Hanami – praise of cherry blossoms

It is nearly cherry blossom season in Japan. Normally the peak time for blossom is from the end of March to the beginning of April in Tokyo, depending on the weather of course. As you might know, Japanese people are great cherry blossom enthusiasts! We have parties (hanami) under the wonderful blossom. It’s still chilly and not the best time for picnics, but perhaps some sake will help warm us up!

In mythology, the god of rice fields dwells in cherry blossoms, and as the Japanese are agricultural people, we respect and look after the cherry trees to pray for a good harvest and happiness. 

 In literature, Japanese people have been admiring cherry blossom since the 8th Century. The Tales of Ise is one of the most famous and important works of Japanese literature and consists of 125 poems. It was first published in the 11th century. In the Tales of Ise there are quite a few poems about cherry blossom_


If only there were

No cherry blossoms

In this world,

What calm would reign

In the heart of spring.


Then some other person recited_


It is because

The blossoms scatter

That they are splendid.

In this world of sorrow,

What lasts for long?


Poems contain deep meaning and were a very important tool of communication in Japan at that time. People would send poems written with beautiful handwriting – I would love to receive one!

We live in the digital era and our way of communication and language has changed dramatically. The Japanese used to love poems, and now they have created emojis…

In the 16th Century, the high-ranking samurai Toyotomi Hideyoshi uprooted 1000 cherry trees from Osaka and replanted them in Yoshino in Nara. He invited 5000 people to a 5-day long hanami party. He loved the tea ceremony too, as I mentioned in my previous blog ‘tea with samurai’. I respect his enthusiastic energy for the tea ceremony and nature, but unfortunately he had very vulgar taste. He famously built the golden tearoom to show off his wealth and power. My kind of tea ceremony spirit is to think of others, enjoy and share the beautiful moment, and appreciate art, nature and the four seasons. I don’t think I could have been his friend! Since Hideyoshi’s big hanami party, all classes of people could enjoy hanami parties in their own way.

Perhaps hanami isn’t only about enjoying the beauty of Sakura (cherry blossom) and having a party, but also to open the doors after a cold winter and wake up from our winter hibernation to gather and communicate with our friends. We all need our own space and time alone, but we also need to flock together to help each other and stimulate each other and enjoy our own happiness.

Pray for peace and thinking of others.

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