Home Culture A History of Hanami

A History of Hanami

By Chisaki Sato
NAP Contributor

Did you see gorgeous cherry blossoms this year? They show up for just a moment in early spring. For a short duration before the blooms disappear, people in Japan engage in hanami, or flower-viewing, which typically includes a sake-infused picnic with friends and co-workers. Japanese people have been keeping this tradition alive for centuries – it’s one of the big events of spring.

Parks can get very crowded during peak blossom times, so people reserve spots for their group hours beforehand. Others take a more romantic option known as yozakura, and view the illuminated sakura at night.

The tradition of hanami is said to have started in the Heian period (794-1185) when aristocrats played kemari, a Japanese game similar to hacky sack, and composed Japanese poems under the cherry blossoms. Later hanami became known as a banquet for farmers to wish for a good harvest. In the Edo period, hanami spread to the general public.