26 Mar Notes on Hanami
Last Modified on May 14th, 2021 at 08:36 pm
Category: Japanese Culture, Seasonal
Hanami is great
In Tokyo, cherry blossoms are usually in full bloom from the end of March to the beginning of April but this year (2021) they came a little early. As you all my know, among all seasonal Japanese traditions, Hanami is by far one of the most popular events.
Hanami = flower viewing!
In Japanese society, April 1st marks the beginning of a new year. It is the start of the new school year for students and the beginning of the hiring season for various companies and governmental agencies. During this period, there are many works parties to say farewell to those leaving their respective companies and to greet the new hires. In addition, as the timing lines up with the cherry blossoms blooming, there are many viewing parties and the overall atmosphere becomes quite lively.
The origins of Hanami can be traced back 1200~1400 years ago to the Nara period where it was a custom for the nobility to hold banquets where they drank and sang while enjoying the plum blossoms.
Later in the Heian period (roughly 1200 years ago), the capital of Japan moved from Nara to Kyoto, and the nobility’s preference for flowers switched from plum blossoms to cherry blossoms.
Every spring, the nobility was moved by the beauty of cherry blossoms as whole mountainsides became pink and faded away in a short two weeks.
Soon the love of cherry blossoms spread among the people. From about 400 years ago in Edo (now Tokyo), cherry blossom viewing culture experienced a great boom. During this time, certain foods and alcohol, and the various ways to enjoy cherry blossoms became traditions, many of which continue to this day.
It is of course a shame that the cherry blossoms will not be able to be properly enjoyed this year due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19. We hope all of you can get by with just a Hanami bento in hopes that next year will be different!
Addendum on National Flowers:
While cherry blossoms must be the most loved flower in Japan, the actual national of Japan is the chrysanthemum. The chrysanthemum is the imperial seal of Japan and is on the back page of Japanese passports.