Hello everyone, hope you’re good! February is fast coming to an end and with that the Lunar New Year also; which can only mean one thing, spring is on its way! Hurray! I have already started to notice the lighter evenings (it now gets dark at 6:15 instead of 4:30pm) and despite the bitter weather and wild winds we’ve been having thanks to Storm Imogen, on a calm day you can appreciate how mild the weather is getting. Providing not all of the daffodils bloomed back in December thanks to the crazy warm weather we had, we should be seeing a flourish of yellow as Easter approaches!
But today is not a post about spring in the UK (though maybe I could do some posts on the UK if anybody would be interested in knowing what it is like here?) but spring in Japan! Today we are going to be taking a look at a very famous festival known as Hanami which translates to ‘flower viewing’.
Cherry blossoms are like the official stamp of Japan as anyone with an interest in Japan knows that Japan is incredibly famous for their cherry blossom, aka Sakura, trees that bloom in the spring and signify the coming of a new, fresh year (since spring is the start of the new year in Japan, as well as the new school year). Towards the end of March to the beginning of May, Sakura, and less frequently plum, trees bloom all across Japan (blooming as early as the beginning of February in places such as Okinawa); the blossoms however are short-lived, lasting only a couple of weeks before they fall and it is all over, so people plan Hanami to watch and appreciate the beauty of the flowers before they begin their descent to earth.
Sakura-zensen which literally translates as ‘cherry blossom front’ is announced each year by the weather bureau and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) records the bloom of the blossoms across Japan’s prefectures. When the blossoms have bloomed 80% on the sample tree it is considered to be in ‘full bloom’ and those wishing to experience Hanami must begin to plan carefully since the period in which the blossoms bloom fully before falling is so short. Quite often large groups of people will have parties or take picnics under the cherry blossom trees whilst observing the flowers; the term ‘kan’ō’ is the term particularly used for festivals, and the term ‘yozakura’ which translates as ‘night Sakura’ is used when people choose to view them during the nighttime.
The older generation may choose to avoid the cherry blossom viewings because they are particularly popular with younger people and tourists, so instead like to experience Umemi (‘plum-viewing’) because it is quieter and calmer, which is where Hanami first began in the Nara Period (710-794) when people would view the ume (plum) blossoms; this changed by the Heian Period, when Hanami became associated with cherry blossoms instead. People used to believe that Kami spirits resided in the trees (as well as other natural elements such as animals) and that they were ancient ancestors; great leaders such as Emperors could become kami upon their death. Believing this, as well as believing the bloom was announcing the arrival of the rice-planting season, people would provide offerings to the trees which eventually became feasts and flower-viewing parties when Emperor Saga of the Heian Period adopted the practice, and thus Hanami as we know it today was born.
Hanami celebrations have spread to other countries such as Taiwan and Korea, and every year Washington D.C. holds a National Cherry Blossom Festival on March 27th to commemorate the date in 1912 when Japan gave America 3,000 trees as a symbol of their friendship. Other areas of America such as Macon, Georgia, who have 300,000 trees growing, and countries such as Finland and Rome also have celebrations similar to Hanami.
If you want to read up on a more personal experience of Hanami, check out Cheesie’s blog at Cheeserland.com as she has been visiting Japan during the Sakura season for the past few years and has shared lots of content on it! I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing her picture since I am linking it to her blog! I love Cheesie! ♥♥♥
I know I’ve been posting a fair few Japan info posts but no joke guys, I have been up to nothing interesting T_T. My life has been so damn boring and I am feeling extremely frustrated at having very little to look forward to!! Hope it changes soon, and I hope you all enjoyed learning about Hanami today, does your country have any special spring festivals? I wanna know! Thanks for reading, until next time~♥