a samurai with petals of cherries blowing past the coolest, maybe most stylish Baba Yaga.

If you’re fresh out of ideas and want more than the average sakura tattoo, talk with your artist or check out the following ideas:

Cherry Blossom Tattoo Designs

Manga and Cherry Blossoms

Still on the subject of pop culture for skin art, this tattoo from a Las Vegas-based artists takes inspiration from Junji Ito’s horror manga.

Dragon Tattoo and Cherry Blossoms

Hellfire and something pink? Why not. If you work with a tattoo artist who can do color and realism like no one’s business, a combination of dragon tattoo with cherry blossoms is bound to catch the eye. Here, artist Bruce Kaplan from Lark Tattoo combines the ferocity of the mythical beast with the beauty, tenderness of flowers. What will this captivating dragon and sakura tattoo mean?

Koi and Cherry Blossoms

The beautiful pattern of a koi fish easily lends itself as a standout subject for tattoos. The carp fish reportedly symbolizes prosperity, good luck and strength, making it the perfect companion piece to cherry blossoms. This arm sleeve ink is pretty realistic. But if you want imagery with greater drama, try getting your entire back inked with a giant red koi and spots of sakura petals.

Leg Sleeve Tattoo with Birds and Cherry Blossoms

When you’ve got custom work that should see the light of day — every day — this leg sleeve ink is sure to turn heads. It’s a mesmerizing piece of skin art.

Japanese Traditional Chest Tattoo with Cherry Blossoms

An arresting image, to be sure, once you take off your shirt. This chest tattoo is from Matt Ellis of Lark Tattoo draws attention to a Japanese folklore known as the kitsune. The shapeshifting fox that takes on a human form when it’s filled with enough life force by eating human flesh or sucking their life away.

Back Tattoo of a Cherry Blossom Tree

The cost of your ink will depend on the design, of course: the level of detail and the scale. How much your cherry blossom tattoo will cost also depends on the skill of your artist. But if you’re on a budget, start with a basic cherry blossom tree tattoo design. It can still be dramatic, like this back tattoo done in freehand.

Some of the more easily done tattoos of this delicate flower can be done on the shoulders or the upper back. If you want something smaller, you can get inked on your arm. And when you get enough cash, you can add to an existing sakura tattoo.

Every tattoo will have different meanings, depending on the design and your culture. Its symbol can be unique to you or it could be similar to the next person getting tattooed. Whether you identify with the fragility and strength or recognize more relevance in the sexual power of a cherry blossom tattoo, make sure you’re happy and certain about the elements in it.

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