Hanami, cherry blossom viewing, is a very important part in Japanese culture. I, as a Japanese, participate in Hanami at least once in a year, like most Japanese people do. I will introduce how local Japanese enjoy Hanami.
The history of Hanami
The history of Hanami, cherry blossom viewing dates back to Heian Period which is around 10-11th Century. At that time, Hanami was enjoyed only by noble classes. The time passed, and in Edo Period, Hanami became to be widely enjoyed by common people, too. Lots of cherry blossom trees were planted in multiple places, and some places are major cherry blossom viewing spots today.
A typical Japanese Hanami: picnic under cherry blossom trees
There are various ways to enjoy Hanami, but I guess the most common way to enjoy it is to do picnic under cherry blossom trees. People enjoy picnics with their families, friends, and co-workers. Many people participate in multiple picnic events with different groups on separate days.
We go to parks where cherry blossom flowers bloom and where people can bring picnic sheets to sit together. In popular parks, it becomes very hard to find a space, so it is a common duty for the first year worker to go to parks early (sometimes from morning) to reserve space for their group!
Some of the most popular places for picnics are Ueno Park, Shinjuku Gyoen National Park, and Yoyogi Park.
People bring food and drinks to enjoy in the group. We prepare typical bento box menu such as Onigiri, Inari-sushi, Karaage fried chicken, Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet), potato salad, etc.
Alcoholic beverages such as beer and Japanese sake are essential to Hanami. There is a term in Japanese “Hanami-Sake” which depicts the drinking occasion with cherry blossom viewing.
It depends on parks, but sometimes there are food strolls out. People can enjoy street food such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and yakisoba.
5 other ways to enjoy Hanami
Below are how locals enjoy Hanami other than picnics.
1. Walk and Hanami
There are many famous Hanami places where people can not do picnics. Such as Chidorigafuchi, Zojoji Temple, and Meguro River. At these places, it is more common to enjoy flowers as they walk. Food strolls are out at some places, and you can enjoy some street foods, but people basically do not sit down.
2. Enjoy night views of cherry blossoms
“Yozakura”, meaning “night sakura” is also a common thing to do for Japanese, especially those who have work during the day. After work, people go out to see cherry blossom flowers lighten up. Examples of those places are Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi, Rikugien Gardens, and Sumida Park.
3. Hanami Boat Cruise
People sometimes get on a boat to enjoy cherry blossom flowers from the river! There are traditional Yakatabune Hanami boat cruise and also Sumida River boat cruise.
4. Hanami at a restaurant
Enjoying Hanami at a restaurant with cherry blossom views is also popular. In Nakameguro, there are many restaurants along Meguro River with cherry blossom views. However, restaurants are very popular during the season, so it is recommended to make a reservation in advance.
5. Enjoy sakura flavored and packaged food
From the end of February, sakura flavored food and sakura printed special packages appear at supermarkets and convenience stores shelves. We enjoy those snacks and also typical sakura flavored food such as sakura mochi and sakura dango.
In Japanese, there is a term “Hana Yori Dango” which means “dango (food) more than flowers”. This term tells us that eating is very important part in Hanami experience.
Find your favorite way to enjoy Hanami!