Hanami, the tradition of having picnics and drinking under cherry trees while they are in bloom, is something you will be invited to with a 99% certainty if you are in Japan during the springtime. It’s an institution. Part 1 was just the tip of the iceberg, so I’d like to share some more things that people tend to forget about hanami.
Cherry blossoms are only in bloom for around 2 weeks, so before the petals fall everyone will be out taking pictures.Everything just look so different compared with the rest of the year, it’s almost the trees are made of pink popcorn. Feels like Candy Land really happened.
From the serious photography enthusiast to the run-of-the-mill smart phone instagramer will be snapping dozens of photos trying to get their own best shot. The sheer amount of photography going around you can be pretty distracting if you happen to be sitting directly under a tea that is in full bloom. Some random guy you don’t know will come by to take pictures of the totally innocuous tree you all happen to be sitting under. 5 minutes later a completely different person will stop by and take more photos. It won’t stop.
What are all these close up photos of the tree for exactly? I don’t want to sound completely jaded, but the flowers usually look exactly the same as the previous year. I went through my person photo collection, and this is more or less what my album looks like:
As for the picnic part of hanami, a casual get together means that each person will bring 3-4 drinks and a variety of snacks to last the afternoon. However, after the first or second beer you will probably realise that you don’t have the combination of “enough” or “the right” snacks. This problem is something that I call dunger, drunk hunger.
That feeling where you want to eat, but you don’t know what you want to eat, especially when you are drinking. The snacks you brought with you? No. That isn’t going to fill that pit in your stomach. No matter how well you think you prepared your food, you didn’t. You will need something… more.
Dunger in the park is dangerous. There are several food carts of questionable legitimacy set up in the area during this season, and you will 100% lose out to temptation. Usually you have the choice of doughy or noodle things that are cooked on a griddle like takoyaki or okonomiyaki, or meat things on a stick like jumbo franks and yakitori.
Normal dunger is something I can deal with, but this hanami dunger is its own animal. It digs at you, and you can’t ignore it. You eventually have to buy questionable food on a stick because it starts to look enchantingly delicious. You feel a bit self-conscious after buying it because no one can feel attractive eating greasy things on a stick while squatting in the middle of the park. However, it is best to embrace this feeling and empower yourself in this moment of triumph over dunger.
Hanami all takes place around the end of March or beginning of April, so while the afternoons are warm and pleasant, it still gets a bit chilly near the end of the day. This is especially true if you are just sitting around and drinking. You will start to feel pretty cold around 4pm.
“Why didn’t you plan ahead and bring a warmer jacket?” You will think to yourself, but it’s already too late. We all lie to ourselves and say that we’ll be done by 3pm. But nah… You never leave before it starts to get dark out. Time flows differently during hanami. You get caught up talking with your friends or watching the group next to you get drunk and dance to reggae music blasting from an iPhone. Time just simply slips away from you.
Just bring an extra jacket or a blanket. Once hypothermia sets in you chances of survival decrease substantially.
I’m totally planning to do hanami this year. Don’t get me wrong- I love going outside and doing the whole rigmarole, but it seems that no one really gets ready for the hardships of hanami. This year will be different. This year I’m finally ready.