Why Are Japanese Obsessed With Sakura

Photo by P. on Unsplash

The Japan Meteorological Corporation (JMC) begins announcing the Sakura (cherry blossom) forecast map shortly after the beginning of the New Year in January. The season starts in the warmer climate of Okinawa and works its way north. In most years, the trees in the Tokyo region will be in full bloom around the last weekend in March.

The blossoms are a symbol of spring. They remind people that it’s a time of renewal of life while also reminding them that life, like the Sakura, is fleeting. The blossoms last about two weeks before beginning to fall and coat the paths with their delicate pink petals.

While the trees are blooming millions of photos will be taken, and oddly enough, they will look very much like the millions of photos that everyone took the year before, and the year before that, ad nauseam.

Photo my me — Sakura in Wadabori Park, Suginami Ku, Tokyo, Japan

Millions of cans of beer, and countless bottles of sake, will be consumed as people enjoy hanami (flower viewing). Despite the government’s call for self-restriction on flower viewing during these Covid Pandemic times, many will ignore that and spread their blue plastic tarps under the trees in their favorite hanami location. Those who don’t do a sit-down viewing will, at the very least, take several walks in their preferred blossom viewing spots, typically one of the parks or along a river lined with Sakura trees.

What better way to have a party than to be with friends or colleagues to eat, drink, be merry, and maybe even occasionally glance up at the Sakura flowers. Some of these parties go from noon till night, with friends dropping by for a few minutes or a few hours.

Sakura viewing became popular during the 9th century, which was known as the Heian Period. Prior to that era, plum blossom viewing parties were held by the Emperor. But since plum trees bloom in February, when it is still cold, Sakura overtook the plum trees in popularity since it’s more pleasant to enjoy the spring warmth as well as the warmth provided by the sake and other beverages.

Hanami parties for the common folk, though, didn’t become popular until the Edo era (1603 to 1868). This was a politically stable period in Japan and the country enjoyed good economic growth. As the populace became more affluent, ways were needed to keep them happy. Hanami events were one answer to the people’s quest for happiness.

If you miss the blooms in your neighborhood just follow the Sakura Report provided by the JMC and find yourself a viewing locale as the Sakura bloom their way from the southern part of Japan to the northern island of Hokkaido. You might be able to extend the hanami season by as much as a month. Don’t forget the sake!

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30+ years of living in Japan and I write about #japan, #japanese, #japantravel, #curiousjapan, and #japanculture. But we also travel so I don’t limit to Japan.

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Joe Peters

Joe Peters

30+ years of living in Japan and I write about #japan, #japanese, #japantravel, #curiousjapan, and #japanculture. But we also travel so I don’t limit to Japan.

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