You truly haven’t experienced Spring until you’ve seen a freshly bloomed cherry blossom tree.
One of the best places to witness this miracle is in Japan. Their cherry blossoms (called “sakura” in Japanese) and plum blossoms (“ume”) literally spring to life, flaunting the most vibrant tones you can imagine. Hanami (“hana” meaning flower and “mi” meaning to see) is the Japanese tradition of enjoying the transient nature of these blooms and the season.
If you’ve never seen cherry blossoms in person before, it’s a magical sight. The flowers start to bloom during the first weeks of spring. They are at their prime for only a week or two before the petals begin to fall. The impermanence definitely adds to the special experience of seeing them. If you are able to catch the blooms as they first start falling, you’re in for a different treat though — the petals are so soft and plentiful that it almost looks like snow falling.
Traditionally, the blooming of cherry blossoms meant that it was rice-planting season, and the health of the bloom was used to divine that year’s harvest. But these days, for most of Japan, Hanami is a time of gathering — thousands of people viewing the Sakura together, day and night, picnicking and relaxing underneath the fluffy pink blossoms.
In 1912, Japan’s mayor donated 3,000 cherry blossoms to the United States as a sign of peace between the two countries after WWI. Thanks to him, you can now enjoy the beautiful Sakura in a number of US cities. At the University of Washington in Seattle, hundreds of people gather to witness the largest and oldest congregation of cherry blossoms in the state. The blossoms’ pink tones perfectly complement the University’s Quad’s light-pastel buildings. It’s a picture perfect place and a no brainer if you happen to be in Seattle in Spring.
I highly recommend planning a daytrip to see them or attending some of the annual events thrown at your local botanical gardens or cherry blossom orchards. Here’s a list of cities and locations where you, too, can practice the art of Hanami: