With the beginning of spring in Japan comes "hanami" (花見) or "flower viewing." The most famous occasions of hanami take place around the spring bloom of cherry blossom – or, as I like to call it, "the pink blizzard of happy fun times!" I’m waiting for the name to really catch on.
During this time the whole country goes nuts for cherry blossom. There’s a painfully-detailed forecast released around January every year that shows exactly when your area will experience the cherry blossoms, from bud to pre-bloom, to full bloom to falling. See GaijinPot’s excellent example in the video below.
Sakura-themed products begin to fill store shelves with an array of weird taste combinations (think: sakura soba noodles and tofu with sakura salt) and sales of blue tarpaulin surge. All anybody talks about on TV is cherry blossom, every website will try and woo you with their Ultimate Guide to Cherry Blossom and every advertisement in every public place will be pink.
So what exactly is hanami?
I’m glad you asked. Hanami is a chance for you to go outside and revel in the few beloved weeks of spring that Japan has to offer before the rainy season hits. Hanami started out as a personnel pamper party for the Emperor and his chums but quickly spread to the rest of the country.
Although it was originally a party to appreciate nature, I like to think it was a bit different. Maybe after a war (as they had a lot of those back then) a bunch of people just decided that sitting around and looking at pretty trees was a better prospect than trying to poke each other with katanas.
So, with all of my friends already sick with sakura fever and the cherry blossoms soon headed to a park near me, I decided to investigate the madness and ask: is hanami actually all that fun?
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