It’s a year already since I last had my first ever spring experience here in Japan. It was definitely one of the most surreal moments I have up to this time. How would you not love it – with the fleeting beauty of the ever famous cherry blossoms (sakura) gracing the country’s parks and countryside areas one could say it’s like magic. And whether you are local or foreign tourist, you should never miss Hanami.
Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is a culture practiced annually by Japanese around late March to early April where they watch a fully bloomed cherry blossom while having a picnic party with drinks of course and food under its shade. I could say that this major spring event reminds me a lot of those animation scenes where characters walk under cherry blossom trees with its flowers gently falling by the breeze (quite a nostalgic view if you are a Japanese animation fan like me). Everything is in its pinkish shade adds a romantic feeling to whoever gaze upon it. Certainly a good addition on your bucket list just like me.
Meanwhile, I’ve been in Tokyo for a year but it’s my first time posting a blog about Hanami. For sure this might not be your first ever searched article about Hanami. However, Im kind of excited to share the things you need to know about enjoying this Japanese culture.
I know most of you guys don’t have much time staying here in Japan. It is really important that you are aware regarding when sakuras are in their perfect bloom. You would not want sakura scattered on the ground or in buds. Make sure to check updates about the best schedule to see sakuras. Also, it varies depending on its location. Last year I was lucky to have a Japanese friend who kindly brought me to Hikarigaoka Park where dozens of various cherry blossom trees were there. I noticed that some areas have fully bloomed sakura trees while some areas are not which isn’t a problem. Furthermore, weather conditions may also affect the sakura viewing so make sure to check weather forecast too.
Expect a large crowd
Big crowd is inevitable. If you happen to choose huge parks like Shinjuku Gyoen, Ueno Park and Yoyogi Park then for sure you will have to deal with massive number of people. It is certainly not a problem though because even smaller parks have quite a number of visitors. Hanami is a highly anticipated event not only by local Japanese but also tourists so you definitely have to be ready bumping in with others. Make sure to get a good spot for the viewing of course (which may take a lot of patience). The last time I had hanami, getting a space for our blue sheet was not easy. We walked for almost 20 minutes to get a spot. You have to be quick or else standing will be your last option.
If you want to try somewhere weird, Japanese cemetery offers an equal chance for sakura viewing. Less people and definitely you can get a much better view of the sakura but not drinking. I live just across a cemetery so definitely this one works. Be sure you don’t make noise.
Don’t forget the “blue sheets”
Since it’s still a picnic, you need to make sure you have a blanket to sit on. Most Japanese bring “blue sheets” which you can also purchase in any convenience shop. This is particularly necessary especially when you are in groups. I had a smaller size in last year’s hanami, limiting the whole comfort of sakura viewing. However, blue sheets are also used during “hanabi” or firework viewing in summer. So, you can keep it for the next season. Very convenient indeed.
Besides the sheet, picnic won’t be complete without food and drinks. Although there are food stalls around, it would be much better to prepare one at home to save extra cash. Some food sold in stalls are quite expensive than usual. Don’t forget the drinks. It would be preferable to have more than one option for it. Don’t worry their convenience shop has it all.