It’s the time of the year, the “Sakura Kaika Zensen (さくら開花前線)” or the “Cherry blossom blooming front” has officially presented since last week. It has now become official to the Japanese people to get ready for the season to “hanami (花見),” also known as, to drink and party under the cherry blossoms.
This is not just an excuse to get drunk at a public place, but the traditional practice to celebrate the coming of spring has become important part of the Japanese custom. Why is “Sakura (桜)” so important for the Japanese people? And why do we love it so much?
1. Start of “Hanami”
“Hanami (花見)” or also called as “Ohanami (お花見),” is one of the Japanese customs, to celebrate the coming of spring, with the blooming of the “someiyoshino” cherry blossom, which is the most common type of “sakura” there is in Japan. The blooming of the “sakura” is very unique, that the blossom blooms at once and falls within only two weeks. The fragile-ness of the short-lived blossoms inspire many of the Japanese people, to admire “sakura” as one of the beauty of life.
It has said to be that the custom has started around the Nara period, which was one of the leisure activities done by the aristocrats. But the custom of the “hanami” has spread amongst the common people during the Edo period, where the cherry blossoms were planted at Kan-eiji Buddhist Temple near the Ueno Onshi Park. Since the Buddhist Temple was strict of not allowing festive gatherings within that area, the 8th Tokugawa shogunate, Yoshimune, have allowed to plant cherry blossoms in Asakusa area and Asukayama area for the common people to enjoy the festive gatherings of “hanami” as well. As “hanami” have become a custom to the common people in Edo, there were many artists and rakugo-ka (traditional storyteller) inspired with their creation of original stories and art.
In the Meiji Period, Japan was going through the process of modernity, and many of the “sakura” trees were destroyed as well. But many of the specialized gardeners at that time were active in protecting the breed of the “sakura” and moved the trees to plant near the Arakawa area. This protection of “sakura” has spread all of Japan, which contributed to the current “sakura” blossom as well. In 1912, Japan has sent the “sakura” trees to the United States as a symbol for friendship, which is now planted at Potomac River in Washington D.C.
The “hanami” custom and “sakura” breed is now kept in Japan for many centuries, and Japanese people celebrates as the weather warms up and the “sakura” bloom, and still also enjoys this custom of festive gatherings under the “sakura” trees. There are many gatherings amongst friends, colleagues and families to enjoy the wonders of the pink blossoms.
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