Hanami

Hanami
 
Hanami (花見) meaning flower viewing, is a traditional Japanese custom of appreciating flowers. Hanami usually refers to the viewing of the Cherry blossoms, commonly known by the Japanese name Sakura (桜). However the term is referred to all kinds of flowers.
Hanami involves having an outdoor party usually beneath or near a blossoming Sakura tree. People usually pack large amounts of food and drink for a hanami, sake is a very popular drink to be taken and consumed at a hanami along with bento, dumplings and yakitori to eat. Many hanami involve playing and listening to music on portable devices and being involved with lots of noise and celebration.

Large groups of people attend hanami and every year thousands of people gather in parks around Japan to celebrate the short annual event. There is great demand for good hanami spots in popular parks, particularly in the cities, such as Tokyo, and sometimes a person will sit on a large mat to reserve the groups spot all day while others are at work or preparing festivities.


Hanami is a centuries old tradition which is first documented in the classic Japanese novel ‘The Tale of Genji’ in the eleventh century. Emperor Saga from the Heian period used to hold hanami parties with sake and feasts at the Imperial Court in Tokyo, at the time it was only held for elite part of society, but the hanami tradition began to spread to Samurai society finally becoming a common place event during the edo period. Originally Sakura was used to predict the quality of rice harvesting and to indicate it was time to plant rice seeds for the new season, and the drinking of sake at a hanami is a tradition that has stayed through the centuries.
 
Sakura tree is the most popular flower for hanami, there are many sakura trees in Japan and line the streets and parks. Around May there are lots of falling sakura flowers on the streets and filling park lawns. There is a list of top 100 spots for sakura hanami, and there is at least one spot from every prefecture in Japan. So no matter where you are staying in Japan, you can enjoy the beauty of the blossoming Sakura tree.
Access the list here: http://www.japaneselifestyle.com.au/travel/japans_top_100_cherry_blossom_spots.htm

The sakura tree has small pale pink petals they are so small that from a distance the petals appear white, the trees fill with the small flowers and often referred to as looking like trees of clouds. The sakura tree is originally a fruit tree producing small cherries, though there are now smaller plants that are made to flower without fruit. ?The beauty of the flowers are likened to the transience of human life and the short period that they bloom.

Blooming of Sakura indicates the end of holidays and people go back to work or school, and graduating college. Sometimes a hanami is held as a type of farewell or goodbye event for those who may be going away to study at university or a new job. It is also the beginning of the new fiscal year in Japan, and the quality of the blossom is used to predict the success of the new year.

Sakura bloom throughout Japan from around late March to early May, though the times do vary around the country and can bloom as early as the first week of February in southern parts such as Okinawa.

Every year there is cherry blossom forecast by the Japanese wether bureau and also private organisations, and many Japanese people watch carefully for when the first blooms are due. Cherry blossoms only last for a week or two, and therefore if someone is planning to have a sakura hanami, they need to be prepared for when the flowers arrive.
Check here to know when sakura start blooming in Japan?[Weather Map of Sakura]
 

Another tradition around the same time is known as umemi (梅見) which means plum viewing, and is a viewing of the plum blossoms. Plum viewing is usually more popular for older people, where the sakura viewing parties are often very loud and crowded, plum viewing parties are more calm and quiet.
 
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