The art of appreciating cherry blossoms
they fall and scatter…
one of the renowned haiku poets
During the season of Hanami (花見), life seems to bubble under every cherry blossom tree. From businessmen on their lunch breaks, old couples on leisurely walks, teenagers chatting animatedly, to families looking after their playing children—everyone enjoys spending time around the beautiful cherry blossoms.
Appreciating nature’s wonders is one of the most important aspects of Japanese culture. There are a lot of festivals celebrating the beauty of nature in Japan; Tsukimi for moon-watching, and Momijigari for observing the reddish hues of the leaves during Autumn are just some to name. Hanami, the festival for cherry blossoms, is the most beloved one among all of them. Held in Spring, Hanami’s purpose is to appreciate the fleeting beauty of cherry blossoms. Having originated in the early 8th century with the influence of the Chinese Tang Dynasty, this botanical messenger of spring is all about timing. The blooming cycle usually lasts 1-2 weeks, however the sakura forecasts inform people, city-by-city, about when the buds will be in full bloom from months before.
During the sakura season, everything – be it bustling streets in metropolitan districts or dirt roads in mountain villages – is covered in hues of pink all over the country. Colourful paper lanterns are hung to illuminate the streets and parks for night-time observations of the cherry blossoms – also called Yozakura – that continue until morning. Families and friends gather to have night picnics wherever the blossoming trees are found. The Japanese like to make the most of this ephemeral season.
Hanami is not just a festival celebrating the joys of life. The beginning of spring means abundance. As the crops start to give harvest, people also celebrate the results of their hard work. In Japanese culture, cherry blossoms carry philosophic values; they are living metaphors. Every fallen petal represents the transience and brevity of life. Countless haikus have been written for just a single petal, portraying life and death; joy and sadness; failure and success.
This festival is deemed as a chance for humans to pay their respects and compliments to nature. In Tokyo, the most famous spot for observing Hanami is Ueno Park. If you’d like to experience a more traditional Hanami, then Kyoto would be a better choice. Maruyama Park’s huge trees are a unique sight, especially when they’re illuminated at night. This year’s sakura are forecasted to be in full bloom from April 1st to 10th in Tokyo, and from April 3rd to 12th in Kyoto.