Friday, April 3, 2015

Hanami - the celebration of spring

Every year, spring in Japan gives an energy boost and invites to festive get-togethers. Spring in Japan indicates change with new beginnings and endings. The business year and even the school year both end in March and begin anew, fresh in April – around the same time as the cherry tree, Sakura, blossoms. It is a season where college graduates say their goodbyes and the young work force begins new careers. People across Japan wait for the Sakura to bloom in their region. The Sakura Zensen, or “Cherry blossom front”, indicates in what regions in Japan the Sakura is blooming. Naturally, the flowers start blooming from the south as it gets warmer, working their way up to the north following each of Japan’s islands in her archipelago.


Defend your spot under the tree!

As soon as the Sakura blooms in their region, people are quick to reserve a spot under a tree so they can gather for a Hanami, “flower viewing”, together. You will see one blue plastic sheet after the other spread out under every Sakura tree as far as the eye can see. Many families enjoy the scenery during the daytime, relaxing and enjoying the warm sun-rays and cool breeze. University students, particularly freshman, get together and try to get to know each other, breaking the ice with stuttery introductions. And then there are all the company workers, men and women alike, who are ordered to find a spot for their company, waiting alone under the blooming trees to secure a good spot before it is taken by somebody else. Almost unimaginable to the western mind, this waiting can last many hours and even days! Then after work, when all the coworkers are available, they gather to eat, drink, play games and sometimes even sing together. This goes on well into the night even after dark. If they run out of food or drink, they call the local pizza or sushi delivery, and use GPS coordinates for the point of delivery…  

Spring celebration at the cemetery

Some people even bring private electric generators and floodlights so they can enjoy the Yozakura, “cherry blossoms at night”. Aoyama Bochi, the big cemetery in Aoyama in central Tokyo, is a famous Hanami spot and extremely popular for its Yozakura. The cherry blossoms are especially pretty at this sacred place, and throughout the night you will see many people gathering. Being a cemetery, there are graves everywhere but it doesn't seem to bother anyone. People enjoy Hanami, celebrating their goodbyes and new beginnings with those who have long since passed away.

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