It is officially spring. Hoping things are well and getting warmer for you wherever you are in the Northern Hemisphere. Or if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, hope things are not too cold yet! It is the height of hanami (花見) season in Japan.
What exactly is hanami? It is a special word in Japanese that means cherry blossom viewing. Looking and enjoying the cherry blossoms, or sakura, is such an important activity in Japanese culture it has its own word.
Let’s break down the kanji:
花: Flower 見: To see; look
“Flower see” is exactly what you do. It’s a beautiful tradition. Even my friends who do not enjoy outside activities will make an effort to go hanami and enjoy the scenery.
While not exactly hanami, there are other similar flowers to sakura
The most popular flowers are Sakura and have a very distinct shape. But other popular flowers to see around this time include ume and momo, and almond to name a few. Ume trees are the same ume as the ume plum in Ume boshi or ume shyu.
Momo are peach trees and also have a white or pink flower that is very lovely.
Similar but different.
How do people hanami?
Most commonly people will picnic under and around the trees. They pack or buy food, sometimes have drinks (it’s legal to drink outside in Japan) and sit with friends and family and have a good time. Sometimes people will go for walks, or just sit on a park bench and enjoy.
Similar to koyou 紅葉 season, in the fall, there are maps of Sakura blooming season.
Source: Weather News
An important detail of information is not only when the Sakura start to bloom, but when they hit mankai 満開 or full bloom.
A Draw for Tourists
In pre-pandemic years, tourism does go up around this time because of Sakura season. Is it worth to pay extra to come to Japan with more crowds? Depends on how much you value and can afford it. I suspect you would not regret it, plus if you were here on a trip the weekdays tend to be less busy. I have yet to hear of anyone who does not like Sakura.
For now, please enjoy some photos of Sakura, momo, and ume flowers.
I suspect this could be a momo tree
Hanami in a park
Also not sakura
Hope you enjoyed!