Most often referring to cherry blossoms, the Hanami Festival is celebrating the traditional Japanese custom of enjoying flowers. Starting towards the end of March and lasting until the beginning of May, cherry blossoms – sakura, as well as plum trees – ume are in blossom all around the country. This is the ideal time to celebrate the Hanami festival, which coincides with the blooming forecast. In fact, the Hanami festival is intrinsically connected to the forecast, as each year the blossom forecast is announced, the Hanami is then planned accordingly.
History of Hanami Festival
The concept of Hanami has been embedded in Japanese tradition for centuries, dating back to the Nara Period (710-794). This time-honored traditional symbolizes the welcoming of spring and the appreciation and admiration of natural beauty.
In the past centuries, there was a deep understanding and belief that deities were enshrined in the sakura trees, similar to the god of the mountain and god of the rice fields. Traditionally, farmers would pray to cherry blossoms in order to increase their harvest. In time, the concept evolved and changed and the serene beauty of the sakura trees became the focal point. Many artists and poets celebrated the pink cherry blossoms in a variety of artworks. This admiration for nature and beauty became the more important part of the sakura blossom, and the same concept is honored today.
How to celebrate Hanami in Japan?
Oftentimes, outdoor parties will occur underneath the vibrantly pink cherry blossom trees, where people will gather together and enjoy food, drinks, and celebrations. Celebrations can take place during the day, or also in the evening after the sun sets. These evening parties are uniquely beautiful and are referred to as Yozakura, translating to “night sakura”. The evening celebrations often include paper lanterns which are hung among the trees, bringing a new perspective and beauty to the cherry blossoms.
Another traditional way to celebrate Hanami is by drinking sake and traditional tea. Seasonal foods, in particular, sweet foods are also enjoyed with these beverages. Oftentimes people will decorate using similar motifs that resemble spring, and the floral trees.
Some of the places to enjoy Hanami in Tokyo include Ueno Park and Yoyogi Park, Meguro River and Chidori-ga-fuchi (Kudanshita). In Osaka, Sakuranomiya is a popular choice. In Kyoto, Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji, and Gion are great places to enjoy Hanami.
If you are traveling during Hanami, one of the best ways to celebrate is to enjoy an outdoor picnic underneath the sakura blossoms. Enjoyment of food, drinks and great company underneath the trees is an authentic way to enjoy Hanami.
tips to keep in mind in order to maintain respect
If you plan to enjoy a picnic, always double check that the park or outdoor space allows food and drink. Not all sites permit food consumption, so it best to check in advance if you plan to eat outside
When picnicking, be mindful of others in the area surrounding your space and do not act inappropriately or take more space than is necessary. Do not litter or leave garbage or food scraps in the park, always be sure to clean up afterward.
It is not appropriate to be outwardly intoxicated or loud. Always drink responsibly.
Respect the trees, and do not damage the branches or the cherry blossoms. The leaves will fall on their own, it is important not to touch or alter them in any way.