In Japan, the sakura will start blooming soon… but the snow that fell here a few days ago reminded me of several great Japanese stories about sakura miraculously blooming in winter.
1. Jiu-Roku-Zakura (The Sakura of the sixteenth day)
In the Wakegori district from Iyo, there was a samurai who had a sakura tree in his garden. The tree was so old that even his his parents, grandparents and ancestors enjoyed its blossoms and meditated under its branches.
For the samurai, now very old and alone, the tree was the most precious thing on earth. But some day, the tree started to wither and died…
After the tree died, the samurai was very sad. His neighbors wanted to comfort him and planted into his garden a new, young sakura. He thanked them, and not wanting to seem ungrateful, he pretended to be glad.
But his heart was filled with pain, because nothing could console him for the loss of the tree…
After a while, in the sixteen day of the first month of the year (after the lunar calendar), it was still winter and in the garden there where still traces of snow. The old samurai went into the garden, bowed down before the old tree and spoke to it:
“Please, I beg you to bloom again, because I am going to die instead of you!”.
Then, he sat down under the tree and committed seppuku! His soul entered into the tree and, after an hour, the tree blossomed.
Since then, every year, the tree continued to bloom in winter, on the sixteenth day of the first month…
2. Ubazakura (The Sakura of the Nurse)
Three hundred years ago, in a village from Iyo, there was a respected man named Tokubei. He was the leader of the village and the richest man in the district, but he was sad because, at forty years, he didn’t have any children. Someday, full of hope, he went to the Saiho-ji Temple in Asamimura and prayed to the God Fudo-Myo-O.
His wishes were fulfilled and soon his wife gave birth to a girl they named Tsuyu. And because the mother didn’t have enough milk, they hired a nurse named O-Sode.
The girl grew up and became very beautiful, but at the age of fifteen she fell sick. The doctors weren’t able to help her and they predicted that she would die. Then O-Sode, who loved her very much, went everyday, for 21 days, at the Saiho-ji Temple and prayed for her recovery. After that, the girl healed quickly and Tokubei, full of joy, gave a party to celebrate.
But in the night of the party, O-Sode fell ill, and the next day doctor said that she was dying… The family, saddened, gathered near her bed but she told them:
“It is the time to tell you a great secret. I prayed to Fudo-sama to allow me to die instead of Tsuyu, and my wish was granted. But a have a request, I promised to Fudo-sama that I will plant a sakura in the Saiho-ji Temple garden, to thank him. But I would be unable to fulfill my promise so I beg you to fulfill my vow.”
After the nurse die, Tokubei planted the most expensive sakura in the garden of the temple.
The tree grew and blossomed the next year, exactly one year after O-Sode died.
And it continued to blossom every year, on the sixteen day of the second month, with flowers colored white and pink, like the nipple of a woman’s breast. The people called it Ubazakura, meaning the Sakura of the Nurse.
3. Hanasaka Jiisan (Grandfather Cherry Blossom)
Long time ago, in a village from Japan, there was an old man and his wife. They had a dog they loved very much, named Shiro. One day, the dog started barking and digging in the garden. Then, the old man stated digging on that place and discovered a treasure, and old pot filled with gold coins.
Hearing about the treasure, their neighbors, two mean and greedy people, asked the old man to borrow the dog. They took Shiro in their garden and threatened him to find gold. The dog dug, but all he could find were some bones. Angry, the mean neighbor hit Shiro and killed him.
The old man buried the dog and planted a tree on the grave. The tree grew fast, and in one night, the old man dreamed Shirowho told him to cut down the tree and to make an usu) from it.
The old man did exactly that and, when they started to use it, the rice from it turned into gold.
Of course, the greedy neighbor came to borrow the usu, the rice from it turned into garbage. Angry, the neighbor smashed the usu and burned it.
The next night, the old man dreamed Shiro again, who told him to take the ashes and to scatter them on a sakura. The old man did that, and the sakura bloomed, although it was winter.
A Daimyo living in a castle nearby, hearing about the sakura blooming in winter, called the old man and told him that his own sakura died and because of this he was very sad. The old man scattered some ashes on the dead tree and the tree started to blossom. The Daimyo thanked to the old man and rewarded him.
Well, hearing about this, the greedy neighbor tried to do the same, went to the Daimyo and threw some ashes over another sakura. But the ashes were blew by the wind over the Daimyo who, angered, threw him in jail.
I hope you liked these stories and, in conclusion, you can also enjoy a cute anime version of the Hanasaka Jiisan story.