The cherry blossom, also known as sakura, is one of Japan’s most enduring cultural icons and an important tattoo design associated with beauty, fresh beginnings, and impermanence. While a cherry blossom tattoo design is influential in traditional Japanese style body art, the cherry flower is often most effective when incorporated into larger pieces as a secondary image to add a layer of symbolic meaning to the whole piece Ideals of beauty, hanami (the enjoyment of the cherry blossoms blooming), and new starts that are prevalent in old-school sakura tattoo art are now being applied to modern tattoo designs which feature the cherry tree or branches, along with smaller designs and contemporary application. The following article will explain cherry blossom tattoo meanings in a context which should allow you to find the right inspiration for making your own tattoo choice.
Cherry Blossom Symbolism in Traditional
n idea, from the small petal tattoo to larger more abstract ideas.
Small Cherry Flower Tattoo Art
A popular design style with contemporary female collectors, who tend to prefer quality detailed body art over more traditional design styles, there is tremendous innovation found within the modern small flower tattoo space.
With such a range of styles, applications, and colors on offer, the small cherry blossom branch tattoo is extremely versatile and can be incorporated into many places, from the inner wrist and forearm to the neck, chest, and behind the ear.
Small flower and sakura tree tattoos have followed the recent trends with collectors mixing up classic positions with more daring and visible areas of the body, leading to nuanced cherry blossom branch designs and cherry bloom pieces that redefine the flower’s beauty.
Branch and Cherry Tree Tattoo Meaning
Ideals of beauty, hanami, and fresh beginnings that are prevalent in old-school sakura tattoo art are now being applied to modern tattoos featuring the cherry blossom tree or single branches festooned with the cherry bloom.
Trees are known as the ultimate symbol for majestic beauty and enduring strength over time. They make a solemn and dignified choice for contemporary cherry designs.
Often the tattoo artist depicts the sakura tree tattoo as the main image, in stark contrast to traditional Japanese tattoos, which are larger, more colorful, and generally busier designs.
Realistic Cherry Blossom Tattoo Art
A realistic, cute cherry blossom tattoo is a striking choice that calls immediate attention to itself and leaves a distinct impression on all who view it.
It brings to bear the natural delicacy of the cherry blossom flower and allows the chance to use delicate design factors such as placement and color to be accentuated.
A realistic tattoo creates a visual loop between the wearer and the viewer because whenever a viewer looks at the art, the art looks right back.
Neo-traditional cherry blossom tattoo ideas are just close enough to realism to be recognized, or abstract concepts supporting a central alternate theme with context, color, or even placement.
Oftentimes, a neo-traditional cherry flower tattoo can come in a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes to make it more vivid and interesting, while still being linked to the traditional theme of the design
The combined images and symbolic meaning provide a sense of brilliance and beauty that can only exist in the imagination of the tattoo artist.
Simple and Minimalist Cherry Blossom Tattoo Designs
A simple interpretation of the cherry flower makes for a popular contemporary tattoo choice.
A single fallen cherry flower or simplified line tattoo of the cherry branch meshes well with traditional concepts of beauty, impermanence, and femininity, just executed differently.
The simplicity of design places a greater emphasis on what the bloom means to you personally.
Japanese traditional designs feature rich color, heavy single fill, and bold outline designs often covering large areas of skin.
The cherry blossom tattoo is sometimes used as a standalone piece of body art but is more likely to be used by a tattoo artist to accentuate different meanings within traditional Japanese tattoo themes and imagery.
Cherry blossom tattoo designs often feature the petal or bloom of the flower being swept up in the wind and away from the cherry tree, either as the main feature (shudai) or as a supporting piece of art.
Crafting a traditional Japanese tattoo in this method is often a way of signifying a new beginning or fresh start, and a popular style application that’s being applied to more contemporary sakura flower concepts as well.
The cherry blossom branch, cherry flower, or even at times a single petal, can be etched in fine detailed pink and yellow tones, nuanced black and gray, or even vividly bright neo-traditional ink to create a beautiful tattoo symbolizing a new start.
Hanami: The Concept of Impermanence and Fleeting Beauty
Another key symbolic meaning that’s often applied when utilizing the cherry flower or petal in a range of sakura tattoo designs is the concept of hanami.
Hanami is defined as “the practice or custom of viewing cherry blossoms when they are in full bloom,” and is a practice associated with enjoying the impermanent nature of beauty.
The cherry tree blooms over a short period and is celebrated with blooming parties (ohana-mi), where locals and tourists sit under the blossoms to enjoy great company and the fleeting beauty of the pink or white flowers.
As is often the Japanese way, Hanami is a concept celebrated in irezumi. The cherry flower and blooming cherry tree are metaphors for the transitory nature of life that get folded into tattoos, from the brooding samurai warrior contemplating mortality to the looks and skills of geisha courtesans, or even the ferocity of dragons.
Japanese Tattoos: Large in Size and Scale
Tattoos in Japanese culture (which remains hugely controversial by the majority of society) were built by the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia, as symbols they were existing outside of society.
Yakuza tattoo art is often large-scale – full back, chest, and sleeve tattoo designs – which means multiple secondary images can add layers to the symbolic meaning of the ink.
Oftentimes, a floral keshoubori, such as the lotus flower, chrysanthemum, or cherry blossom is incorporated into the large back piece or sleeve tattoo to add meaning to the central concept.
The elements – wind, fire, earth, water, wind – are also greatly important for filling out and supporting the major theme (shudai) of irezumi, with wind and water being a popular companion for expressing the beauty of a fallen cherry blossom design or lotus tattoo.
Cherry Blossom and Skull Tattoo Meaning
Many people choose to incorporate another badass element into their cherry blossom designs: a skull tattoo.
Skulls are powerful symbols of our mortality and limited time on earth, and they are perfect additions to concepts of duality when sharing skin with beautiful sakura blossoms.
Some might suggest that this tattoo represents the beauty in life and death or variations on the concept of good versus evil.
Pairing Japanese Cherry Blossom Tattoos
In traditional irezumi, sakura is often depicted as a secondary (keshoubori) motif, where they build on the central design tenet.
Popular central tattoo themes which may also use cherry blossoms include:
- Dragon tattoos
- Koi fish tattoos
- Samurai tattoos
- Hannya mask tattoos
- Geisha tattoo
- Kitsune (Japanese fox tattoos)
- Other Japanese flower tattoo art
Another key tenet of Japanese floral tattoo designs is that the seasons match and flow logically; as they do as they are planted, bloom, and grow throughout their life cycle.
You’ll find that most key design choices match the seasons, from the main image to the supporting body art, all the way down to the filler images in sleeve tattoos and massive back tattoo pieces.