Experience: Hanami

Well, I hadn’t planned on posting this entry until at least next week, but some very strange weather patterns this year have resulted in a very early cherry blossom season. It appears that spring is officially here!

Perhaps the most popular thing to do during cherry blossom season is to attend a hanami party. Hanami comes from the Japanese words hana (flower) and miru (to look) and has long been a part of Japanese culture. Poets and courtiers in feudal Japan once spent cherry blossom season picnicking under pink petals and waxing philosophical on the transitory nature of the blooms. You’ll find endless haiku on the subject of these delicate flowers. I even wrote one myself a few years ago, as part of an article for a Japan-based magazine:

Blossom mania
Cameras flash, no room to move
Peace? Zen? Unlikely

Slightly lighter than normal, but still beautiful cherry blossoms
Slightly lighter than normal, but still beautiful cherry blossoms

If you couldn’t tell from my lovely poem, today’s hanami parties have become a bit less existential, with free flowing alcohol and portable karaoke machines replacing other more contemplative pursuits. Park paths brim with thousands of flower fanatics, all jostling to capture the perfect shot. Stands selling grilled yakitori and weekend performances add to the overall street-fair atmosphere. Still, you can’t say you’ve done Japan in the springtime until you’ve mingled with the masses and tilted back a glass of sake under what are arguably the most photographed flowers in the world.

A hanami party
A hanami party

Nationally popular viewing spots in Japan include Tokyo’s Ueno Park; the tree-lined Philospher’s Walk in Kyoto; Hirosaki Castle in Aoyama Prefecture, and the grounds of picture-perfect Himeji Castle. My current favorite? The main street right outside my apartment building here in Kumamoto. A veritable snowstorm of blooms appeared seemingly overnight and runs for a few kilometers. It’s not exactly the best place to picnic but what a beautiful sight!

A cloudy day, but here are our cherry trees in Kumamoto
A cloudy day, but here are our cherry trees in Kumamoto

12 thoughts on “Experience: Hanami

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  1. Oh that’s such a beautiful street outside of your place!! I love the roads lined with endless cherry blossoms, but they’re usually too crowded to enjoy during this season!! I hope you have fun hanami plans this year!

    1. Tokyohamster, we have hanami plans with friends for the 31st of the month, but with the early blooming this year, we might be picnicking under bare branches! It’s been such an odd season.

      1. Those were our thoughts too! I didn’t plan to celebrate this early! My plans are flexible, but I feel so bad for the people who timed their trips to Japan to see cherry blossoms. They might be looking at bare branches too!

  2. Reblogged this on lazysecretivewonderer and commented:
    Note to self: add to bucket list: find a less crowded but perfect 花見 spot in Japan, where the sakura are blooming peacefully, and smile at the nearest group of people, who are at least 5 meters away

  3. It is such a great time of the year to be in Japan and is very beautiful. Some of my favourite spots for hanami in Japan are Osaka Castle and Matsumoto Castle in Nagano.

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