With spring just around the corner, the eyes of the world turn to Japan and its beautiful clouds of delicate pink that arrive each year. The Hanami Festival also known as the Cherry Blossom Festival is a vibrant celebration of spring that is something everyone should experience once in their life!
History of Hanami
Hanami means “flower viewing” in Japanese and it refers to the traditional custom of enjoying the particular beauty of flower blossoms, mostly cherry but sometimes plum too.
The origin of Hanami is centuries-old when nobility, poets and artists would gather together to welcome spring and the blossoming of trees. People believed that trees possessed spirits so they would make offerings in their honor with an intricate feast and plenty of sake.
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How Hanami is celebrated today
Hanami is now a popular practice with people gathering together and sharing picnics under the cherry (Sakura) trees. The celebration has become a fun way to spend time together sharing home cook meals, take out or sometimes even a BBQ. Trees are lit with lights and lanterns to make the viewing even more magical at night-time. People will stake out the best spots from early in the morning or even a day in advance, to make sure they do not miss out.
Be prepared as sake will be flowing. Make sure to brush up your Japanese and learn how to cheer: kanpai and maybe brush up your knowledge of Japanese drinking etiquette too.
If you are looking for some quieter parks and views, maybe consider visiting plum (ume) parks instead of cherry ones. These are not as popular but as equally beautiful.
(Photo by Atul Vinayak on Unsplash )
Where to start
Cherry trees usually start blossoming as early as January in Okinawa, peak in late March- April in the Honshu region and be in full bloom in May in Hokkaido. As the blossoms are fragile and fleeting, keep in mind that they don’t often last more than two weeks.
So, if you are planning a trip make sure to check which is the best time for each region. Most festivals are held between March and May but as the dates of the festivals vary based on the cherry blossom forecast (check the Japan Weather Association for this) it is always good to do some research.
More than just flowers
Although the main attraction is obviously the blossoms, there are also a variety of Japanese performances and traditional ceremonies to partake in.
Why not attend a traditional tea ceremony or buy some of the delicious food, souvenirs, or crafts traditional from the region?
Photo by Susann Schuster on Unsplash
Celebrate Hanami from home
As many of us cannot quite yet travel, we round up some easy activities for kids to celebrate Hanami from home.
- Read about Hanami. Books are always a great way to learn new things, why not read something together and get familiar with a different culture. Sakura Cherry Blossom by Rober Paul Weston, is a great book about self-exploration, living in a new country, and holding on to traditions.
Get your copy here US.
Get your copy here UK.
- Play Japanese games. Let’s learn a new game. Have you ever heard of chopsticks? This Japanese counting game is the perfect mixture of fun and maths skills.
Make your own cherry blossom. Origami is the art of folding paper. Test your skills and decorate your house with beautiful paper cherry blossoms, you can go traditional with pink or make them in any color you like.