It’s time to dust off your blue tarps and portable speakers, because baby, it’s officially hanami season.
Hanami (花見, literally “flower viewing”) is a Japanese tradition where friends, families, and co-workers gather for a picnic under the sakura or cherry blossoms. As the cherry blossom trees only flower for a couple weeks, it’s a rush to get the whole group together to catch the flowers during peak bloom.
There are as many different locations to do hanami as there are ways to do it (and feelings about it), though an authentic hanami experience in Tokyo typically involves eating and drinking on a big blue plastic sheet along with hundreds of other groups doing the same thing.
Sakura officially started blossoming in Nagasaki City on March 20, with Tokyo quickly catching up on March 21, according to a Weather News article published on March 21.
On Twitter, they announced:
— ウェザーニュース (@wni_jp) March 21, 2019
The reporter explains, “A Yoshino cherry tree at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine is now flowering! Many cherry trees in the Kanto region are expected to start blossoming over the next week, and hanami season will last from the end of March to the beginning of April.”
Yoshino cherry trees are the most popular type of sakura tree and are characterized by their fragrant, soft pink flowers. This particular Yoshino cherry tree at Yasukuni Shrine is famous for being used to gauge the start of cherry blossom season in Tokyo.
This year, the season started five days earlier than average and four days later than last year.
Asahi Shimbun shared a lovely picture of the famous Yasukuni Shrine sakura starting to bloom on their photo Twitter account:
— 朝日新聞 映像報道部 (@asahi_photo) March 21, 2019
They wrote, “According to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Yasukuni’s standard sakura has bloomed.”
More sakura photos and announcements kept popping up, including this one by a weather reporter who posted pictures of a weeping sakura tree in Akasaka nearing full bloom on her Twitter:
— 長谷部愛 (@hasebeai8) March 21, 2019
She tweeted, “It’s been announced that Tokyo’s sakura flowering season has officially started today, the morning of the 21st. This is five days earlier than average and four days later than last year. Yesterday, it was announced that Nagasaki’s sakura started flowering, and Fukuoka’s sakura started flowering today. Full bloom is expected in Tokyo on Friday the 29th. This Miharu Takizakura (a weeping sakura tree) in Akasaka Sacas is nearly in full bloom♪.”
The 29th is this Friday, so for anyone still planning hanami or wanting to get photos of sakura at their peak, this weekend will be the perfect time for it!
Sakura will continue to start blooming across Japan until May in Hokkaido, where the climate is coldest. Check out GaijinPot’s 2019 Cherry Blossom Forecast for the dates of blooming across the country.
GaiijinPot is also running its annual cherry blossom photo contest! Submit your best — and most creative — sakura shots via Instagram with the #GaijinPotSakura hashtag for a chance to win either a Japan Rail Pass, a pair of Shinkansen (bullet train) tickets, a Sakura Gift Box stuffed with exclusive cherry blossom-themed goodies and/or a feature spot on our Best of 2019 Cherry Blossom photos.
Wishing everyone a happy hanami season!