Party Amongst the Cherry Blossoms, Japanese Style

Cherry Blossom season which marks the start of spring in Japan (not that you would have known it last year – it was still freezing) is a special time in Japan, not just for the viewing but for the celebrations and parties that go hand in hand with “Ohanami”. “Ohanami” literally means flower viewing but it only refers to one type of flower, the Cherry Blossom. It sounds sedate and boring but the real meaning of “Ohanami” is “partying amongst the Cherry Blossoms!”

As soon as the Cherry Blossoms start to bloom Japanese people gather in parks and gardens for picnics on blue tarpaulins at lunchtime, after work and on the weekends. Work colleagues, families, friends and students fill the parks with their picnic blankets, karaoke machines and sushi. Enterprising street vendors set up temporary bench seats and serve the Japanese version of fast food; takoyaki (octopus dumplings), okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake), dango (rice ball skewers with sauce) and yakisoba (fried soba noodles).

This is a festive time where you will see Japanese people letting their hair down and it is fantastic to see. You will also see quite a few inebriated Japanese! I am sure the profits of Asahi, Kirin and Suntory skyrockets for 10 days over this period! It’s really a great time to be in Japan, there are people out and about everywhere and there is barely a blade a grass not covered by a picnic blanket. The locals even take their shoes off when picnicking so it is not unusual to see 20 or 30 pairs of shoes neatly lined up next to a blue tarpaulin.

With the shades of pink and the white Cherry Blossoms as a backdrop, the setting is stunning and with summer around the corner the Japanese are very “genki” (happy) and then very hungover the next day, for 10 days!

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