Writer: Eveline Stella Budiman Photographer: Adianto Tanata
“In these spring days, when tranquil light encompasses the four directions, why do the blossoms scatter with such uneasy hearts?” - Ki no Tomonori
Spring is just around the corner, and do you know what that means? It's the cherry blossom season! Hanami is one of the centuries-old charms of Japanese culture. It is also considered as one of the most popular Japanese traditions that have been going on since the eighth century. Each person may have their own ways of enjoying this cherry blossom festival, and we are here to give you a small guide to have a wonderful Hanami experience, so keep on reading!
Sakura The cherry blossom – known as Sakura 桜 – is deemed as Japan’s unofficial national flower. The bloom of Sakura marks the end of the cold winter days and the star of a warmer and happier time in spring. During the days of spring, as the iconic flower blossoms, people from around the world would visit Japan in order to witness the beauty of Sakura. The cherry blossom festival, which is commonly known as Hanami 花見, holds an eminent significance in Japanese culture as it is one of the oldest festivals celebrated in Japan.
Hanami Hanami 花見 literally means “viewing flowers”. This practice dates back to the eighth century, and during early times, aristocrats took pleasure in the beauty the cherry blossoms and created wonder in a form of a poem. Nowadays, people in Japan spend their time with their family, friends, and acquaintances over foods, drinks, and leisure strolls beneath the delicate pink blossoms. Local parks are filled with people laying down their mats with foods and drinks in tow as a picnic is one of the essential things to do during Hanami. During the Hanami party, there are a variety of dishes (mainly Japanese cuisine) that are shared amongst family members, friends, and acquaintances.
Hanami Bento Hanami Bento is one of the foods that are brought to a Hanami party. Bento is a packed lunch box, mainly prepared at home or bought from supermarkets during the cherry blossom season. The difference between regular bento and the Hanami bento lies within the content of the bento itself. The Hanami bento includes foods like makizushi (sushi rolls), inarizushi (sushi rice stuffed in fried tofu pouches), tamagoyaki (Japanese-style omelette) and kamaboko (Japanese pureed white fish cakes).
Onigiri Onigiri, which is widely known as rice balls, is one of the most famous Japanese foods ever known and it is featured as a dish served during Hanami parties. They are easy to make, compact, and delicious, thus becoming one of the people’s favorites for Hanami picnics.
Sakura Mochi and Dango What’s a picnic without having some dessert? Sakura mochi has to be the best choice for a true Hanami picnic. It is a rice cake with red bean paste as its filling and wrapped with a salted cherry blossom leaf. With its pink colour and unique taste, it ultimately became people’s favourite. Dango is another type of wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) that can be seen everywhere during the cherry blossom season. It consists of three coloured dumplings (green, white, and pink) on a bamboo skewer.
Hanami Party Etiquette Although Hanami is the time of the year when you can have fun alongside your loved ones, it is essential to understand manners during a Hanami party beforehand. Before having a Hanami party, checking whether the local park you are going to allows people to have a picnic or not. Reserving space is also essential especially if you are going to parks in big cities, such as Tokyo. By placing your picnic sheet in a vacant space with someone staying on it is the only way for you to reserve a place. Make sure to not leave your garbage behind as respect for public areas in Japan is a must. Leave your shoes at the edge of the picnic blanket as it may be deemed as impolite to have your shoes on even if it is just a picnic blanket.
The bloom of Sakura symbolizes as a time of renewal and optimism. Hanami is a great time for you to not only spend the beautiful day with your loved ones but also enables us to reflect on life. Due to Sakura’s short lifespan, they represent our mortal life. We are reminded of our vulnerability and to make the most of our lives.
Through our article, we hope that you will be able to enjoy this year's cherry blossom season to its fullest. Have a wonderful Hanami experience and we will be waiting for your beautiful sakura-spotting pictures!