What is Hanami? (A complete guide)

What is Hanami? (A complete guide)

févr. 07, 2023 Tags 

Hanami is a tradition in Japan focusing on enjoying the view of Japanese cherry blossom trees. The cherry blossom has always been an essential part of Japanese culture, it is the unofficial national flower of the country, and it is widely beloved by people inside and outside of Japan. Anybody with a slight interest in Japan is bound to come across cherry blossoms at some point. It is no surprise that there is a dedicated tradition for viewing these amazing trees.

Hanami literally means “flower viewing,” or the act of meditating on flowers and contemplating their beauty and significance. If there is one thing about the Japanese folk, it is that they love to enjoy the little things in life; such things as flowers blooming are a cause to celebrate and reflect.

During Hanami, people gather under the blooming trees to share food and drinks while enjoying each other’s companionship and the beauty of cherry blossoms. It also lends an incredibly romantic air for couples to enjoy during a leisurely stroll through the park, especially at night. The environment is usually clean; the trees are well-tended and treated with respect. In this article, you will learn all about the Hanami festivals. 

In this article, you'll find:

 

What’s the Difference Between Hanami and Sakura?

 

Sakura Trees at night

 

Hanami is a festival held to ponder upon the nature of cherry blossoms. Sakura, on the other hand, is the Japanese name for cherry blossoms. The celebration of Hanami involves viewing the Sakura tree or, more specifically, having an outdoor festival under the Sakura tree either during the day or at night. Viewing the cherry blossoms at night has a different name; it is called Yozakura, which literally means “night Sakura.”

They are not to be confused with each other; although the two are ultimately connected, one is a festival to celebrate the other. While Sakura is an incredibly breathtaking flower, it is not the only species of cherry blossoms that people view during Hanami. Trees like the Yoshino cherry, Shidare-zakura or weeping cherry, ume blossoms and Zandan trees can also be viewed. 

 

Why do Japanese People Celebrate Hanami?

 

Hanami

 

Hanami has been celebrated for a long time in Japan. As early as the 710 - 794 CE, people celebrated the spring through parties. At first, these parties were only celebrated by members of the imperial court but over time, even common people started celebrating Hanami. People would write poems about the trees and then indulge in a night of feasting and alcohol. 

People also associated divinity to the celebration. In ancient times, the blooming of Sakura was the time for farmers to pray and offer sacrifices believing that this would bring forth a full harvest. Over the course of many years, the ritual changed to become a festival, but the core remained the same, which was the celebration of cherry blossoms.

Hanami comes with a little bit of sadness because we know that no matter how much we long for the beauty of cherry blossoms, it won't last long, it will eventually end, and the bloom will be over. It’s like holding on to a loved one knowing they would soon be gone, not to be seen for a long time. 

Schools and offices hold welcome parties during Hanami, so it’s a chance to meet up with new people and unwind. For people who are almost working constantly, it is an opportunity to unwind and enjoy the finer things in life.

 

What to Bring to a Hanami Party
 

When attending a Hanami party, it is important to bring the following items:

A tarp or picnic sheet of a size appropriate for your group. This will serve as a comfortable place to sit and enjoy the cherry blossoms.

Reusable plates, cups, and utensils. Hanami is a picnic, and these will help you share your food and drinks with others.

Garbage bags. It is important to follow the rules of the park or area where you are having the party and properly dispose of your waste.

Paper towels and wipes. Accidents happen and it's best to be prepared to clean up any spills.

Kairo, or heat packs. As Hanami season begins in March, the temperatures may not be warm yet, so these can help keep you warm while enjoying the party.

Food and drinks. Many parks and streets have vendors selling food and drinks, but bringing your own can save money for those on a budget. Additionally, it is traditional to bring bento box and sakura mochi (pink and white glutinous rice cake wrapped in cherry blossom leaves) to share with others.

Bug spray and sunscreen. it is a good idea to bring these items to protect yourself from the sun and insects.

A jacket or sweater. The weather can be unpredictable and it's better to be prepared in case it gets cool.

 

 

ZenPop Snack Box

 

Helpful Tips for a Perfect Hanami Party
 

Are you ready to experience the ultimate cherry blossom viewing party? Hanami season is here and it's time to grab your picnic blanket, bento box, and sakura mochi, because it's time to party under the blossoms! But before you head to the famous parks like Ueno or Yoyogi, there are a few tips to keep in mind to make your hanami experience a blast.

