One confession: I’m a big fan of anime (yes, call me nerdy). Hence I love Japan – or at least the idea of it – and have always had this one particular romantic idea in mind. I really want to see the cherry blossom festival there. The sad part: I still didn’t make it. The good part: It feels like everyone else did this season.
So I asked my close friends about their experiences. And if you research the important things about ‘Hanami’ (which is the word for watching flowers in Japan), you discover that, well, some things don’t seem as romantic as I always imagined them. Read here three facts about the festival season:
1. The reason why everyone is just taking pictures of the flowers
Hanami can also be just a stroll in the park, but it traditionally also involves a picnic party under the blooming trees. People have a real Hanami party with friends, family or colleagues. When it’s allowed in the park (this differs from area to area), the Japanese even get really drunk at their picnic. So that’s the reason why everyone is just pointing the camera skywards, taking pictures of the blossoms in the trees and never of a full tree because of the crowds sitting under it.
2. You have to reserve everywhere. Always.
And when it comes to the preparation of the picnic, Japanese people do really behave like a German clichée. Germans are famous for reserving a spot at the pool with a towel in the early morning hours when they’re on vacation. Quite similar to Japanese at Hanami. Most of the good spots in the parks are taken after 8 a.m. and don’t you dare remove a blanket, it’ll cause a scene.
Speaking about reservations: When you plan to travel around during cherry blossom season, you better reserve everything beforehand. Hotels, trains, dinner tables, drivers. You’ll thank us for this advice later.
3. The blooming is different in the North and the South.
Of course Japan is a big country, everyone knows. But are you aware that the blooming isn’t happening everywhere at the same time? The first cherry blossoms come out in the subtropical southern islands of Okinawa, while on the northern island of Hokkaido, they bloom much later. In most large cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the cherry blossom season normally takes place around the end of March and the beginning of April.
What the conclusion of my research is? I’m still absolutely keen on going to Japan. Some funny, drunken Japanese people and overcrowded places won’t change my mind – also when this facts aren’t what my imagination coming from the anime movies is like.
See you next year in March, dear Japan.
Photo credit: Elisa Mussack; Antonina Bukowska