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Hanami

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/08 Traditional Culture , ,

Imagine yourself standing underneath a canopy of Cherry Blossom trees (Sakura) in full bloom, its delicate petals slowly dancing in the gentle spring breeze blowing. Its sounds like a scene from a movie right? But for the Japanese people these is no movie, it happens every spring. The annual Hanami – the Japanese tradition of enjoying the Cherry Blossom trees in full bloom.

Sakura

Due to the popularity of these flower bearing trees, it is no wonder that the practice of hanami has also been done in other countries around the world.

My First Hanami Experience

I first travelled to Japan in early spring of 2006, just the perfect time to enjoy these truly magical trees in full bloom. Everywhere you go, everywhere you look these trees were just a breath taking. Just by looking at them you would understand why Hanami is such a big event in Japan.

Sakura at night

Hanami at night is called yozakura (night sakura)

These trees first bloom in the southern islands of Okinawa and later on the northern island of Hokkaido. But in most places the best time for hanami is around the end of March and early April. But did you know that since hanami is much anticipated in Japan that they have a designated organization who take charge in forecasting when these trees are in perfect bloom? The blossom forecast or the sakura-zensen is used by most Japanese people to plan picnics and parties because the blossoms of these trees only last for a week or two.

Due to the popularity of these flower bearing trees, it is no wonder that the practice of hanami has also been done in other countries around the world.

Hanami, The Culture

Hanami has been practiced in Japan for centuries. In modern day Japan, hanami is mostly enjoyed by having outdoor parties or picnics beneath a cherry blossom tree. These parties or picnics are usually held in parks near castles, temples or shrines. In some famous places for hanami, they even require you to reserve a picnic spot due to the fact that parks during this time of the year tend to be very crowded.

Just like in any traditional celebrations, there are also special foods that are prepared during hanami such as dango and bento. Though beer is a famous drink of choice during parties, sake is also popular during hanami. There is even a proverb used to make fun of people who prefer drinking and eating instead of admiring the Cherry blossoms – hana yori dango which mean dumplings rather than flowers. Besides traditional foods, Japanese people also do barbeque (yakiniku) during hanami picnics.

Another attraction during hanami are festivals where a variety of traditional Japanese performing arts are being showcased.

I think many people would agree that more than just enjoying the beauty of these flowers in full bloom and celebrating centuries old tradition, hanami is a great way to spend time with family and friends. It is a time where all can relax and have a great time.

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