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Those expressions mean respectively to pass and to fail an exam. I have the feeling that those expressions convey something that is not in the neutral verbs to pass and to fail. That is to say that 桜{さくら}咲{さ}く seems to mean "to pass with flying colors" and 桜{さくら}散{ち}る to fail but the person who fail is a bit disillusioned because of his/her failure.

Are those guesses right ? And could they be used in a general sense of "to success / to do well" and "to fail" at a task or are they reserved for exams.


I did some research and it seems to be that those expressions are used exclusively about exams (and especially university entrance exams) and nothing else. According to my research, the expression was coined by the Waseda university in 昭和31年(1956), if you passed their exams your telegram reads サクラサク and if you failed it reads サクラチル.

Some other universities borrowed a leaf out of Waseda's book and it seems that each university has its representative way to express "to pass" and "to fail" at their entrance exams (cf. this link)

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

While it is true that as euphemistic expressions, 「桜咲く」 and 「桜散る」 are often used regarding entrance exam results, it is certainly not their only use. The same phrases are sometimes used to talk about love in the spring time in terms of success and failure. The literal use of the phrases about cherry blossoms should never be forgotten, either.

Frankly, important personal or family events probably occur in the spring in Japan more often than in many other countries because of our April-to-March academic and fiscal year system. Spring is the time for parting, encountering, relocations, graduation, new school, new employment, etc. and the cherry blossoms are there to witness it all and at the same time, serving as a giant source of similes and metaphors for us.

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