Let me start off by saying that I’m not a flower person. I’m not one to buy flowers for decorations nor like to receive them as gifts. However, if you happen to visit Japan during Sakura (cherry blossom) season, it’s hard not to fall in love with them. During this time, you will find also sakura festivals taking place at local parks. Let’s take a look at what Hanami, the tradition of flower viewing, is like in Japan.
This year we were lucky to visit Japan during the Sakura full bloom. To see how the Japanese practice hanami (flower viewing), we visited the Maizuru Park (舞鶴公園) in Hakata. We arrived at the park a few hours before sunset and followed the crowd to the main area. There were a large field and a path that was lined with food stalls. There were, surprisingly, many people at the park even though it’s a Tuesday afternoon.
Food & Game Stalls at the Sakura Festival
As a food driven person, I immediately bee-lined my way to the food stalls to check out what’s available. They have typical foods that you can find at the fair, such as yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), takoyaki, okinomiyaki and yaki-soba. There were a couple of children games/toys stalls in the mix. One was selling animal masks and the other was catching tiny goldfish from a kiddy pool. If we were able to bring the goldfish home I would’ve tried to catch some because it looked so fun!
Photos with Sakura Tree is a Must!
The area beyond the food stalls was lined with sakura trees. No matter where you looked, you’ll see people taking photos of these beautiful cherry blossoms. One interesting thing I observed was where ever there was a low hanging branch, there’d be people taking selfies with it. I guess it’s not every day that you can get a branch full of cherry blossoms next to your face.
Hanami – Flower Viewing at Maizuru Park, Hakata
Below the cherry trees, people have set up picnic tables or lay tarps on the ground to claim their space. Food is a big part of hanami. Everywhere I looked, you can see people enjoy their bento boxes (homemade or store bought) underneath the pink clouds of cherry blossoms. Also, drinking alcohol is allowed in public, so you’ll see adults enjoying beers at their picnic. We didn’t bring any picnicking gear or food with us. So instead, we ate at the food stalls and took a leisure stroll around the park to experience what it’s like to be surrounded by sakura.
After observing the locals and taking photos of sakura trees in Maizuru Park, it’s clear to me that the tradition of hanami is more than admiring the flowers at their finest. It has evolved into an activity that brings people together. City dwellers like us are usually so busy with work and other obligations in life. We often forget to enjoy what’s around us or take the time to connect with our family and friends. So in Japan, flower viewing gave people an opportunity to get together.
Next Spring I will try to plan a flower viewing picnic with my family and friends! We have beautiful cherry blossoms in Vancouver and it’d be fun to welcome Spring together. Come join me if you’re in Vancouver! 🙂
Traveling to Fukuoka, Japan? Here’s a list of things to do in Fukuoka.