Make the most out of your #hanamiparty
The spring season heralds the blossoming of Japan’s sakura (cherry blossom) blooms, and the beginning of hanami, a tradition that often features a picnic party under a canopy of delicate flowers. This year, the latest data from Japan Meteorological Corporation (JMC) reports that the sakura arrives ahead of schedule, thanks to unusually warm weather leading up to the change in season.
The blooms largely begin on the southern islands of the country and advance northward, all the way to Hokkaido. The process comes in two parts: Kaika (flowering) and mankai (full bloom). Refer the the chart below: of Cebu Pacific Air’s four Japanese ports, Fukuoka will be the first to welcome the cherry blossom season (from March 19) — following closely were Nagoya and Tokyo (from March 22), then Osaka (from March 26). In case you won’t be able to make it to any of these cities and dates: you can still hanami-party it up in Hokkaido‘s Sapporo, where late bloomers (pun intended) are expected to arrive on May 4, and then come into full bloom on May 8.
With the delicate flowers lasting only a week or two, sakura blooms have been likened to snow, as well as the transient, ephemeral nature of life.
How to #hanamiparty responsibly
- Look, don’t touch. Treat the cherry blossoms with the respect: avoid touching, shaking, or climbing the trees, stepping on the roots, or picking the flowers.
- Early birds. The parks get crowded pretty quickly, so it’s best to reserve a spot by laying down your picnic mat ahead of time. No hogging please: reserve as much space as you need.
- Shoes off the mat. The picnic mat is like a house, and in Japan you don’t bring your shoes inside the house.
- Clean as you go. Bring garbage bags to make cleanup easier and take all your trash with you.
**Ask the expert:
Koji Takebayashi, who works to regenerate cherry trees in Fukuoka parks, shares all you need to know about this year’s blooms.
Tell us a bit about this 2019 sakura season.
Koji: The season begins in Kagoshima and moves gradually northward to Aomori — all in the span of a month. With this year’s warmer winter, the Somei-yoshino (Yoshino cherry species) trees across the country are expected to be part of the first blooms.
Anything that people don’t know about sakura or hanami?
Koji: In the Heian era, about 1,200 years ago, the word hanami was used to refer to the act of viewing the blossoming of ume (Japanese plum) flowers. But as the popularity of sakura grew — ume only have one flower per bud, but sakura flowers grow in clusters of three to seven per bud; sakura also bloom downward and make for better viewing underneath the trees — the association changed.
Any secret, less-crowded spots to recommend?
Koji: If you’re in Fukuoka, check out the Fukuoka Castle Sakura Festival in Maizuru Park. There are about a thousand cherry trees and almost every kind is represented. If you’re in Tokyo, go to Ueno Park to view the cherry blossoms; and if you’re staying in Osaka, head out to the Osaka Castle Park. In Nagoya, check out the blooms in the Nagoya Castle grounds.
**With reports and translation from Toshi Mori