As one might imagine due to their importance as a national symbol, cherry blossoms feature quite prominently in Japanese art. When Utagawa Hiroshige painted the Fuji Sanju-Rokkei in the 1850s, he was working with material that Katsushika Hokusai had already touched previously. His versions of the scenes perhaps made cherry blossoms that much more prominent in the art.
In Toto sumida tsutsumi and Toto asukayama, for instance, he elected to make views of sakura blossoms quite significant in the scenes. This sort of artistic license wasn’t new to painters of the 19th century, however. Artists working in innumerable media had already been creating various tributes to the venerable cherry blossom for centuries.
Lacquer ware offered artists a unique opportunity to make visibly attractive sakura patterns. Pillboxes, jewelry cases and other such ephemera were needed accessories in Japanese households. The aesthetics of everyday life are quite important to many people. Few individuals would have preferred to use plain cases if they could have avoided it.
Simple floral prints are quite attractive, and many of these designs look quite modern even to 21st century eyes. Lacquer preserves the designs, which meant that admires of cherry blossoms were quite ready to apply their brilliant patterns to these cartons. They weren’t afraid that they would later loose their luster.
As yakimono art forms became more advanced, many ceramic designers sought to add cherry blossom motifs to their work. At first these designs were quite concrete, and followed what people saw in lacquer ware they purchased. Tastes area always changing and the level of abstraction increased over time.
When the arts and crafts movement started, simple designs again prevailed. Tastes might be likened to the impermanent state of life in Buddhist philosophy. This philosophy has long been associated with the fleeting case of cherry blossoms, and it has surely influenced artists who want to incorporate the humble sakura tree into their motifs.
That might explain why cherry blossoms have been featured on so many other examples of regular ephemera. The artists who design embossed coins have often made prominent use of the cherry blossom design. Japanese postage stamps are also frequently printed with miniaturized oil paintings or watercolors that feature those same decorations.
As art becomes increasingly industrialized, natural themes are once more coming into vogue. While some people might not elect to have fusuma in their homes these days, they’re more affordable than ever. Since any print can today be applied, cherry blossom designs that were once reserved for the wealthy are now universally enjoyed.