We’re now at the peak of hanami, flower-viewing season here in Tokyo. But this year apparently some people are trying to spread the idea of “air-hanami“, which essentially is flower viewing without actually going outside and seeing real flowers.
Yup, hanami without flowers, now that’s a novel, if not a somewhat bizarre-sounding concept, because… well, if there aren’t any flowers, then is it even really “flower viewing?”
The idea is that you can enjoy pictures or videos of beautifully blooming sakura trees (or even artificial sakura branches) in the comfort of your home or a restaurant to have a sort of virtual or “air-hanami” experience.
Now, seeing the gorgeous cherry flowers is always a pleasure each year, but considering that hanami is also a huge excuse for people across Japan to party, buy lots of alcohol, and get drunk, it’s not surprising that beer companies like Kirin would be enthusiastic about promoting air-hanami. In fact, Kirin has actually put up a special website dedicated to air-hanami, describing the concept and suggesting drinks and various items for people who want to enjoy air-hanami.
The site also provides some majestic photos of scenes including sakura trees in bloom for your air-hanami viewing pleasure.
Kirin even has a dedicated air-hanami page on Amazon Japan where you can get your hanami drinks and goods at the click of a button.
So what’s the deal with flower-viewing without the flowers? Well, there are actually some very real advantages to an indoor virtual hanami. Even though the sakura flowers may be in bloom, it’s still quite chilly outdoors this time of year, especially during the night, so unless you’re lucky enough to have exceptionally warm weather, spending several hours outside for a hanami session after work could get cold and uncomfortable.
Plus, it’s also hay fever ("kafunsho") season from Japanese "sugi" pine pollen, which many Japanese people suffer from, so it’s not an ideal time for many folks to be spending time outside. And of course there’s also the practical matter of having easy and quick access to cold beer, warm food, and clean toilets.
And it’s not only the beer companies, but the Japanese media seems to be trying to promote this new concept of air-hanami. One of the major national TV stations in Japan recently aired a segment on air-hanami as a growing phenomenon. There are also plenty of photos and videos of blooming sakura flowers being shared on Twitter and other social media as material that can be used for air-hanami.
In reality however, a huge majority of the people on the Japanese internet seem to think that air-hanami is a ridiculous idea, especially based on the comments that appeared after the TV segment on air-hanami was aired, many of which expressed thoughts like: “What a stupid idea. Not elegant at al!” or “Aaaargh… we can’t turn this into a fad! We’ll have idiots breaking off branches from sakura trees to do this.”
Okay, so air-hanami may not really take hold in Japan as a yearly spring-time activity, but as we’ve mentioned already, it does have its advantages. What do you think — does virtual flower-viewing seem like a viable idea at all for people who can’t actually go and see the sakura flowers in person? Or should those staying indoors stick to just eating delicious hanami cakes instead?
Sources: Digital PR Platform press release, Kirin Air-Hanami Festival website
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