The Perfect Guide to Hanami | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

The Perfect Guide to Hanami

By Guidable Writers Mar 26, 2017

The season for Hanami is coming!

“Hanami” means “cherry blossoms viewing” in Japanese. It is Japanese traditional and unique way to enjoy cherry blossoms, eating food and drinking – just chilling out or having fun with your friends, coworkers, or family under beautifully blooming cherry trees. How nice!

In order to enjoy Hanami experience to the fullest, keep in mind that there are some rules or manners and must items for it. Read this article and perfectly prepare for Hanami!

What is Hanami?

Hanami is the very ancient habit of enjoying cherry blossoms in Japan. People used to view plum blossoms in the beginning, but they gradually prefer cherry blossoms. Nowadays some people enjoy plum-blossoms but the season of them is too cold to have a party outside – they usually bloom from February to March – therefore most people would like cherry blossoms viewing. Cherry blossoms usually bloom from the end of March to April which is not too cold or too hot, though it depends on years and locations.

When to do Hanami?

As I mentioned, from the end of March to April is the best season for Hanami. Japan is composed of five main islands and other small ones, and they stretch from southwest to northeast as like bow-shape. Therefore the time for blooming usually starts from the southwest area and gradually spreads to the northeast. The very front of the cherry blossoms blooming is called “Sakura-Zensen” in Japanese. Sakura means cherry blossom and Zensen means front. TV or newspapers have a forecast of Sakura-Zensen, so check it out and get the best timing for Hanami!

How to Reserve A Place

It can be held wherever cherry tree exists, but normally Japanese have Hanami in the park or along the river. If you’re in Kanto area, Ueno Park, Yoyogi Park, and Shinjuku-Gyoen are popular and my personal favorite places. Such popular places tend to be so crowded because the season of cherry blooming is limited – usually only around two weeks. Therefore you need to reserve the place as early as possible. Usually, you cannot reserve a place in the park in advance by phone call or online. If you will have Hanami with a big group, it is recommended to go to the park early in the morning and spread a picnic sheet on the area you need, and one or some people need to wait for others coming. If you have Hanami with your coworker or boss or someone at your workplace, reserving the place is a role of the youngest generation. Research the place beforehand and get the best position!!

What are Must-Bring Items?

  • Picnic sheet – Corrugated cardboard would be helpful as well. You can put it under the picnic sheet and avoid your hips get cold or hurt!
  • Paper plates and cups – Recommended bringing extra ones!
  • Pens – Write down names on each cup and avoid mix them up!
  • Toilet paper – Hanami places get crowded and paper in the public toilet would be used up. It also can be helpful when someone spills drink out!
  • Garbage bag – After enjoying Hanami, collect garbages and clean the place same as before the party! It’s Japanese manner.
  • Food and Drink – Most important! I’ll mention more in the next paragraph.

How to Prepare Food and Drink

Commonly Japanese people cook by themselves or buy something and share with everyone. Some people cook Japanese dishes like onigiri, kara age or nimono. Some people bring dessert like mango, sakura-mochi or snacks. You can buy something to bring, but I really recommend you to cook food of your own country by yourself especially when there are Japanese or people from other countries. You can talk about the food with your Japanese and international friends like how to cook them, your and their favorite food or something. Japanese tend to like to know cultures in foreign countries. Cook by yourself and get an attention at the party!

Now you know HOW TOs for Hanami. In order to succeed in it, the research and preparation beforehand are very important. But nothing can be more important than a mind to enjoy Hanami!

Kie, Japan