Hanami: Sakura Cherry Blossom Season

Hanami: Sakura Cherry Blossom Season

In Japan, the arrival of spring heralds one of the most eagerly anticipated natural spectacles of the year: cherry blossoms are known as sakura.


Hanami translates to the phrase ‘flower watching’ and is the traditional Japanese custom of enjoying the fleeting beauty of the flowers, often as an outdoor party held beneath the blossoms during the day or night.

The custom of Hanami is deeply rooted in Japanese history and is said to have started as early as the Nara period (710-794).

This annual event, celebrated across the whole of Japan, typically occurs between late March and early May and captivates locals and visitors alike, drawing crowds to parks, gardens, and streets adorned with the delicate blossom of hundreds of cherry trees.


Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Cherry blossoms hold deep cultural and symbolic significance in Japanese society. They symbolize the fleeting beauty and transience of life, reminding us to appreciate the present moment and embrace the beauty around us.

They are said to be like clouds as they bloom all at once and hang above the trees as if to shroud them in mist. Then – just like clouds – they suddenly disappear. For centuries, cherry blossoms have inspired poets, artists, and philosophers, serving as a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of existence.

You will find the cherry blossom image is one of the the most popular designs in Japanese culture.

Varieties of Cherry Trees

Japan is home to hundreds of different cherry tree varieties, but the most famous and common is the Somei Yoshino cherry tree. Somei Yoshino trees have white petals tinged with a very pale pink and are known for their elegant and delicate appearance.

Mount Yoshino Cherry Blossom Festival

Located within the boundaries of one of Japan's sacred UNESCO World Heritage Sites, thought to have over 30,000 cherry trees, the Mount Yoshino Cherry Blossom Festival dazzles with its far-reaching views of pink cherry blossoms and tranquil mountain scenery.


Why is Cherry Blossom Season So Special in Japan

As winter fades away, anticipation builds across Japan for the imminent arrival of the cherry blossom. People eagerly await the first blooms, planning gatherings and picnics beneath the blossoming trees in a tradition known as "hanami," or cherry blossom viewing.

Hanami is a tradition in Japan dating back over a thousand years, that brings people together to celebrate the beauty of nature and enjoy the fleeting splendour of the cherry blossoms.

Hanami celebrations often involve food, drinks, music, and games, creating a festive atmosphere of joy and friendship.

The timing of cherry blossom season varies from year to year and is influenced by factors such as temperature, weather patterns, and geographic location.

The blossoms typically begin to appear in southern Japan, including Okinawa, in late March, and gradually move northward, reaching peak bloom in central and northern regions by mid to late April.

In some parts of Hokkaido, the northernmost island, cherry blossoms may not bloom until early May.

Cherry Blossom Festivals

Cherry blossom or Sakura season is also marked by a variety of festivals and events throughout Japan. These celebrations showcase traditional music, dance, and culinary delights against the backdrop of cherry trees in full bloom.

One notable event is the Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) held in various cities, featuring parades, food stalls, and illuminated night views of the blossoms.


Cherry Blossom or Sakura in Japanese Food

Cherry blossoms hold a significant place not only in Japanese culture and aesthetics but also in Japanese cuisine.

While cherry blossoms themselves are not typically consumed directly, their delicate flavour is often incorporated into dishes or sweets such as sakura mochi, wagashi (Japanese sweets) or traditional snacks, adding a touch of elegance and seasonal charm.

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