Hanami etiquette guide 外国人旅行者の花見のマナー
The rules to cherry blossom viewing
Hanami is very popular with Japanese and tourists alike, but did you know that there's etiquette to follow during these festivities?
Here are our tips on how to enjoy hanami under the cherry blossoms in a respectful way.
Not all hanami venues necessarily allow picnics! Remember to check if picnics are allowed before you settle. Some parks prohibit barbecues or alcohol. Finally, in some places there are curfews, so it's best to check beforehand. For more information, check the website of the park you want to visit.
To find a great spot for hanami you have to be organised and plan ahead, because it's first come first served! The Japanese don't hesitate to secure their spot and mark it with a blue tarp, the evening before or in the early morning. Someone also has to keep an eye on it until the time of the festivities. In the case of a office hanami, younger employees would be assigned this task. Don't try to take more space than necessary, it's frowned upon.
Several elements are essential for hanami, and food and drinks are part of the festivties. Leave the area clean when you leave: few parks have trash cans, so remember to take some trash bags with you and sort out the rubbish for recycling.
Respect for cherry trees
The word hanami means "admire the cherry blossoms", so remember that it's forbidden to touch the cherry trees, shake or break branches, walk on the roots, pick the flowers or burn the trunks. The cherry trees are fragile: damage prevents regrowth of their flowers and could lead to exposure to disease or even death.
Enjoying the cherry blossoms with friends over a drink is not prohibited, but remember that around you, others are trying to enjoy their hanami as well, quietly admiring the beauty of sakura. Karaoke and musical instruments are banned. Be careful not to consume too much alcohol!
Some parks offer portable toilets during hanami season, but in a crowded park queues are common and the wait is often very long. To counter this, you can try going to the closest konbini: buy a little something from the store and politely ask to use their toilet.
The weather is usually still cool in April: remember to take blankets, heaters and warm coats to enjoy your hanami. Picnic tarps can be purchased everywhere, but a straw mat, similar to ones used at the beach, can provide better insulation, as the ground is sometimes damp. Sets of disposable plates, glasses and chopsticks are useful if you plan to share your bento. You can purchase supplies like this at the nearest 100 yen shop.
Finally, don't forget to remove your shoes for hanami! Put them in a bag or to the side of the picnic tarp, to avoid confusion.