Celebrating the hanami

Hanami meaning "Watching the flowers", it is easy to guess what is this famous Japanese celebration : the hanami. The traditional way to celebrate it is to go to parks in order to admire the cherry tree blossoms, called sakura in Japanese.  

sakura

The origins of the hanami

The tradition of doing hanami is a few centuries old. It is said to have started during the Nara period around 710-784. The strong chinese influence that was in place during that period is  most likely at the origin of this celebration. 

The best way to enjoy hanami is to visit a temple or a castle where cherry trees are blooming. Contemplating cherry trees from afar will give you the impression of facing soft pink clouds, and watching the flowers up close is also a beautiful and delicate sight

sakura2

hanami

The hanami celebration

The sakura's blooming is such an important event that, a little before the season, it is impossible to escape the floral meteo predicting the blooming in all Japan.

To celebrate hanami with your family and friends you can, early in the season visit Okinawa (mid january-february) and later in the season Hokkaido

During hanami, people organize picnics under the blooming cherry trees. For centuries,  these "hanami parties" have been and is still the opportunity to enjoy the nice weather while eating and singing. For young Japanese it is also an excuse to drink outside, on the opposite, older Japanese often prefer apricot tree hanami

Nowadays, it is often difficult to find a nice picnic spot in the most beautiful park as they are usually packed with people enjoying the flowers. Furthermore, it's recommendet to "book" a spot earlier in the day to make sure you will have room to organize your picnic.

How to "book" a spot? An easy way to do it is to arrive early in the morning, set out your table cloth with the name of your group and the hour you are planning to arrive on. Otherwise you will have to take turns to keep the desired spot until everyone arrives. 

sakura 3
hanami 2

Where to celebrate hanami?

In Tokyo, you can gather in the famous Ueno Park. The park will, without a doubt, be busy, but the view on the cherry tree is unique.

Usually, the sakura bloom at the end of March or at the beginning or April. Other good sighting spots in Tokyo are Yoyogi, or Shinjuku Gyoen. Chidori-ga-fuchi, next to the Imperial Palace, is also one of the most popular spots in this season. 

In Kyoto, the Maruyama park is unique by the size of its trees. Located next to the Gion district, the park is a beautiful sight, especially at night when the trees are lighten up.

Mount Daigo, in the southern part of Kyoto, is home to a temple complex called Daigo-ji. Its gardens are known for their cherry trees. Not too far away, walk through the 30 000 cherry trees of Mount Yoshino in Nara, place that's considered like the cherry tree sighting spot par excellence.

If you don't want to meet the crowd, you can go in most parks, castles or temple in Japan to find blooming cherry trees. 
 

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