30 March, 2011

Hanami: Unique Japanese Tradition

  In this issue, I want to introduce one of Japan’s main cultural events, hanami, or cherry blossom viewing.
           Every year, during late March through April, cherry blossom information is all over the news, and a popular topic among Japanese people is when and where they should go see the cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms have always appeared in poetry and literature, songs, and more. It’s definitely a big part of Japanese culture.

The literal translation of Hanami is “flower viewing,” but when people talk about hanami, it involves eating and drinking with friends and family under beautiful cherry blossoms. The tradition of cherry blossom viewing has been around since the old days, but nobles started having parties and festivals since around 1570. In 1600s, this tradition was popularized among ordinary citizens. Eating delicious food from the lunch boxes, drinking, singing, and dancing underneath the cherry blossom tree is the Japanese hanami.

A hanami in progress

Cherry blossoms can be found all across the world, but why is it that the Japanese value this flower more than other cultures? This is because of core-values held by the Japanese. Cherry tress withstand harsh weather for a whole year, but are in full bloom for a few days, only to get blown away by the wind creating a shower of cherry blossoms. There’s a Japanese phrase “Mono-no-aware” that is used when talking about Japanese values, and the meaning of this phrase is the feeling of empathy towards things. The Japanese appreciate this bittersweet sadness of the short-lived, fragile, delicate, yet extremely beautiful flower.

Also, April is the start of the new school or work year in Japan. So to the Japanese, spring means a new beginning, and cherry blossoms are associated with the excitement and anticipation for the new year. The cherry blossom represents many things in Japan, and is truly loved by the people.

Hyogo has many famous cherry blossom viewing spots. The popular spots get very busy during this time of the year. 

【Recommended Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots】

Shukugawa Park (Nishinomiya)  Best Viewing: Late March-Early April

Suma-ura Park (Kobe) Best Viewing: Early April – Mid-April

Akashi Park (Akashi)  Best Viewing: Late March – Early April

Tatsuno Park (Tatsuno)  Best Viewing: Early April – Mid-April

Otani River (Toyooka)  Best Viewing: Early April – Mid-April

  ust walking around, seeing the beautiful cherry blossoms and the people having a great time is a fun experience. If you get a chance to visit Hyogo in the spring, I highly recommend going on a hanami, and experiencing this amazing culture for yourself.

Hana (Hyogo Tourism Association)