Old Japan – Traditions, Festivals & Rituals–April

Cherry Blossom Season

Flower viewing (hanami) is a national tradition in Japan and the cherry blossom season, being the king of flowers, is the most famous of all celebrations.

This hand-tinted vintage postcard is not very clear but judging by the pink trees this must have been a typical family outing during the sakura matsuri or cherry blossom festival around 90 years ago. .

Not much has changed until today. Families, groups of friends or workmates still like to spread a mat under the blossoming trees and enjoy sumptuous picnics and copious amounts of beer and sake. Some might feel inspired by the beauty of nature to compose a haiku poem or, more likely these days, belt out a rousing chorus of ‘My Way’ on a portable karaoke.

The cherry tree comes into blossom for only a few days before its delicate petals fall and float away. In order not to miss this fleeting event, Japanese TV has a cherry blossom forecast (like a weather forecast) showing where in the nation trees will be blossoming on any particular day. The season usually starts in March in Okinawa (the far south and west), sweeping northwards over Honshu during April and does not reach the far north (Hokkaido) until May.

It is a joyous time of year. The only difficulty is finding a tree which does not already have a party going on underneath it.