As the season turns cooler and we prepare our precious annual leaves for the next year, many of us make it a point to visit Japan for the ever-elusive sakura blooming season.
While to us, the seas of pink is a breathtaking sight, there’s much more to the tradition of appreciating spring for the locals. Ohanami (or cherry blossom flower viewing) is one of them.
Though it seems straightforward enough to just have a picnic under the trees, there is a whole list of do’s and don’ts that you might not know about.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t damage the trees in any way at all. While it seems obvious and almost “duh”-worthy enough, it’s still important to reiterate that the trees are meant for everyone’s enjoyment. Do not hang or place any belongings on the trunks or branches, or even scratch or draw on any surface of the tree.
You’ve probably seen a few videos of terrible tourists that shake or even kick the trees and branches to create a petal shower, all for the sake of a few selfies. Some even break off branches to bring back as souvenirs.
With an amazing view and a generous spread of food on an easy-going afternoon, Ohanami makes for the perfect time to kick back and catch up with your friends. Chances are, you’re not the only one shares the same sentiment, as with the other hanami-goers. All it takes is for one person to have had too much to drink to ruin the atmosphere for everyone, so do control your alcohol intake.
Japan’s clean streets are just one of the many reasons why we love them, and when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Littering is not just illegal, but downright rude as well. Most public areas in Japan don’t provide garbage bins either, so the most acceptable way to clean up is to bring the trash home to sort and recycle accordingly.
While certain popular spots such as parks might have blue tarps set up for hanami viewers, most areas don’t provide mats so it’s recommended to bring your own. A sheet or a blanket works just fine if you don’t plan on buying a picnic mat just for this.
Rather than bringing home any physical souvenirs, the best memorabilia would be photos. Considering how it’s such a special event, it’s highly encouraged to take as many photos as possible. Though do keep in mind not to disturb the rest by obstructing the pathways.
It’s also common to see locals preparing picnic baskets just for ohanami parties. Most of them pack small bites such as karaage or sandwiches, but if you don’t have time to cook anything in advance, convenient shops are the perfect place to hit up for some last minute purchases.
RULES & REGULATIONS
Every province, town and park have their own specific set of rules and regulations to abide by. Do make it a point to research ahead, as some places might have additional clauses not present elsewhere. This is especially so if you’re planning on having a barbeque.
No one likes hoggers. Sure, it’s nice to have a lot of space, but there’s a lot of people who need that space too. Take up only as much space as you need for the number of people you have with you, and though it’s alright to save a space in advance, don’t go overboard by reserving the same spot for longer than necessary.
Chances are, you’ll be travelling around by public transport. As ohanami parties can carry on into the wee hours of the night, we advise checking to see when the last train is, least of all you get stranded on the street. After all, taxis are extremely expensive, and who knows if you’ll even find one in the area.
Perhaps one of the less obvious things to note is that Sakura tree roots are particularly fragile. While we might think it’s alright as long as we don’t pick flowers or break branches, by sitting on stepping on the roots of the tree, we damage it by giving it unnecessary pressure. Do your best to distance yourselves from the trees when enjoying the view, regardless of sitting or walking.