Beginner guide to Hanami

What will you think of when hearing about Japan? Cherry blossoms are a must item for Japan. There are lots of photos and videos about cherry blossoms during Spring every year, but do you really know how the Japanese enjoy the season?

What is hanami?

Hanami, meaning “flower viewing”, is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers, especially for cherry blossoms. Having hanami at night is called yozakura (夜桜) “night sakura”. People usually use temporary paper lanterns that are hung for the purpose of yozakura.

You may ask why Japan is so famous for sakura and hanami, it is because of the aesthetics in Wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi is a world view centered on the acceptance of imperfection, impermanent and incomplete. As cherry blossoms only broom no more than two weeks, it shows an impermanent beauty and fits in the traditional Japanese aesthetics. Thus, citizens always grab the chance to have hanami and enjoy the time with family and friends once in a time every year.

What do people usually do for hanami?

In Japan, hanami usually includes a picnic party with family, friends or colleagues under a cherry tree to have fun. There are some must-bring items for hanami as listed below:

Picnic sheet

As the temperature difference is huge between the daytime and evening, it is better to put on a picnic sheet before sitting on the grass.

Portable floor cushion

The hanami picnic usually takes a few hours. To comfort yourself, bring a portable floor cushion.

Garbage bag

In Japan, it is uneasy to find rubbish bins on the street. Especially when each prefecture has their own rubbish recycling schedule for different cities, it is better to bring your own garbage bags to separate different types of garbage before throwing them away. Do not leave the garbage behind.

Disposable body warmer

It is still cold around the cherry blossoms season, usually around 18.5 degrees celsius on average. Especially the temperature difference between daytime and night is quite huge, it is better to bring a body warmer with you during the hanami picnic.

Washable cups, plates and chopsticks

To be eco-friendly, use washable cups, plates and chopsticks rather than disposable one for picnic.

Wet tissues and tissues

Just in case if you need something to clean up the place and tablewares before and after the picnic. Keep clean and stay away from viruses.

Wine opener

Imagine when everyone in the group is looking forward to tasting your wine, but you could not open it because of missing an opener. To avoid the embarrassment of being a mood killer, do remember to bring a wine opener.

Hanami food and beverage

Alcohol

Time to chill with some alcohol and cherry blossoms! We do not encourage excessive and underage drinking for sure.

 

 

Sakuramochi

A seasonal dumpling made by cherry blossom leaves. The shape of the sakuramochi differentiates in Kanto (the Eastern Japan) and Kansai (the Western Japan) style. Definitely need a try!

In the illustration, the left one is in Kansai style while the right one is in Kanto style.

Three colour dango dumplings

Have you wondered why Japanese always have three color dango dumplings in Spring but not the other types of dango dumplings? It is because the three color dango dumplings represent the time switch from Winter to Spring. The upper dango in pink means sunshine and cherry blossoms; the middle one in white represents rice, snow and air; the lowest one symbolizes grass and the earth.

Hanami bento

Japanese are respectful and joyful toward nature and seasons. The characteristic not only can be found in its traditional culture but also in the food and product designs. Different from the general bento (lunchbox), the hanami bento, literally flower viewing lunch box, is always made of seasonal ingredients with cherry blossom designs.

An example of a hanami bento from Yamanashi Prefecture. Retrieved from fuefuki-syunkan.net.

 

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