5 Things You Need for はなみ (cherry blossom viewing)

Hanami, 花見, means flower viewing. It’s a time to celebrate the ephemeral beauty of springtime blossoms (most often さくら cherry blossoms). When I lived in Japan, I was surprised by how common and traditional an experience it is. It’s not something that just happens in manga, but is a regular occurrence among friends, family, and co-workers. I remember walking the streets of Tokyo late one night and being surprised by a boisterous group in a small, dark park, all gathered under one tree.

If you want to be well-prepared for your first hanami, here are five things you’ll need.

  1. いい天気 (ii tenki), good weather. I know it probably goes without saying, but blue skies and sunshine really do make a difference! Not that hanami on a cloudy day is a bad thing, it’s just a different experience. Compare and contrast below:

    Cherry Blossoms on an overcast day near Tokyo Tower

    Cherry Blossoms against Blue Skies

  2. おべんと obento, boxed lunch.Having a picnic under blossoming cherry trees is a must! Looking at all that beauty is hard work, so you’re sure to get hungry.
  3. ビール, biru, beer. Not that you have to get drunk on the beauty of the season, but have a good time! They sell beer at most parks in Japan during hanami season for just this purpose.

  4. ブルシート, buru sheto, blue sheet. A tarp or picnic blanket of any kind is good for you to mark your territory and get nestled. If you really want to fit in, blue tarps are the most commonly used. (Seeing aerial shots of parks during hanami reveals a sea of blue!)

  5. ともだち tomodachi, friends. Most importantly, while hanami is beautiful alone, it’s really special when shared. My partner visited me during cherry blossom season and we both still remember hanami as one of our favorite activities. We’ve made a point of visiting botanical gardens in the US during cherry blossom season to practice our art of flower-viewing.

    Also, while not listed here, it is important to remember to bring a plastic bag for trash. Sometimes finding trash receptacles in parks can be challenging, so be prepared to carry your garbage for a little distance.I hope you get to enjoy some viewing this spring season! If you have any good tips or stories of your own, feel free to share them below.

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