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Hanami: When Is the Cherry Blossom Festival Celebrated in Japan?

The celebration of hanami is more than just the contemplation of sakura. So, what is this tradition about, and when is it celebrated?

When spring arrives, nature does its thing, reborn from the dry leaves and the harsh cold of winter; little by little, everything begins to turn vibrant shades, and flowers open their petals. For everyone, spring represents the blossoming of the earth, but in some countries like Japan, the arrival of this season involves the sacred contemplation of their cherry trees called sakura, not only as a mere exercise of observation, but it brings much deeper philosophical implications that are experienced through hanami. But what is this celebration, and why is it so important?

Hanami is a traditional Japanese celebration whose name could be translated as ‘flower gazing.’ However, it is not as simple as that. In fact, there is no literal translation of the term, which encompasses much more than the mere act of looking at flowers; it is closer to sacred contemplation.

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Why Is Hanami Celebrated?

During the first weeks of spring, the fields of Japan change color and are completely tinged with whitish tones and pastel pinks thanks to the cherry trees better known as sakura. They hold a legend of love and reflection extremely important for the Japanese folk. These flowers have become the national emblem of the nation and are known worldwide, attracting thousands of tourists annually.

According to Japanese history, the importance of sakura dates back millennia ago, because when the traditional oriental people, who lived in complete harmony with nature, observed their blossoming, it meant that it was the right time to start planting rice. It is no secret that this cereal is the food base of that nation and is part of its own identity.

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This is why sakura was seen as sacred beings, and at the moment of their maximum splendor, when the pinkish petals opened, it indicated that the gods were coming down to turn the rice fields into fertile fields and thus, help their people to have the necessary food to subsist.

From here, the blossoming of the cherry trees became an important moment for the Japanese people who gathered to look at the sacred beings in the form of flowers. An action known as ‘hanami’ that little by little and over the years, was transformed according to the beliefs of the Japanese, to become a celebration of worldwide importance.

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What Is Hanami All About?

As we can imagine, hanami is intrinsically related to food. That is why every time spring floods the landscape, the Japanese bring out the blankets and their traditional foods to have a very picturesque meal under the cherry trees, what we in the West know as a picnic. It is not only about spending an afternoon with the family or with those closest to them, but it is a sacred contemplation of the sakura, which also represents the ineffable beauty of life as well as its transitory essence.

Hanami is so important to the citizens of Japan that some still wear their yukatas and cook with gusto to sit in the shade of the sakura. It is common during this celebration to see the fields full of people sharing food with their loved ones, as well as contemplating the pinkish tapestry formed by the flowers piled on the ground.

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Story originally published in Spanish in Ecoosfera

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