In this post I would like to share two things: how to find the best looking sakura, what to do at hanami (sakura viewing)
We are lucky in Copenhagen with the annual Sakura festival, and some of you might have already experienced it. 2014 was nice, warm and sunny. Last year was not that cosy as it was extremely cold to sit outside. Now you are about to travel to Japan (yay!) and most likely the end Mar/early Apr weather will be descent enough to sit outside. Unlike the Copenhagen Sakura festival, there are generally no tents selling food and a big stage with performances. Reason is because there are thousands of locations across the country where there are sakura trees, it will not be possible to hold a party at every single spot! People tend to bring homemade food or buy food at 7-11 (plus lots of alcohol) and sit under a sakura tree.
Find the best looking sakura
Best looking sakura in my definition would be at full bloom or close to full bloom. If you miss the full bloom, do not worry as you will get to experience “sakura rain” instead, when thousands of the pinky petals falling from the tree. It could easily be in a romantic movie scene…
Hanami 花見 (literally means flower and look) is a big thing for most Japanese, and the flower blooming time is always a topic of conversation for that time of the year. Japan guide has a great forecast in english every year which is being constantly updated. Here is what they are saying about 2016:
the blossoms are now predicted to start opening in Tokyo on March 23 and inKyoto on March 26, several days earlier than average
How you can “chase” the best looking sakura like the locals
桜のきもち (Sakura no kimochi) is an app showing sakura spots all over Japan. You don’t need to know Japanese to use it, the picture below shows you how easy it is:
I can think of two potential uses of the app
- if you want to see the best looking sakura: click through all the places in the area and visit the spots with highest grown %
- if you are already out and want find the nearest sakura: the app uses your current location and will show the closest spots
Note: screenshots are taken directly from the app. click on the picture for a larger version
Hanami means flower (hana) watch (mi), it is in my opinion a rather cosy / hyggeligt experience.
Most people would bring food or drinks from home or convenient stores and sit under the trees for hours. Depending on the time of the day, you might see differences in the groups who hang out. It could be families, friends, couples or colleagues. If people are speaking quite loud to each other, you know they are deep in the drunk and joyful stage 😉 Be prepared to see men in suits (or ‘salary man’ as they are called) sleeping at hanami spots.
There are no rules on what kind of food you should bring to hanami, but most people would bring picnic type food or food that is shareable. So a bowl of ramen or a full set of tools to make cocktails might not be wise choices. On a side note, during Sakura season I see them being used in all sorts of food (esp. desserts). I would assume the petals were treated before going into the food, so I would not recommend eating sakura petals either, unless you forget to bring your own food.