Sakura: Cherry Blossoms in Japanese Cultural History
Widely celebrated in Japanese literature, poetry, and art, sakura carry layered meanings. For example, because they bloom briefly, the blossoms are often seen as a metaphor for the ephemeral beauty of living. At the same time, the joyful tradition of hanami (flower viewing) is an old and ongoing tradition. The practice was first associated with plum blossoms before becoming almost exclusively linked with cherry blossoms by the Heian Period (794–1185). With wider exposure to Japanese art and culture in the nineteenth century, audiences in the U.S. and around the world embraced sakura as a particularly Japanese cultural hallmark.
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Japanese Sakura for Armchair Travelers
First made in the 1850s, stereographs were most popular between 1870 and 1920. Displayed here are facsimile copies of original stereograph photos from the Library’s collection, made to fit inside this replica of a historic viewer. Its design is similar to Alexander Beckers Tabletop 1860 model cabinet stereo viewer.
Stereographs consist of two nearly identical photographs or photomechanical prints, paired to produce the illusion of a single three-dimensional image, usually when viewed through a stereoscope. Most of the displayed examples were published by Underwood & Underwood between 1904 and 1908. They feature cherry blossoms in Japan and related activities, from a holiday school outing to a “cherry-bloom festival” game. Accentuating associations of sakura with Japanese places and people, the images offer glimpses of such famous sites as Tokyo’s Ueno Park and the Imperial Palace.