Hanami in London

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…

Hanami in Hamamatsu, 2011


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.

Hanami in London, 2012

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…

London Hanami

London Hanami
oh, and I made some onigiri:

London Hanami

Of course, there were flowers too…

London Hanami

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.

London Hanami

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.

Enjoying hanami with Josi from Germany... and wearing the same cardigan I wore last year!

This post is an entry for this month’s J-Festa, on the theme of “Hanami in Japan“.

14 thoughts on “Hanami in London

  1. One of my favourite spring pastimes is Hanami under the flowering cherry blossoms. Great food, drink and friends, there is no better way to enjoy the beautiful flowers 🙂


  2. Ahh! I’m so jealous! 🙂 We don’t have cherry blossom trees in Florida. At least, not where I am. It’s way too tropical here. 🙂 Those are gorgeous photos! I finally caught up on your blog, hehe. I can’t wait for the next Shiritori!


  3. Wow, you are so lucky to have cherry blossom trees around and can to hanami! Back home we didn’t have ANY close by 😦
    Beautiful photos & yummy food = love :3


  4. Having visited Kyoto last year and experienced their formal hanami festival I now take the time to have my own private hanami time given that our road is flanked by beautiful cherry trees – this year our blossom came out ahead of Kyoto. Hanami and moon gazing are two aspects of Japanese culture that merely require time and appreciation…wonderful. Great website, Thank You!


  5. Hi! I wish to know if it’s still possible to see any sakura in London this weekend ‘couse I’ll be in London but I think I’am a little bit late. Am I?


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