Amazing Places

Hanami Is Japan's Annual Obsession with Cherry Blossoms

The blooming of Japan's cherry blossoms is not only a delightful welcoming of springtime — it's a national obsession. The country has a deep-rooted relationship with the sakura (aka, cherry blossom), and the island's population goes all-out when they start to flourish. This annual flower freakout is known as hanami.

Stop and Smell the Sakura

Each spring, the sakura bloom to display pastel pink hues throughout the entire country of Japan. Viewing these flowers is the tradition of hanami, and it's a pretty huge deal. The word itself means to just view flowers (hana means "flower" and mi is "to look"). During hanami season, which last for a few weeks in March and April, people hold flower appreciation picnics under the cherry blossoms.

The annual event of literally enjoying beautiful flowers takes shape in many ways. Leading up to the festival, you can find convenience store items in shades of pink and special cherry blossom-flavored goodies (cherry blossom Pepsi, anyone?). The Japan Weather Association even has an annual sakura forecast that is broadcast live. Not surprisingly, this broadcast prompts international travelers to book their flights and flock to the island for sakura time.

It's Not Just About the Flowers

The beauty of the sakura bloom is undeniable, but the festival represents more than just pretty plants. As early as the eighth century, elite imperial courtiers of Japan made it a point to take it the beauty of the blooming sakura with picnics and poetry. The whole tradition is itself of symbol of Japanese cultural and philosophical beliefs. The short-lived nature of the cherry blossoms stands for the fleeting nature of life. The spring bloom also coincides with the start of spring, and the financial and academic year in Japan. Sakura means new beginnings, and that's a good enough excuse to enjoy beautiful sights, idyllic weather, and lavish picnics as any.

The Famous Japanese Cherry Blossoms

Written by Joanie Faletto April 4, 2017

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