The blooming of cherry blossoms in Japan usually indicate the start of spring and people all around welcome the pretty pink flurries by having a hanami party. To some, it might be just a stroll in the park, while others plan and setup a picnic to admire the delicate flowers.
The regular picnic can be as simple as throwing a mat on the ground to as elaborate as people bringing their own chairs, barbecue and for the livelier ones, even a karaoke machine. Did you know that alcohol is also almost always part of a hanami party? Sounds like a great party!
Here’s a helpful guide on planning your own hanami party.
Stay Updated With The Forecast
Predicting when the full bloom is can be difficult to pinpoint, but it’s the best bet you have for planning ahead. You can stay updated with the Japan Meteorological Corporation who releases cherry blossoms forecast here.
The blooming time varies across the region in Japan so be sure to plan your trip beforehand for a chance to catch the sakuras.
Choose Your Venue Wisely
Here are the top sites for viewing cherry blossoms:
- Hirosaki – Hirosaki Castle Park
- Tokyo – Shinjuku Gyoen
- Yokohama – Mitsuike Koen
- Fuji Five Lake – Chureito Pagoda
- Osaka – Expo 70 Commemorative
- Fukushima – Miharu Takizakura
- Nagano – Takato Castle Park
- Nara – Mount Yashino
- Okayama – Okayama Korakuen Garden
- Hiroshima – Peace Memorial Park
- Fukuoka – Nishi Park
- Kyoto – Philosopher’s Park
Once you have identified the venue and date, remember to go early to book a spot! Competition is high as the more popular areas can be very crowded with some companies even sending their junior employee to reserve a spot for a party after work.
Remember to bring a jacket (or more) as spring in Japan is still pretty chilly with weather averaging at about 13 degrees and gets colder in the evenings. If layering still doesn’t keep you warm enough, you can purchase heating pads called Hokkairo from convenience stores.
Going to the popular cherry blossom venues will also mean braving a large crowd who’s there for the same reason as you – catching sight (and taking pictures) of the sakura. So, remember to keep tempers at bay and remain patient. Just go with the flow and enjoy the lively vibe of the venue.
Pro-Tip: Take a whiff and enjoy the soft and fragrant scent of the sakura while taking a stroll.
Food, Glorious Food
The most important part of any party would be the food of course! If you don’t have time to prepare the food, convenience stores and supermarkets will already have ready-made bentos. Most of them are specially customised during the sakura season making it perfect for your hanami party.
If you’d rather get individual dishes, then remember to get food that are bite-sized and easily shared. Some of the popular dishes would be:
- Fried and grilled dishes: Karaage (boneless bite-sized fried chicken), takoyaki (grilled octopus balls), and ebi-fry (breaded fried shrimp).
- Pickles and salads: Kinpira gobo (braised carrot and burdock root salad), shiro-ae (blanched vegetable and mashed tofu salad), potato salad, hijiki seaweed and lotus root salad. Japanese pickles make for a great side dish too.
- Onigiri (rice balls): Onigiri comes in a variety of flavours like ume, salmon and tuna mayonnaise. Keep your eyes peeled for onigiri made with salted cherry blossoms during this season.
- Miso Soup: A staple Japan food, miso soup can help warm the body during the chilly weather.
- Desserts: Sakuramochi (rice cake filled with red bean paste and wrapped with sakura leaf), dango (dumplings on a skewer), strawberries, oranges and kiwi
- Drinks: Sake, beer, juice, tea, and coffee
Venue, time, jacket, food…
Sounds like you’re ready for your very own hanami party! Remember to take lots of pictures and have fun.
And if all else fails like missing the sakura (touch wood!) then click here to see what else you can do to savour the sakura season.
With your AirAsia Travel Protection, you also have FREE Sakura Bonanza. Miss the sakura? Redeem RM50! Read about it here.