“Ohanami””（おはなみ, お花見） is a special time for Japan, when the cherry blossoms bloom and fall in the early springtime. Usually, there are organized celebrations that happen in early April, but anyone can spend some time with ohanami at any point! I went to ohanami with my wife and my friend in late March, but the flowers bloomed deep into April of this year. Ohanami literally means “flower watching,” but it specifically refers to the blooming of the sakura (cherry tree) and the get-togethers that happen around them. Since the sakura blooms only last for a few weeks before they fall, people only have a short window of time to enjoy this kind of event.
This year was my first ohanami. I lived in a place where there were cherry blossoms, but mostly since the cherry trees lined the avenues and weren’t very present in the parks around the city I lived, there wasn’t much opportunity to enjoy it the way that Japanese people do. It was nice that something so simple like sitting under the sakura could bring such enjoyment!
Any ohanami event is basically a picnic. Family and friends gather around the blooming trees with their own selection of obento, and adults usually bring their preferred alcoholic beverages since Japanese parks don’t prohibit them in the same way that parks in other countries might. In some parks, there are special kiosks or tables set up for obento or beer to be bought on the go, as well as tarp for sitting just in case someone needs something at the last moment, or has forgotten to bring a towel or blanket. We bought our obento somewhere else, but we did have to buy a tarp from one of those tables. All we had to do next was find our seat, which we did under the shade of a cherry tree!
Ohanami has also become very popular with tourists and expatriates. I went to experience ohanami at Yoyogi Park this year, and I saw many foreign faces and heard many languages spoken at the park. Of course, Yoyogi Park is a popular destination with many people both Japanese and foreigner alike, so it was no surprise. My group sat a short distance away from both a non-profit organization as well as families, so everyone was able to enjoy a nice day at the park under the sakura.
The thing I loved most about my day with ohanami was just the calm and peacefulness of sitting out in nature, even if there were many people celebrating the same event around us. Ohanami reminds us that the cycle of nature is short, but we can enjoy the beauty of everything while we are around. It’s definitely something I look forward to doing again next year.