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Hanami in Japan


Spring is here and the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Or, at least so I am told. I moved from Tokyo to the warmer climate here in Miyakojima (a small island south west of Okinawa) and our few cherry blossoms or sakura bloomed in January. On the mainland however, the trees are in bloom and people, with cameras in hand are venturing out for one of the largest events in Japan, Hanami.

Hanami (花見) simply means “flower viewing” in English. 花, pronounced “hana” means “flower” and 見, pronounced “mi” is the character for “see” or “view”. So basically hanami is the activity of viewing flowers. It is important to mention that hanami is usually only used when talking about cherry blossoms or sakura (桜). For instance you wouldn’t use the word hanami to view roses.

Hanami is an event that has been practiced for many many years and holds a great deal of meaning for the Japanese culture. The sakura (cherry blossom), which blooms suddenly and beautifully only blooms for a period of a couple of days and then falls to the ground. Especially in the days of the samurai, sakura was was a symbol for how beautiful and short life really is.

In modern day Japan, hanami has lost none of it’s popularity, and people still gather in large numbers for this amazing event. Probably the most common way to celebrate hanami is for groups of friends to gather for picnics and drinking under the cherry blossoms. The meaning itself however, seems to have changed from a reflection of life to more of an event for social gathering and drinking.

For those who are planning to visit Japan, sakura generally bloom from late March to mid April depending on the weather. It only last for a few days and comes with the first warm days for spring, so it can be somewhat hard to time. It is one of the most beautiful times of the year in Japan and definitely worth the trying for!

Japanese words

  • cherry blossom- 桜 さくら
  • flower viewing- 花見 はなみ
  • to bloom- 咲く さく