Hanami 花見 is one of the biggest events in Japan. It is the introduction of spring. The winter is gone and warmer and happier times are here.
Each spring in Japan, the most iconic flower blossoms. The cherry blossoms or Sakura in Japanese, open up (normally between the last weeks of March and first weeks of April) and everyone in Japan breaths a collective sigh of relief that the frosty months of winter are in the past.
The cherry blossoms only remain on the trees for a few days. There are a wide variety of cherry tree species in Japan that bloom at different times so the entire yearly event takes place over a couple of fleeting weeks. The time window to enjoy them is a short one.
How do people enjoy the cherry blossoms and more importantly welcome warmer days?
Translated into English, Hanami basically means “flower viewing.”
People looking at the flowers…
Luckily there is a bit more to it than that.
During Hanami season in Japan, people gather with friends, family, coworkers, students and club-mates under the cherry blossoms to enjoy good food, drinks and the company of others.
It’s a chance to go outside in the warmer weather and enjoy outdoor picnics and barbeques under the blossoms.
People head out to local parks that have some or many cherry trees and set up picnic mats (often blue tarps) to sit on (NOTE…always remove your shoes when sitting on a picnic mat in Japan…sock feet only!). People bring prepared bento boxes (some very elaborate) or buy food from supermarkets and convenience stores. Others bring grills and do full-on cookouts! Sometimes they are quiet family affairs and sometimes loud and messy booze-ups with coworkers and friends.
Hanami season might be a busy social time of year for some in Japan. Over the course of two or three weekends during Hanami time, they may have several parties to attend. It might be one with your spouse and children on a Saturday as well as another with some coworkers on Sunday.
The next Saturday might involve a big drink-up with members from a club you are affiliated with (running, judo, photography, hiking, etc.) and then on Sunday with your family again and other extended family members.
Hanami is a fun time of year. It’s a time people in Japan long for throughout the winter, enjoy while it’s happening and miss once its over.
Hanami in Japan!
Find some pretty cherry blossoms, great company, food and drinks and enjoy!
Kevin O’Shea is the host of the Just Japan Podcast and the Just Japan News Podcast. He is also the guy behind JustJapanStuff. Kevin is a Canadian educator who lives in Kobe, Japan with his family.
Follow him on Twitter: @jlandkev