Cherry blossoms - who doesn't want to spend a day surrounded by pink petals and having fun with friends? By following the rules outlined in this article, you will not only have a great time, but also a better appreciation of Japanese culture too!
Written by Kazuki Tsuchido
The end of March to early April is cherry blossom season in Tokyo, and this means it is time to have a hanami, or cherry blossom viewing party. The short growth season of the delicate flowers means that most sakura sightseeing spots will be overcrowded with people wanting to enjoy the blooms as much as possible.
Sitting under the trees, enjoying the fresh spring air, taking in the ambiance of the moment - this is a once a year opportunity too lovely to pass up.
That being said, there are some important rules to abide by when having or attending a hanami party, which we will cover in this article.
There are a lot of of items that go into making the perfect hanami party, with food and drinks being some of the most important.
Eating and drinking under the cherry trees is very relaxing, and somehow the food tastes even better during a picnic, but no one can enjoy the sakura when piles of garbage start to build up. Make certain to throw away all your trash in the proper receptacles or take it home with you. Littering is of course illegal and downright rude as well.
To learn more about how to properly dispose of trash after a hanami party, please see: Clean Up The Right Way: Dealing With Trash After A Hanami.
Taking an afternoon to kickback and hang out with your friends in a public park for a few hours sounds like a lot of fun doesn’t it? You can talk, catch up on the latest news, and really unwind. This same sentiment is shared by the countless other people who also want to have a hanami in the same park, at the same time. Although there isn’t a hard and fast rule about noise levels in public parks during the daylight hours, screaming, shouting, playing loud music or other such behavior is frowned upon.
One possible cause for noisiness during cherry blossom viewing parties is alcohol.
Drinking in public is not illegal in Japan, and you are certain to see some groups of very drunk people having a grand old time during their own hanami. But that sort of loud, sloppy behavior is very off-putting, don’t you think? While we are by no means advocating an alcohol-free hanami, good manners indicates that there is a limit to how much anyone should be drinking when out in public like this. Try to keep this in mind when planning your party, and please be considerate of the other people who are trying to enjoy themselves in the same park.
Reserving a space is one of the toughest tasks of setting up a hanami, and can involve a lot of pre-planning. The majority of people want to have a seat as close to the trees, restroom facilities and trash containers as possible, so these areas are quickly snapped up.
It is important to only take up the space that you and your group will reasonably need for your hanami, however, as space is limited and at a premium. If you take up too much room, you might end up causing others to lose their chance to have a hanami as well.
When reserving your hanami space, first check the exact number of people expected in your party, and then only take up enough land to suit the number of people coming. Sakura spots are public property, so please be considerate when setting up.
To learn more about finding and keeping the ideal hanami spot, please see: Finding The Perfect Spot: Saving A Hanami Site.
It should go without saying that sakura trees are living things and can be easily hurt, damaged or even killed by the thoughtless acts of others. Many sightseeing spots have taken the precaution of blocking off their sakura trees with fences, or by making having sit-down hanami events illegal within the grounds, but other location are simply too big to police properly.
That being said, visitors should never try to pluck the blossoms, break branches or twigs off, carve their names into the trunks or otherwise touch the sakura tree in any way, shape or form.
Although you may like the aesthetic of falling petals, it’s not a clever idea to shake the tree to get the effect. And covering the roots of the tree itself with picnic tarps, stacking belongings on them or leaning against the trees are bad ideas as well.
All of these actions can result in severe damage to the tree, or may even cause it to die. That is the ultimate breach of etiquette and one that can result in hefty fines or other penalties if caught.
If you are determined to enjoy the cherry blossoms while staying in Japan, then please do so responsibly and follow the important rules we have established in this article. Good manners and respect will go a long way, and just might make your appreciation of sakura and Japanese culture grow.