How to Enjoy Cherry Blossom Viewing in Japan: A Comprehensive Guide to Hanami Etiquette
In recent years, more and more people from around the world have been visiting Japan during the springtime to take part in the unique Japanese custom called "hanami" (flower viewing). However, as the number of people rises, so does the number who accidentally cause a commotion by disregarding basic hanami etiquette. So, here is a comprehensive guide to hanami etiquette. Read it to enjoy the cherry blossoms while still respecting Japanese manners!
Feb 21 2019 (Apr 16 2019)
What Is Hanami?
One of the most popular springtime activities in Japan is the centuries-old custom of hanami, which consists of gathering with your friends or family to eat, drink, and spend a good time together under the blooming sakura (cherry blossom) trees.
The blooming times for sakura are different for each region in Japan. If you want to know the times for a specific region, as well as discover a couple of amazing hanami spots, check out this compilation:
Every year, legions of tourists will flock to famous hanami spots in hopes of catching a glimpse of these elusive yet beautiful blossoms. However, many of them don't know that specific etiquette and rules for hanami exist, so it is no wonder that they break these rules and inconvenience those around them, or even do unintentional damage to the sakura trees.
With that, here is a selection of important rules and guidelines that you should make sure to follow when enjoying hanami in Japan. Follow these rules to appreciate the stunning cherry blossoms in Japan in harmony with the people around you.
Starting Fires Is Prohibited
Starting fires is prohibited at nearly every hanami spot in Japan. If you start a fire, not only can that inconvenience others around you with the smoke, but there is also the chance of causing a large-scale fire disaster.
Take Your Garbage Home with You
While most hanami spots are outfitted with trash cans and other trash disposal locations, there are so many visitors that they can quickly become full. In order to keep these spots beautiful and clean, please take your trash home with you and dispose of it there if you notice that the trash cans are already full. We recommend bringing a plastic bag or two to store the trash you'll take home.
Don't Take up More Space than Necessary
While it is understandable to want to make yourself comfortable as you enjoy the cherry blossoms, please take the other visitors into consideration and don't take up more space than is necessary for your group.
Do Not Place Seats Directly Under the Trees
The roots of cherry trees are generally located from 30-60cm below the surface of the ground, which is shallow compared to other trees. Because of this, the roots can be damaged by chairs or other hard objects placed too close to the trunk.
A good rule of thumb is that if you sit in the chair and look up, you should see the blue sky. If you see a tree branch, your chair is placed too close to the tree.
*Note that sitting directly under the tree while sitting on a tarp or blanket is completely acceptable.
Do Not Touch the Tree Branches
The branches of cherry trees are quite delicate and can break or bruise easily. They are also susceptible to catching diseases that will make the flowers and leaves wither earlier than usual. Please refrain from touching the branches to ensure that everyone can enjoy the fully-bloomed trees for as long as possible.
Do Not Dump Juice or Alcohol into the Ground Under the Trees
As previously mentioned, cherry trees are quite delicate. Since there is a risk of contaminating the roots of the trees with alcohol and other substances, please refrain from pouring out any drinks other than water into the ground near the cherry trees.
Do Not Play Music
Please refrain from playing music out loud with speakers, as this can inconvenience not only other hanami participants, but people who live in the surrounding area as well.
If the number of people who do not know or disregard hanami etiquette continues to increase, famous hanami spots could close down in the future. So, it is important for everyone who wants to enjoy hanami to pay attention to the rules stated above, whether they are Japanese or a visitor from abroad.
Let's make sure to enjoy hanami in the best way possible so that everyone can continue to enjoy this custom for years to come!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.