It's That Time Of Year: Hanami! : Features

Hanami: a Japanese Tradition

What better way is there to celebrate the natural beauty of Japan than through 'Hanami'? Hanami, which is flower viewing, has 'blossomed' into a tradition for both Japanese and foreigners alike. The best time for flower viewing is when the Sakura flowers peak in the transition from winter to spring. Typically there is about a two-week window of time in late March or early April when the Sakura flowers are fully blossomed and thousands of people gather in popular viewing areas to enjoy the glorious sight.


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(Meguro River)


I recall my first Hanami adventure in Japan: a group of about ten friends and I decided to picnic in Yoyogi park. The Sakura blossoms were phenomenal, as if the crowds of picnickers were relaxing under pink clouds. A couple of buddies had already gotten to the park early to secure a spot, and the rest of us showed up any time as early as lunch time until the evening. We had a potluck in which everyone brought something from Japanese finger foods to random snacks, alcohol, and tea. Although most of my time was spent in joyous conversations with that group of people, I also ran into other friends and coworkers who had come in their respective groups, so I spent time visiting them. I also had a great time meeting people from different countries who were in groups around the spot my friends and I were sitting, in addition to seeing some people from artistic clubs dance and sing in various locations.

Hanami is a special event that only comes once a year and lasts for a couple of weeks, and I definitely cannot wait for the next opportunity to celebrate Japanese nature and new beginnings with my friends and the Tokyo community!

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(Shinjyuku Gyoen)

Hanami attendees can go in groups with friends, family, or colleagues.  Japanese schools and companies start their business year in the springtime just after Hanami, making Hanami the perfect time for people to relax before the new business year or to gain new relationships with future coworkers. It is typical of younger students or new colleagues to be given the task of finding the perfect spot in a flower viewing area to picnic. Since Hanami is incredibly popular, the people chosen to find a spot often have to go much earlier than their peers to secure the best location.

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(Yoyogi Park)


Not only is Hanami a great opportunity to spend time with friends, coworkers, or family, but it's also a great time to meet new people! People who attend Hanami , both Japanese and non-Japanese, are often very friendly and open to conversation. If you go to Hanami with just a buddy, you might be lucky and get invited into a group!          

How Are Hanami's Organized?

Attending Hanami is a simple task! Often times, a company or school club leaders will decide where and when to meet for Hanami. Otherwise, making plans to go to Hanami with friends or family is another perfect way to spend time!

Where to Go?

This year, the Sakura flowers are forecasted to blossom around March 31st, with the best viewing times between April 4th to April 15th .

There are many spectacular Sakura viewing areas 

throughout Tokyo, and the locations can range from parks to streets to bridges. The best place for Sakura viewing depends on who you will spend time with, how many people, and what type of activity you would like to do. Although picnics and lounging activities are most traditional, Hanami can also be done from restaurants, boat ride activities, and even theme parks!


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(Hanami near Iidabashi)


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(Hanami during the evening)


Some popular sakura sightseeing sports include:

Shinjuku Goen: http://www.env.go.jp/garden/shinjukugyoen/english/
Yoyoki Park: http://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/park/format/index039.html
Ueno Park: http://www.kensetsu.metro.tokyo.jp/toubuk/ueno/event.html (japanese only)
Meguro River: http://www.city.meguro.tokyo.jp/event/2012sakura/index.html

But that doesn't mean you have to celebrate Hanami with a picnic! There are a plethora of restaurants that have spectacular views of Sakura trees from their windows, and are therefore also popular locations to enjoy Hanami.


estaurant

Canal Café is a great example: located on the Tozai train line in Iidabashi, the Canal Café offers a wonderful view of the Sakura flowers accompanied by a café meal such as soups, sandwiches, pastas, pizzas, and curry! During Hanami season, the popularity of Canal Café can certainly yield a waiting line, so be sure to get their early! http://canalcafe.jp/news/2012/0226_99.html 


Boat

How about enjoying Hanami on a boat ride? Tokyo cruises are offered in the Odaiba area, which is an amazing way of relaxing and enjoying the Sakura flowers along the coast lines. Suijo Bus is offering a 45-minute special Hanami event cruise from Asakusa! Check out their event page: http://www.suijobus.co.jp/event_cru/index.html


Themed park

Why not enjoy Hanami at a theme park? Yomiuriland, accessed thirty minutes from Shinjuku station via the Keio or Odakyu lines, is a popular theme park full of Sakura trees, providing fun-filled attractions in a Sakura wonderland! If you plan to spend Hanami with friends and or family of any age, this is definitely the spot for fun activities! http://www.yomiuriland.co.jp/english/


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(Night time hanami at Kiyomizu Temple)



What to Bring?

If you've decided to go on a Hanami Picnic, there are a couple things you want to keep in mind:

1)       Bring a large tarp or blanket to sit on

2)       Bring food and drinks, anything from lunchboxes and snacks to finger-foods and alcohol! Popular Japanese foods could include onigiri (rice balls), Odango (rice mochi with a glazed sauce), sushi, beer, etc. Don't' forget utensils that jive with what you are eating, such as chopsticks, plates, bowls, as well as napkins and cups.


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3)       The Japanese are adamant about keeping public spaces clean---don't forget to have a plastic bag that you can use to collect all of your trash, and properly dispose of it when you leave a park.

4)       If you'd like, bring any fun games or cards to play.

5)       From personal experience, the lines to the public restrooms in parks can get super long, so it's best to get in the line the second you think you have to go!


Whether it's in a park, a restaurant, or a boat, have a fabulous Hanami experience in Tokyo!


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