When Genji journeys to the mountain to see a renowned sage, he's thrilled to get to see the mountain cherry blossoms—they bloom later than those in the city and, according to all who see them, are far more beautiful. While Genji is on the mountain, the bishop speaks of the blossoms, which according to legend bloom once every three thousand years, as a symbol for Genji himself: like those mythical cherry blossoms, someone as perfect and as regal as Genji doesn't happen all that often. From then on, the novel often conflates Genji himself with the cherry blossoms or utilizes the blossoms at times of rebirth and renewal for Genji, just as the blooming cherry blossoms signal the arrival of spring and a new year.
The The Tale of Genji quotes below all refer to the symbol of Cherry Blossoms. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Tale of Genji published in 1976.).
The timeline below shows where the symbol Cherry Blossoms appears in The Tale of Genji. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...the Left's house, including Tō no Chūjō, arrives. They decide to stay and enjoy the cherry blossoms. They drink wine, play music, and sing. The bishop even talks Genji into playing... (full context)
An Autumn Excursion
The Festival of the Cherry Blossoms