Hanami 101: How to Hanami Like a Pro

Spring is here in the UK and while we walk along the streets watching the trees fill their branches with leaves again, Japan makes much more of a spectacle of the turn of the season. While we here in Britain do have cherry trees scattered across the country, we don’t quite have them to the scale that Japan does. Come spring, streets, rivers and parks are all blanketed in light shades of pink, signalling the true start of spring.

We’re huge fans of bringing Japan to you here at Japan Centre, so read on and find out what hanami (花見) is and how to hanami like they do in Japan.

When do you hanami?

With just a short period of time to enjoy the cherry blossoms before they’re no longer in bloom, it helps that Japan takes its hanami seriously. So much so that there is a yearly cherry blossom forecast that details when each region of Japan should expect their sakura (桜) to bloom. The forecast is prepared by the Japan Weather Association and an English language version is available thanks to the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO).

(Credit: JNTO 2019)

Keep an eye out when you’re out and about for any cherry blossoms here in the UK and snap a pic using #japancentre – we’re huge fans of beautiful Japan-related pictures!

The sakura are in full bloom at Sakagura until 28 April!

Parks, picnics and a lot of people

Once you know when to hanami, you have to be sure to know where. While in Japan there are plenty of places to enjoy the sakura, the popularity of the tradition means that most places will be busy. Parks and riverbanks are filled on a first come, first served basis so making sure you get there early is a must! Reserving your spot in a park or on a riverbank is as simple as laying out your picnic mat and getting set up. Much like Western picnics, food is packed and drinks are brought to truly bring the experience to life – with viewers’ spirits often reflecting the excitement of the occasion.

If you’re in Tokyo (東京), we recommend checking out Shinjuku Gyoen National Park (新宿御苑), while in Hakata (博多), we recommend walking by the riverside in Tenjin (天神). Alternatively, if you’re here in London, both Kensington and Regent’s Park have areas where you can enjoy the sakura for yourself! Moreover, if you want to bring your hanami to life, check out our umeshu (梅酒) and chuhai (酎ハイ)range – perfectly sweet to match the scene around you.

Bento box galore

With a traditional event to live up to, hanami bento (お弁当) boxes are made to fit the occasion perfectly. They’re much more elaborate than a typical convenience store (コンビニ) bento and are decorated colourfully to match the colours of spring.

While you might not be able to find hanami bento in your local supermarket here, we’ve got our own recipe for you to try at home! Alternatively, here’s a list of some must haves to put into your own bento if you’re in the mood to make your own: tamagoyaki (卵焼き), makizushi (巻きずし), karaage (唐揚げ), onigiri (おにぎり), temakizushi (手巻き寿司), and Japanese potato salad.

Sakura flavoured everything

As the sakura return in Japan, so do the sakura flavoured sweets and treats! From traditional sakura mochi (桜餅) desserts to sakura inspired bottles of Coke and KitKats, Japan really does go all out when it comes to celebrating the return of spring.

Best of all, you don’t have to be all the way on the other side of the world to enjoy a taste of spring – simply stop by one of our Japan Centre stores here in London or shop online. We’ve left a little list of what we think you should check out below or alternatively, browse our range of sakura-inspired and sakura flavoured treats yourself!