One Japanese tradition that I absolutely love is hanami (花見). For those of you who don’t know, hanami is a cherry blossom viewing party. One thing worth knowing in relation to hanami is the saying “hana yori dango” (花より団子), which basically means “food is more important than flowers”. So, yeah, a hanami party is really all about the food and, if you drink, the alcohol.
Last April I had my last hanami party in Hamamatsu and it was wonderful…
I thought that was probably my last hanami party for some time, and I was feeling a little sad at the thought that I would have to miss out this year. However, today, I had the absolute pleasure of attending my first ever hanami in London… and it was brilliant!
The hanami was organised by the Japan Society Conversation Group which meets every month. I’ve never attended their meet-up parties before, but now that I’ve met some really lovely people I think I will have to try to go along in the future.
Sitting under the cherry blossom trees in Kensington Gardens, speaking in a mixture of English and Japanese, I really felt like I was back in Japan for a moment. In true Japanese style, we spread out our plastic sheets and picnic blankets, slipped off our shoes, shared out our food, and cracked open a few cans of beer.
There were loads of people in the end – lots of Japanese people, plus quite a few non-Japanese people who are interested in speaking Japanese and learning about Japanese culture. I took the photo above before things really got going, but there were at least twice as many people as you can see above and it was a great atmosphere.
As I said, hanami is really all about the food, and there were some delicious dishes being passed around. We had plenty of sushi…
Of course, there were flowers too…
Sakura (cherry blossom) comes in many varieties, and a lot of the flowers I’ve seen in England are different to the ones I was used to in Japan, but the feeling is the same. When a few petals fluttered down and landed on my skirt I was taken straight back to Japan.
I’ve realised today that I don’t need to be in Japan to enjoy my favourite aspects of Japanese culture. Of course, I hope I have the chance to experience hanami in Japan again, but for now I think I will be able to make do in England.
This post is an entry for this month’s J-Festa, on the theme of “Hanami in Japan“.