Thoughts on Hanami
By Brogdale Tour Guide Alan Hayward, who has joined in with Hanami in Japan
The Japanese word ‘Hanami’ translates as ‘flower watching’. The Hanami festival celebrates the blossom (sakura) and may have started life as a thanksgiving for previous harvests and hopes for the year to come. However, over the years the event has become an annual Japanese celebration of Spring.
The celebration of cherry blossom is particularly poignant as it is briefly utterly fabulous, but then it is gone. Joyous for those who were able to celebrate it and a great shame for anyone who missed it. For the Japanese this is a metaphor for life – take the opportunity whilst it is there.
Predicting when the blossoms will make an appearance is very tricky and varies from year to year. Spring may be early, or it may be late, so Hanami cannot be planned much in advance. When blossom arrives, those celebrating Hanami just go for it!
At Hanami time, a Japanese city is full of blossom. Roads are lined with avenues of cherry trees and even the tiniest garden may have a tree. Parks are often surrounded by huge trees in full blossom. In the countryside isolated cherry trees covered in blossom stand out against the otherwise dark forests.
To celebrate, the Japanese people will join a group of family, friends or work colleagues for a picnic under the trees. They will lay out a small tarpaulin and prepare snacks and drinks. Hanami is a great occasion to just chat or play simple games such as cards and maybe listen to some gentle music.
If, by chance, some blossom falls on you, it is a sign of good luck – although it is not done to shake the tree to encourage this. In some city parks there are so many wanting to picnic that the gates have to be closed and yet, even with so many people, the atmosphere is happy, relaxed and respectful of others. Afterwards participants clear up and go home or back to work and you wouldn’t know that 10,000 people had just been there.
Then, within a few days, the blossom is gone………until next Spring.
The Hanami Festival at Brogdale is taking place on the 18-19th April with a packed schedule of Japanese-related demonstrations and activities.
The highlight of the weekend is the display of extremely beautiful blossom trees, decked with Japanese lanterns. Visitors enjoy picnics under the blossom along with tours of the orchards.