Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
For many, the cherry blossom is the quintessential Japanese flower, its fragile pink petals symbolising the transience of life and its advent in spring an excuse for “hanami” picnics beneath the boughs, where sake and song flow in equal measure.
But some, myself included, confess to a deeper affection for the more modest plum, whose five-petalled white and pink flowers bloom in February, heralding spring despite a winter chill.
This coincides with the first month of the lunar calendar, and the flowers are included as a symbol of new beginnings in New Year decorations, along with the pine for longevity and bamboo for strength and flexibility.
Imported from China more than 1,000 years ago, the fragrant “ume”, also known as Japanese apricot, was a favourite in the poetry of royal courtiers in the Eighth Century.