Asian Heritage Month Blog Event: Hanami and the Cherry Blossom
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez
I’ve always been enamoured with Japan. After university, I trained to be an ESL (English as a Second Language) Teacher in Japan. Unfortunately, I was unable to travel at the end of my training.
And so, it’s with fondness that I write about Hanami and Japan’s beautiful cherry blossoms known as sakura.
Every time I visit what is now a favourite spot for myself and my family called Kariya Park in Mississauga, I think of Japan. Both Kariya Park and Japan have glorious cherry blossom trees. We attend every year as a small day trip.
Hanami (花見), which literally means, “flower viewing” is the traditional Japanese custom of viewing the country’s cherry blossoms (sakura).
Sakura bloom all over Japan from March to May every year and it is such a revered event that a blossom forecast called sakura-zensen (桜前線) is announced.
The Japanese community usually participate in hanami by having an outdoor party beneath the sakura during the day or sometimes at night.
Hanami at night is called yozakura (夜桜) (“night sakura”).
Sakura originally was used to tell the harvest and announce the rice-planting season. People believed that kami, which are spirits or the essence of the Shinto religion were inside the cherry blossom trees. They would make an offering and then indulged with sake.
The custom was originally limited to the Imperial Court and then expanded to samurai society. Eventually “common people” participated in this traditional practice.
Today, the Japanese people continue to uphold this tradition. Thousands of people fill the cherry blossom parks to hold feasts under the trees themselves and also participate in processional walks. All this is done as a time of reflection and renewal though for the youth it has become a “festive” party for the community to come together.
Here are some books on the cherry blossoms, sakura:
Cherry Blossoms: Traditional Patterns In Japanese Design by Nobuyoshi Hamada
Cherry Blossoms by Sachio Yoshioka
The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama
One Hundred Million Hearts by Kerri Sakamoto
Here is a video clip of Hanami celebrated in Japan in 2011:
To see more postings for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event,please visit here.
Have you ever participated in Hanami or went to visit a park to see the beautiful Sakura bloom? When and where did you go?