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Traditional festivals are firmly embedded in all cultures. Customs and rituals strengthen cohesiveness. We are convinced that diversity strengthens mutual understanding.
That’s why we present different festivals with the help of colleagues, because celebrating together is fun and encourages communication between different cultures. Last time for example my colleague Camila Franco told you about the Carnival in Rio. This time I would like to explain the festivities around the cherry blossom in Japan.
What is Hanami?
Hanami is a Special Japanese custom of enjoying the temporary beauty of the flowers. “Flowers” almost always refers to the cherry blossoms (“sakura”) but sometimes also to plum trees. From the end of March to early May, cherry trees bloom all over Japan. The blossom forecast (桜前線 sakura-zensen) “cherry blossom front” is announced each year by the weather bureau, and is monitored carefully by the planners of Hanami as the blossoms only last a week or two.
Hanami has a very long history which can be traced back 1,200 years. Originally it started among upper-class citizens who began observing cherry trees and wrote poems about their beauty in bloom. At the same time, Hanami also became popular among farmers, since the cherries bloom at planting season. So People believed there was a god inside the trees and they sacrificed and prayed for a good harvest. This was the beginning of having parties under the cherry trees. In modern times, Japanese tax and school year begins in April. We feel like the fully bloomed cherry blossoms are celebrating and welcoming our brand new start.
During this season in Japan, people like to celebrate Hanami parties with colleagues, friends and family. The cherry blossom makes people happy. We enjoy eating and barbecuing underneath the cherry blossoms. Welcome parties take place in schools and offices during Hanami, they are an opportunity for people to bond and make new friends. Even at night, viewpoints are crowded with people enjoying the blossoms in a beautiful, romantic atmosphere.
Party and paper lanterns
For me personally, Hanami memories are always associated to nervous but excited feelings of starting a new year and meeting new people. Hanami parties make me feel relaxed because you can meet and talk casually to new people.
Usually, people go to the parks many hours or even days before the parties to find and secure the best places to celebrate Hanami with their friends, family, and colleagues. In cities like Tokyo, it is also common to celebrate under the sakura at night. Hanami at night is called yozakura (夜桜, “night sakura”). In many parks temporary paper lanterns are hung for yozakura. The parties can last very long into the night.