One of the most popular Spring events in Japan is the Hanami festival. Hanami carries the literal meaning of ‘flower viewing’ and it is a yearly custom traditionally shared by families, friends or classmates and workmates to share in the enjoyment of viewing the spring Sakura or cherry blossoms.
The blossoms usually last for about one or two weeks and the event is closely monitored and announced by the national weather forecasters. This short time frame is also reason for the importance of this celebration as the short time the sakura can be enjoyed also embodies the idea of a beautiful yet fleeting moment reminiscent of life’s frailty.
Crowds of people gather at the closest cherry blossom location and lay mats down underneath the trees themselves while enjoying snacks and drinks much like they would on a regular picnic outing in order to take time to celebrate the coming of a new season representing change and new beginnings.
Best Places to Enjoy Hanami or Sakura Blossom Viewing
Japan Visitor outlines many popular places to enjoy the sakura blossoms depending on which part of Japan tourists are currently enjoying.
Ueno Park is a popular location in Tokyo which boasts more than a thousand sakura trees. Ueno park is also a location that hangs temporary lanterns made out of paper for those wishing to take part in yozakura, literally ‘night sakura’ which is the practice of holding the cherry blossom viewing at night.
Though the views at Ueno park are beautiful, tourists should be warned that it is also a spectacularly popular spot for local viewers and competition for prime picnic spots are high. Companies are even known to send junior members to reserve spots for their companies from the early morning.
Sumida Park is also an option for those visiting Tokyo as the location has hundreds of sakura trees for viewing alongside the Sumida River.
Kyoto visitors can enjoy the sakura at Maruyama park or the Yasaka Shrine located nearby. The Ninnaji temple is also an ideal location to view late blossoming sakura. Those in Osaka can visit the banks alongside the Yodo River and enjoy over one hundred varieties of cherry trees which can be viewed by the general public for one week during springtime.
Hanami Cherry Blossom Festival in Popular Culture
The hanami festival is an event often portrayed in anime and manga. The months before the sakura blossoms arrive are filled with stress for many workers and students alike who need to focus on examinations and school graduations as well as finishing reports and filing accounts.
As spring is the indicator of winter’s end and the beginning of a new school year, the appearance of hanami is a happy time for the local populations to begin anew ready to refresh themselves and prepare to tackle the upcoming year.
In anime, the school entrance ceremonies scenes where students are filled with nervous excitement are often framed by rows of fully blossomed sakura trees coupled with a fresh spring breeze which provides the students with hope and anticipation for what lies ahead.