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Hanami (はなみ) Posted by on Apr 19, 2009 in Culture

Hanami (花見) means “flower viewing” in Japanese.  The springtime is the prime season for viewing flowers, especially sakura (さくら) flowers.  Sakura (さくら) is a cherry blossom.  They are pinkish and grow on trees.  Every year, people all over Japan set out some time in their busy schedules to have an outdoor party amongst the sakura (さくら) flowers.  It’s a time for co-workers, romantic couples and families to gather together and enjoy the outdoors and the company of others.  Usually people bring some kind of blanket or mat to sit on, some sake, and some food.  It’s kind of like an American picnic.

You’re probably wondering, why is the sakura (さくら) so fascinating to Japanese people?  Sakura (さくら) flowers wither away almost as soon as they bloom.  For centuries, the sakura (さくら) flower has been the metaphor for life.  To the Japanese, life is considered transient, ephermal, or short lived.  It’s kind of depressing, but at the same time it makes you realize how precious life is.  Sometimes, the sakura (さくら) is used as a metaphor for youth as well.  To the Japanese, youth is fleeting and that’s what makes it so bitter sweet.

Speaking of youth, sometimes you’ll see a group of college students gathering under the sakura (さくら) trees at night.  When the gathering is at night it’s called yozakura (よざくら), which literally means “night sakura”. Colored lanterns are hung everywhere, which makes the atmosphere just as beautiful as the daytime.  The most popular hanami (花見) spot is Ueno park (上野公園).  Of course, any place with sakura (さくら) flowers will do.  Most people just want to socialize, but they do it under the pretense of viewing flowers.  There’s no exact day per say for hanami (花見), but it’s usually held when the weather is nice; sometime around March, April, or May.

If you live on the east coast of the U.S., you might be interested to know that Philadelphia hosts a cherry blossom festival every year.  That’s the only place in the U.S. that I’m aware of that hosts a sakura (さくら) festival.  Wherever you are in the world, if there’s a sakura (さくら) festival near you, write a comment in the comments section.  Thanks everyone, I’m heading out now.

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Comments:

  1. Bruce Shillinglaw:

    Hajimemashite, Ginny!

    Douzo yoroshiku onegai shimas.

    I live in Connecticut, in the USA. Nearby, in Brooklyn, New York, the botanic gardens will hold a Sakura Matsuri on the first weekend in May – I hope that I can go!

    Thanks for providing the Japanese Blog – it’s helping me quite a bit with culture, kana and kanji!

    ~Bruce

  2. Tatiana:

    Arigatou Gozaimasu, Ginny!
    Thank you for using the Romanji too, it really helps!

    We have a small Sakura festival every year in Campos de Jordão, São Paulo, Brazil. I love it every time I go! They usually have people singing Japanese songs and lots of Japanese food and crafts.

    Thank you so much for this blog! I love sakura, but I wasn’t aware of the picnics or why they were so popular (besides the fact that they’re so beautiful).

    ~ Tatiana

  3. れいか:

    There’s a huge sakura festival in Washington DC complete with parades and other side festivals in that area with souvenir shops related to Japanese culture. It’s usually in mid-March or early April or as soon as the sakura blossoms are out. It occurs on weekends for only few weeks.

  4. Ginny:

    Wow! I didn’t know there were so many places! Thanks for the info guys!

  5. Kathy:

    The Botanical Gardens in Brooklyn, NY also holds Sakura Festivals in May for those of you who are interested ^___^

  6. Thresa:

    Every April Seattle, WA has a Cherry Blossom Festival.