Want to experience Japan’s favorite spring event? Sakura (cherry blossom) viewing is one of the most anticipated seasonal events in Japan, both by locals and foreigners. Hanami, which literally means “flower viewing,” is a tradition held during the spring season while cherry blossoms are in bloom. Long ago, the hanami tradition was limited to Japanese royalties and upper-class citizens; however, since the Edo period, the celebration spread and was held by all citizens regardless of their social status.
Today, cherry blossom viewing is a famous seasonal activity even with foreigners. Lots of tourists from all over the world visit Japan to see and experience this beautiful hanami tradition. Although everyone is welcome to hold outdoor parties under the sakura trees or simply walk around the park to admire the sakura flowers, one must still observe Japanese customs and etiquette. Here are some dos and don’ts that will help you maximize your visit to Japan during hanami season!
Due to weather differences, the blooming periods of cherry blossom flowers also differ across Japan. Cherry blossoms in the southern part of the country bloom as early as the third week of March, while in the northern part of the country, they usually bloom around late April to early May.
So if you want to be in Japan to see the sakura in full bloom, better check cherry blossom forecasts. I recommend this website if you want to know the different blooming periods all over Japan.
Cherry blossom trees are delicate, so you must avoid causing anything that will damage the tree such as placing your picnic mat over the roots or very close to the tree itself. Some parks even place a rope fence in order to get people to stay at a proper distance from the trees.
If you are going to have a picnic or hanami party with your family or friends, it will be nice to have it under the most beautiful tree. However, with lots of people doing the same, it can be difficult to choose a perfect spot. In order to do so, claiming/reserving a spot is allowed by spreading your mat earlier or hours before your intended party. However, be considerate and make sure to claim the right amount of space for your party.
Want to have Instagram/social media-worthy photos with the charming cherry blossoms? As much as it is tempting to touch the branches or flowers to get that one perfect photo, they are for your eyes only. They are so delicate that touching them is not advisable as it may harm the tree, or worse, flowers/petals may fall.
Yes, you can bring alcohol and drink at the park under the trees, but it is considered a bad manner to get drunk and be a nuisance to other people around you who are enjoying hanami with their loved ones.
You want to have a barbecue or nabe (hot pot)? Make sure that the park allows it, otherwise, just bring your own cooked meal. Also, it will be smart to check where the nearest toilets are as you are most likely to consume lots of drinks.
Finally, the party is over and it’s time to go home, but don’t forget the most important thing before you leave – clean up! If there are no trash cans available, take home with you whatever you brought to the party, including trash.
If you went to your hanami party with a car, then going home late is not a problem. But if not, be sure to know what time the last train or bus will leave.
When traveling to a different country, it is nice to do some research regarding their customs. Avoid doing things that will get you into trouble when abroad. Japanese people are always conscious about their manners and it’s part of their culture to be courteous and to avoid causing inconvenience to other people. Remember that you are a visitor to their country and it’s just right to respect their culture and customs as you would like other nationalities to do when visiting yours.