The Importance of ‘Sakura’ & ‘Hanami’ in Japan
Known as ‘sakura’, cherry blossoms are synonymous with Japanese culture and are seen to embody the fragile beauty of life itself. As the weather warms in spring, the flowers bloom and Japan will emerge from the long, cold winter. Spirits rise while families and friends gather to wander underneath the beautiful canopy of pink and white, to share a meal, drink, or just ponder the fleeting beauty of the blossoms and enjoy ‘hanami’ (flower-viewing) together.
The blossoms can be appreciated on many levels, starting with their simple beauty. On a deeper level, many Japanese associate the blossoms with life itself. Beautiful, fragile and ephemeral, life much like the blossoms must be cherished and celebrated, in acknowledgment that neither will last forever.
Without doubt, there is a tinge of sadness to the appreciation of the blossoms yet overwhelming it’s a celebration of renewal, of new life and the year to come. Undeniably romantic, the emergence of the blossoms each spring brings couples of all ages to wander through the trees, a time when you just might see the uncommon sight of Japanese being openly affectionate in public.
It is a time to spend with family and friends. Parks will be busy with groups seated on rugs and mats, sharing food and drink and lots of laughter. Hanami is especially wondrous at night, when many parks are lit with the pink and red glow of paper lanterns.
Children love hanami. A magical time when they can meetup with family and friends and run excitedly beneath the blossoms, parents spoil them with seasonal treats from the ubiquitous vendors who line the parks.
‘Sakura mochi’ is especially popular, as the sticky rice balls carry the taste and scent of the blossoms. The little balls are deceptively filling and best washed down with ‘sakura tea’ to make room for the inevitable ‘sakura’ soft cone ice cream. It goes without saying that the blossoms present a great excuse indulge with confectionary, snack and drinks makers all taking the opportunity to release cherry blossom-flavoured specials.