"If only we might fall Like cherry blossoms in the spring — So pure and radiant !"

Quoted by historian Ivan Morris in "The Nobility of Failure," 1975

World War II transfigured the cherry blossom. The 22-year-old kamikaze pilot who composed that haiku shortly before dying in combat in February 1945 couldn't have foreseen the macabre twist Hiroshima and Nagasaki would soon give to "radiance," but the new cherry blossom — the blossom transformed into a human ideal of beauty attainable by a beautiful death — was his to savor, and savor it he did, to the full, he and his fellow suicide bombers.