Spring has arrived and the trees are starting to bloom again. In Japan, cherry blossoms are called sakura, a special flower for the people and the country.
Now that cherry blossom season is here, you can say: “Sakura season is coming… let’s go to hanami!”
Cherry blossoms are a symbolic flower of Springtime, a time of renewal, and the fleeting nature of life. During this season in Japan, people like to have cherry blossom parties with colleagues, friends, and family. They enjoy eating, drinking, and barbecuing underneath the cherry blossoms. This custom is called hanami. Hanami literally means “watching blossoms,” and the tradition can be traced back at least a thousand years.
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Even at night, viewing spots are crowded with people enjoying the blossoms in a beautiful, romantic atmosphere. Couples go at night to enjoy the special mood created by cherry blossoms. Hanami at night is called yozakura.
.The school year begins in April in Japan, and so there’s further synergy with fresh starts and exciting beginnings. Many schools have cherry trees outside their gates and parents may pack a special lunch box, hanami bento, full of special foods for children to go off to school with.
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Some Japanese kanji:
This is the Japanese character for sakura. The 木 (ki) on the left side means tree/wood and developed from a pictogram of a tree, with the horizontal line as branches and diagonal lines as roots. Sakura is derived from saku 咲, which means to bloom, or alternately to smile/laugh. The 口 in 咲 indicates an open mouth.
花 (hana) means “flower,” and 見 (mi), means “to view.” Together, hanami literally means “to view flowers.” 見 is a combination of the characters for “eye” and “human,” evolving from a pictogram of a human figure with two legs and a large eyeball for a head.