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HANAMI, JAPANESE CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Almost every country in the world has its own distinctive holiday that sets it apart from the neighbours. The same is true for Japan, which boasts an extensive tradition that is inextricably linked with its history. Hanami, or the cherry blossom festival, often begins as early as late February.

Hanami: the origin of the tradition

Almost every country in the world has its own distinctive holiday that sets it apart from the neighbours. The same is true for Japan, which boasts an extensive tradition that is inextricably linked with its history. Hanami, or the cherry blossom festival, often begins as early as late February. Its start depends on another custom: Ume Hanami, or the plum blossom festival. Hanami involves viewing flowers and appreciating their beauty. The tradition dates back to the 7th century CE. By the 15th century, it spread among the Japanese from the imperial family to common city dwellers. Yoshimune Tokugawa, one of the emperors ruling in Edo, planted thousands of cherry trees for his subject to share their beauty. Nowadays, Sakura Hanami evokes a sense of joy, the transience of the moment and the satisfaction with life. Hanami celebrations involve picnic parties with families and friends who gather in parks, sit on blankets and eat their favourite food out of bento boxes crafted for the occasion.

Favourite Hanami dishes

Feasting during Hanami has inspired the famous Japanese proverb “dango before flowers” (hana yori dango). It refers to people who prefer drinking sake and Japanese beer to appreciating cherry trees. During Hanami, the Japanese delight in the taste of traditional foods, such as the classic rice balls known as dango. Bento can also include a variety of specialities, such as teppanyaki, oden or yakitori. There are many stalls selling Western foods as well, including pizza. Food (for example, sweets with cherry petals), wine, sake and beer in packagings that feature cherry blossom colours can be bought at nearby stores. Hanami has become a national event, with people planning their holiday in advance to admire cherry trees in their full glory and eat their favourite foods and drinks.

 

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