Cherry blossoms are a symbol of springtime throughout Japan. From late March through May, the hearts of the people of Japan are filled with joy at the coming of spring as the pink cherry blossoms begin to bloom. If you visit during this period, you will see countless people in many different locations in Japan enjoying picnics under the blossoming cherry trees, in a practice called “Hanami.” Hanami is the practice of eating and drinking to welcome the arrival of spring and enjoy the warm spring weather anywhere the gently falling cherry blossoms can be found, such as parks or by the river side. Why not experience this traditional Japanese Hanami yourself surrounded in the indescribably beautiful spring scenery?
The culture of Hanami is specific to Japan with its four seasons, and has a history of over 1,000 years. The aristocracy of the middle ages gave rise to a culture of creating Japanese waka poems based on the theme of cherry blossoms, and this practice was gradually adopted by the general public over the passing of time, resulting in the practice today of picnicking under the cherry trees.
Cherry blossoms bloom but for a brief moment out of the year, and the purpose of Hanami is thus to enjoy this short time as much as possible to welcome the arrival of spring. Further, the cherry blossoms bloom at a time when the air grows warmer and there is little rain, making it pleasant to spend time outdoors.
There are even food stalls at popular Hanami locations where celebrants can purchase sweets, drinks, and snacks. This adds to the appeal of the activity, allowing you to take in the blossoms after purchasing your favorite food and drink.
The word Hanami-zake, a portmanteau of Hanami and Japanese sake, demonstrates the inseparable relationship between Hanami and the favored Japanese rice wine. Sipping sake while enjoying the gentle spring sunlight and the ephemeral beauty of the rows of cherry trees puts one in an otherworldly state of mind. Even if you prefer not to try the sake, you can still enjoy that sense as you eat a delicious boxed lunch under the cherry blossoms as they dance in the wind.
Incidentally, daytime picnics are not the only way to enjoy Hanami. After sunset, the cherry trees are typically lit up, creating a more fantastical atmosphere different again from the daytime mood.
Hanami Tips & Manners
Temperatures still fall sharply at night even though spring has arrived, so don't forget to prepare for the cold. While some Hanami locations feature chairs and tables, we recommend that you bring everything you need for a picnic instead. It is also important to adhere to certain manners in order to properly enjoy Hanami. Specifically, cherry trees have a very short lifespan. Though the flowers are beautiful, snapping off branches to take home with you is strictly forbidden. Also, show your gratitude to the cherry trees and their beautiful blossoms by taking your trash home with you or disposing of it in designated locations.