The Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival, known as ‘Sakura’, signifies the welcoming of Spring. The act of celebrating the festival is called ‘hanami’, which literally translates to ‘the viewing of flowers’, with the traditions of the festival itself dating back over a thousand years.The cherry blossom festival is a celebration of the beauty of nature throughout Japan that sees the Japanese gather together for food, drink, songs and friendship while the flowers are in bloom. As the cherry blossom tree blooms for a very short period of time, with the period of blooming varying from year to year with differences in weather, festivals take place anywhere from January through to June, depending on the region, however the majority take place between March and April. With over 200 different varieties of cherry blossom trees in Japan, there are plenty of gorgeous flowers to choose from, ranging from white to pink.
There are a number of gorgeous places to spot the blossoms while travelling Japan – among the most popular is Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion. The temple is over 700 years old, and sits in a sprawling, tranquil garden. Another beautiful spot is Nara Park, notable for its native deer who are known for wandering throughout the trees. The deer are wild but peaceful in nature, and are classed as a sacred national treasure. With 1700 cherry blossom trees in the park, it’s not a festival to miss.
The most important part of Hanami is the food. Typically, families and friends will take in the festival with a picnic under the blossoming trees. Sweet and savoury dishes are enjoyed at the festival, and are often themed to match the pink blossoms.Picnic baskets will be full of treats like tamagoyaki, a rolled egg omelette with sugar and soy sauce. Many traditional desserts will be found, made from anko (red bean paste) and mochi (a sweet and sticky rice cake). Sakura mochi is tinted pink to match the cherry blossoms.
Every year there is a sakura cherry blossom forecast on TV, it even looks like a weather forecast, but it is all about when the hanami (cherry blossom party) season is going to start, and in which area.As the trees become alive with color in each region of Japan, the local people all head to their closest park with food and drinks in tow. They all have the same goal of finding a perfect spot for sitting down and enjoying the flowering cherry blossom trees, which in Japanese is called hanami.People do this with friends, family and even with their work colleagues, they all sit down for a long picnic, and in some cases with plenty of sake, and just have a relaxing time.
Hanami represents the beginning of Spring each year. The cherry blossom acts as a cultural symbol of renewal and hope, and has long been treasured by the Japanese as an emblem of their country’s beautiful landscape.