Hanami Traditions – A Look At Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan

The Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan is one of the most popular celebrations that attract nature lovers to the land of the rising sun from all over the world. Annually thousands of tourists head to Japan during spring time to enjoy one of Mother Nature’s finest displays – beautiful blooming sakuras (cherry blossoms). An iconic symbol of the country, cherry blossoms play a significant role in Japanese culture, from traditional literature and art, to music and anime.

Sakura tree Hanami festival in Japan

What is Hanami?

Widely known as the Cherry Blossom Festival, it is actually called Hanami in Japan. Literally meaning “flower viewing”, the holiday welcomes spring and celebrates the temporal beauty of nature. Hanami is deeply rooted in the Japanese tradition. In the old days, farmers used blossoming cherry trees to predict the coming of spring and to decide when to start the planting season. Traditional stories suggest that even the way blossoms fall determines the rice crop’s success. In hopes for good harvest people would leave food offerings and wine under sakura trees. To this day all of Japan looks  forward to Hanami season. Local news outlets inform people where sakura start blooming, and when they can expect the blossoms to arrive in their local area.

How do People Celebrate the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan?

People celebrate the festival parks, gardens, shrines, or anywhere else where you can enjoy spring beauty. Outdoor picnics with family and friends is one of the most popular things to do during the celebration. And after you spread the picnic blankets out, it’s time for delicious Japanese food and drinks! There’s nothing people enjoy more than sharing sushi and local favorites like matcha tea, sake, or beer. Actually, if you have Japanese friends or know somebody who’s attending the Cherry Blossom Festival, sending them a gourmet gift basket to Japan that features some of the traditional treats and drinks is what thoughtful friends do. Even if they can’t make it to the celebration this year, you can still bring a taste of authentic traditions into their home by sending a Japanese inspired gift basket. It’s the thought that counts.

The festival offers much more than food to go with sitting under the lovely sakura trees during the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan.  Performances, traditional tea ceremonies, holiday-inspired parties and even karaoke singing are all very popular events. Another interesting tradition is night-time sakura viewing, known as Yozakura. Those who have seen it at least once swear that it’s one of the most amazing sights you shouldn’t miss. Illuminated out-of-this-world cherry blossoms look very ethereal and almost surreal under the moonlight. Doesn’t the set up sound fantastic for a romantic proposal your significant other will never forget? Just saying.

When Do the Japanese Celebrate the Cherry Blossom Festival?

Since it’s a true spring celebration, people celebrate the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan on different days each year. The festival falls anywhere from March through May, depending on the local weather and region. In fact, it’s quite difficult to predict the dates in advance. The first blossoms usually appear in the southern islands of Okinawa, which has a milder climate and reach major cities like Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto by the end of April.

Sakura Cherry Blossom Night Viewing in Tokyo

As beautiful as Hanami is, it’s also doesn’t last too long. In the matter of just a week fluffy pinky white clouds would fall from the trees covering the ground like a marshmallow blanket. Soon after, the pretty sight will be just a memory blown away on the warm spring wind. It’s a gorgeous reminder to appreciate nature’s fleeting beauty.

So, if you’re serious about visiting Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan, it might be a good idea to check the special calendars first which include predictions on when and where the Japan flowers blooming will take place. Keep in mind that depending on the location the celebrations vary, and even the trees themselves can look quite different (come in white, pink or yellow), so make sure to do your research first.

Sakura Symbolism in Japanese Culture

Usually when we think about Japan, beautiful traditional clothing and paintings with cherry blossoms come to mind. Indeed, sakura have a very special place in Japanese culture. The sakura is deeply rooted in Buddhist thought, and appears in art, literature, poems and songs. The fleeting beauty of the blooms that lasts for just one week a year represents the Buddhist believe that there’s nothing permanent in this world. Change and rebirth are the only constant things in life and ending always follows the beginning. Because of that, cherry blossoms in Japan became symbolic of the impermanence of beauty, as well as hope, purity, virtue, and new beginning.

Most Popular Hanami Viewing Spots in Japan

Looking for a Hanami viewing spot might be confusing for a number of reasons, so we decided to help. Here are some of the best places to enjoy cherry blossoms in Japan during the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan.

Hirosaki Castle

If you ask a Japanese person about the best place to enjoy Hanami, Hirosaki Castle would probably be on the top of their list. One of the most beautiful places to see cherry blossoms in Japan, the spot looks glorious both day and night. Delicious food and drinks during the festival only add more charm and attractiveness to the place.

Meguro River

Though definitely a very crowded viewing spot located in Tokyo, Meguro River is also considered among the most beautiful. The 2.5 mile long scenic route meanders along the river. It boasts tons of of local food stalls and restaurants. During the festival, the path is alight with entertainment available day and night. It’s extremely popular with locals and tourists alike despite the crowds.

 Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan

Ueno Park

Another sight located in the heart of Japan Tokyo, it’s been a favorite for decades. A  large park with over 800 cherry blossom trees, it also offers numerous attractions and special events held annually between March and April.

Takada Castle

If you’re into cherry blossoms night viewing like millions of other connoisseurs, Takada Castle is the place to go. The impressive view of 4,000 sakura trees all lit up surrounding the castle make an amazing sight you don’t want to miss. Get ready to take lots of pictures, it’s so worth it!

Izu Highland

Is especially famous for a scenic tunnel that’s almost 2 miles of charming pink sakura blooms. Planted on both sides of the road, the trees create an unforgettable experience for the visitors. A great option for romantic trips!

 

Attending Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan is a privilege and an absolutely awe-inspiring sight. Prepare yourself for a mix of beautiful nature, authentic culture and long standing traditions that will all add to one of the most amazing experiences in your life!

Want to Celebrate Hanami Festival?

– Your dear ones do too! Bring them closer to their dream with this Japanese inspired gift to Japan.
– Want to learn more about Japanese culture? Here’s our Visual Guide to Japanese Customs & Culture.
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