7000 Wonders

7000 Wonders

ArticleKey #5: Trees

Edward Porper

Edward Porper

2 min read

Hanami, turning a routine natural phenomenon into a unique cultural one, is a telling example of vintage Japanese ingenuity. As a concept, Hanami is also somewhat misleading, because of its direct association with blossoming and colours. 

Human culture has been heavily colour-coded almost since the moment of its inception. In many countries, ancient rulers and nobility had been distinguished by colours they were allowed to wear (for instance, purple is known as “Emperors' colour”, while red was limited to high-ranked officials). Various flower languages would use colours to express feelings and moods, and soldiers would fight for their coloured banners - just like athletes have been doing throughout modern times. Modern psychology brought colours into prominence by using them in various tests (the most famous one being, arguably, the Lusher Colour Test) and assigning to them emotional characteristics, such as warmth and coldness. Traffic lights and similar social constructs added prohibitive connotations to red, and permissive ones to green… In other words, colours permeate and spice up one's daily life - and, as a result, humans as a species have developed deep affinity for colours (just like for music). That affinity might be conducive to reducing Hanami to its literal meaning - and to viewing trees as a mere background for the Festival of Colours. In fact, Japanese trees deserve much better than that, and this whole article could be worth several thousand words - as translated into a few pictures.

The most striking characteristics of trees in Japan are their variety and adaptability. When there are no colours to sport, they rely on their shape,




and ability to perfectly blend in with neighbouring buildings


They can team up to reshape the skyscape


or keep to themselves and branch out as a family unit


When scattered all over the place, Japanese trees might seem random but brought together, they start looking like an arboreal museum special exhibition. Under some circumstances, they can even rise to philosophical heights and embody Japanese ultimate concept of beauty…