Hanami

One of the things that I admire most about Japanese society, is the appreciation of natural beauty that is wired into the culture here. Sure, lots of people in the world appreciate nature. Lots of people like flowers and make a point of going to see them. But, this is the first place I’ve lived where the blooming of a flower is a national event that warrants festivals, parties, and a whole array of limited edition food flavors in stores – not to mention motivating throngs of people to go out and admire the blossoms.

The blooming of the cherry blossom trees is a big effing deal here.

Around the end of March, you begin to see “cherry blossom reports” on the news and on the internet anticipating when the sakura (cherry blossom) trees will be in full bloom, and which days will be the optimal time to see them in which parts of Japan. Stores start to offer various sakura flavored foods as well, which is a unique experience for me, as there aren’t many occasions to eat flowers in the US. Here I’ve tried cherry blossom flavored wine, desserts, iced tea, and even fried rice! (Not sure I will have that again, but it wasn’t terrible). Once the flowers bloom, it is traditional for people to gather a group of friends and family for a picnic (read: drinking party) underneath the trees.

These are called hanami parties (literally flower viewing parties). And when people come out for an event here, let me tell you, they come out in force. Perhaps it is the relative crowded-ness of the city that makes events seem more popular than comparable events in the US, or perhaps Japanese people not only work really hard, but play really hard as well. Or maybe, there is something about the culture that just makes this a nation of do-ers. But when people do something in Tokyo it is not just a passing fancy – they go ALL OUT. So, when I went to a rather popular park in Tokyo to see what hanami is all about, it was MOBBED. There were more people than cherry blossoms, I believe. But, as with any event that draws a big crowd, part of the fun can be the people watching as well.

The hanami tradition goes back many, many hundreds of years. I have heard that the reason the cherry blossoms evoke such a strong response is their fleeting nature. They last perhaps a week, and as such they can be seen as a reminder of the fragile nature of life.

Here are some photos from my hanami experience in Tokyo:

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2 responses to “Hanami

  1. Are you done blogging? That’s no fun!

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