Flowering feuds: China, Japan start cherry blossom war

As the cherry blossom season starts in East Asia, a perennial debate has been raked up, this time with an added claimant over the birthplace of the popular sakura (cherry) trees. A Chinese industrial group has asserted that it is the Middle Kingdom, not Japan (with which the flower is traditionally associated) or South Korea (which has often claimed that its Jeju Island is the place of origin).
Cherry blossoms have a unique place in the Japanese society, which has guarded its traditions (tea ceremony, flower arrangements, origami) closely in the face of onslaught of Westernization, especially since the US occupation post World War II. The period over which the trees blossom sees a spate of traditional activities and festivities (much like monsoons in India).
Given its revered place in Japan’s cultural system, and acerbic relationship with China on the cultural front, China’s attempt at appropriation of the cherry blossom is often taken as assault on national identity (imagine the backlash from India, if say Pakistan says that yoga has its roots on the other side of the border). Group identities are an integral part of our being in the world, and often intangibles (such as concepts of honor, apology, food), have a potent emotional resonance to rake up political storms. Call it flowering feuds if you like: cherry blossom wars are here to stay.

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