Why sakura have a big significance in Japan
The season of sakura, or cherry blossoms, has been a major seasonal symbol, and even an event, at the beginning of spring in Japan. Each year, when the sakura season approaches, people start to long for the blossoms so badly. Let me try to explain why it is like that here.
The weather before the sakura season is quite unstable. "San-kan-shi-on (三寒四温)" directly translated to "three cold and four warm," indicates the transition between winter and spring. The long cold winter season is withdrawing, but not in an instant manner; it pretends like it's going away, but the cold comes back suddenly. The sakura is a symbolic icon of the cold days going away.
In Japan, the academic and fiscal year starts on April 1st. The sakura blooming up until that time became like a symbolic "hello" and "good bye." A new environment, new friends, graduation, and admission all happen in a short period between mid-March and early April; just around the period when sakura bloom and fall. So many people associate their emotional events with sakura, and many songs are inspired by them.
A kind of sakura, Somei-Yoshino, which was synthetically grafted during the Edo era three to four hundred years ago, have become the main kind that we see now. Since they are all clones, blossoms of the same color and texture all bloom together and all fall together. The blossoms are pushed away by the sprouting leaves, so the falling of blossoms occurs in a short period. There's a phrase in Japanese which translates to "The life of a flower is short." It is an admired attitude, noble and graceful, knowing life is short.
All of the above combined plus the dramatic change in the natural environment makes Japanese people long for sakura very much. For many, it is also the end of pollen allergy season, so we also long for that! In March, the meteorological agency predicts the expected blooming dates of sakura for each region. Five blossoms are observed on the predefined standard tree of each region and the official blooming dates are declared. It normally takes a week to fully bloom, and another week for them all to fall down. After that follows the season of fresh green.