In Japan, cherry trees, called "sakura," and cherry blossom flowers themselves are held in the highest esteem. For thousands of years, the Japanese people have celebrated hanami annually. Hanami is basically parties organized to view blossoming cherry trees.
Originally, the purpose of hanami excursions was to ponder the transient nature of life, as the cherry blossom blooming season is so short. This concept ties in with Buddhist thinking about the nature of life. However, today, these parties are more about having fun and eating food while enjoying the beauty of the cherry blossoms than pondering deep thoughts.
The cherry blossom was also important to the samurai culture of Japan. Like cherry blossoms, samurai expected to have short lives. The cherry blossom also represented drops of blood.
The connection between warrior and cherry blossoms carried forward to World War II. Cherry blossoms were associated the kamikaze suicide flyers who sacrificed themselves during war actions.
Today, cherry blossoms are connected to innocence, spring and simplicity.
Cherry blossoms have almost a diametrically opposed meaning in China than the blossoms have in Japan. In China, the cherry blossom is associated with women's dominance and beauty as well as feminine sexuality.