For starters, if you want to secure a prime spot under the cherry blossoms, you may want to consider designating an early bird in your group to reserve a spot by arriving at the park early in the morning and placing a tarp. This is especially true for companies celebrating hanami, where a junior member is often sent out to reserve a nice spot.

When looking for a hanami spot, avoid staying close to the walkways, especially in famous parks like Yoyogi and Ueno (in Tokyo), or Osaka castle park here in Osaka, as the crowds can be overwhelming. Also, steer clear of staying close to trash cans, as the smell can become unbearable, especially on sunny days. Some sites may not have garbage bins, so make sure to take your garbage when you leave and dispose of it at home.

Before you head out, make sure to locate a nearby toilet and line up early, as the waiting time can sometimes be more than 30 minutes. And don't forget to bring warmer clothes, as the weather can still feel quite chilly, especially at the end of the day when night falls.

So, pack your bags and get ready for a hanami experience you'll never forget! Let's party under the cherry blossoms and make some unforgettable memories.

 

Japanese Hanami Etiquette: Get it Right

 

Japan has a reputation for clealiness, and Hanami celebrations are no exception. You can imagine that with hundreds of people going out for picnic, there's bound to be some garbage, but if you follow the right rules and show some manners, you can help keep the place clean:

  • Bring back your own rubbish or clean the place up before leaving
  • Be careful on using a gas stove for cooking as it is prohibited in some parks
  • Never pick sakura from the tree or break the branch (you'll find signs indicating that you shouldn't, and they read as follow: 桜は触らない、折らない、登らない)
  • Be careful on the volume on music or voice while some parks are close to residential area

 

Foods Eaten During Hanami Festivals

 

Hanami Lanterns

 

It’s not all melancholy; Hanami is also the season of delicious Sakura-themed foods and drinks. From tea made with Sakura to sweets flavored or decorated with Sakura petals. If you attend a Hanami festival, one thing that is sure is that you won’t run out of food to eat.  These are some of the most popular Hanami foods.

Top 5 Hanami Foods: 

 

Hanami Dango

 

Hanami Dango

 

These are round tri-colored dangos skewered on a stick and sold during Hanami. It is made with glutinous rice flour, the same ingredient as mochi and there is always a statement pink dango.

 

Sakura Mochi

 

Sakura Mochi

 

Most Hanami foods use cherry blossoms as part of the ingredients. Sakura mochi is basically sakura-flavored mochi sold during the festival. It has the hint of a floral taste but it is still super chewy.

 

Futomaki

 

Futomaki

 

This thick sushi roll is usually filled with vegetables or cooked fish and is commonly enjoyed with friends and family during Hanami.

 

Sakura Milk Pudding

 

Sakura Milk Pudding

 

Japan has one of the best tasting milk puddings in the world, it literally tastes like ice cream. During Hanami, people either add the cherry blossom flowers inside the pudding before it solidifies or make a jelly layer with cherry blossoms for that extra floral taste.

 

Cherry Blossom Cookies

 

Sakura Cookies

 

These tasty cookies are soft and buttery with cherry blossom leaves baked inside them. 

 

What Month is Hanami in Japan?

 

Cherry blossoms bloom for a very short amount of time. Some flowers stay in bloom for several weeks, but cherry flowers appear and are gone before you know it, but this is why it is important to enjoy them. The best time for viewing the cherry blossom is five or six days after the first blooms, as this is the time they reach the peak of their beauty. The full bloom period can be enjoyed for only a week.

It is difficult to predict the period of the first bloom accurately as it depends a lot on the weather conditions like rainfall, but it is around spring. Bloom also depends on the region you are in. Cherry blossoms bloom from south to north, so they bloom in the Southern region in March, but in the Northern region, this is closer to May. The northern region is the last place to enjoy cherry blossoms every year.

Visiting Japan just at the start of spring is the perfect time to catch the blooming of this iconic national flower. Be sure to make plans or join friends as they celebrate Hanami. It’s always more fun to bring somebody along for company. 

If you want to feel a connection to Japan, why don’t you take that first step by buying snacks from Japan! check out our ZenPop store for the best snack deals with different offerings each month. 

 

 

 

This article was originally written by our freelance writer Umm-Kulthum Abdulkareem, and edited by us.

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