Spring in Tokyo

Sakura Viewing and Hanami Parties

Spring has officially begun, which means sakura (cherry blossoms) will be in full bloom. Sakura is an iconic symbol of Japanese culture and history.  Thousands of people, locals and visitors from all around the world, flock to see the beauty of the flowers in full bloom which last for only a few days.

Chidorigafuchi park with Tokyo Tower

Chidorigafuchi park with the Tokyo Tower in view.

Sakura flowers have a deep connection with the history and culture of Japan. They are full of symbolism, such as the Japanese aesthetics of wabi-sabi (a view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection) and their state of impermanence (blooms only last up to a week or two) which resonates with the samurai culture. The beautiful cherry blossoms also play a role in numerous Japanese artworks  in the ancient and the modern eras.  Sakura were initially used as offerings for the year’s harvest and marked the beginning of the rice-planting season.

KCP students by a sakura treeCatching the sakura viewing season for the year needs some planning. It would be best to check on the location and previous year’s date of when the flowers were in full bloom.

KCP students by a sakura tree. | KCP Flickr

The start of sakura season varies in each area and is decided by a single tree signaling the start of the bloom in that area. The type of sakura tree used to tell the forecast is called somei yoshino, or the five-petaled flower.

Himeji Castle in spring

Himeji Castle in spring.

Hanami, or flower viewing, is the Japanese custom of enjoying the transient beauty of the sakura flowers (hana). The cherry blossom forecast (sakura-zensen) is announced by the Japan weather bureau and usually begins in early March to early May with schedules that vary depending on the area. At Hanami parties, people gather where the flowers are in bloom and hold feasts under the flowering trees. These parties sometimes last until late in the evening and are a wonderful way to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.

Always plan ahead and check on the sakura forecast for the year. The sakura viewing and hanami parties are ancient Japanese traditions that give you wonderful insights on Japan’s unique culture and way of life.