The arrival of spring can mean several things for us. For some, spring means one day closer to the end of the semester—thank God (some of us are barely making it towards the finish line—you know who are)! And for others, the new season means a time for change. The change is inherently natural, like the simple yet timely blooming of flowers. It seems appropriate to witness this change through hanami.
Hanami is the Japanese custom of enjoying the beauty of blossoms from cherry and plum trees. In Japan, forecasters monitor the occurrences because the blossoms only last for a few weeks.
Blooming as early as February to early May, outdoors events, such as festivals take place under the blossoms.
The tradition dates back to the Nara period when people observed ‘ume’ or plum blossoms. Over time, ‘sakura’ or cherry blossoms became more popular to admire.
The significance of the blossoms are symbols for fragility and beauty of life; a reminder on how beautiful but short one’s life is.
Originally practiced by elites, the tradition soon spread to common folks by the end of the Edo period.
Today, Hanami is celebrated in various countries.
In the states, popular Hanami festival locations include Washington D.C and San Francisco.
Washington D.C’s Cherry Blossom festival dates back to 1912 when Japan donated 3,000 sakura trees as gift, commemorating their friendship with the United States. The first festival was held in 1935 and continues to commence in the spring. During the festival, activities and cultural demonstrations take place throughout the three-week celebration.
The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival take place on two weekends in early to mid April. Located in San Francisco’s Japantown, the festival features a parade, exhibits and cultural performances, such as taiko drumming.
While I haven’t had the pleasure in attending a Hanami festival, I’ve seen the beauty and fragility of what cherry blossoms convey. It really is a sight to see, especially when it’s windy–folks with allergies, sorry, you’re going to need to pop some allergy pills to truly enjoy this experience. The petals just fall in random directions, only further proving how short the blossom lasts. It truly serves as a metaphor for life: remember the past and hope for a better present and future. Life is short. Enjoy it while you still can.