My favourite Japanese tradition is Hanami, or “flower-viewing.” It’s a springtime tradition in Japan, during which people bring out picnic blankets to sit in the park beneath the cherry blossom trees and eat, drink, and enjoy the company of friends.
While hanami can refer to many different kinds of flowers, it is now primarily centred around cherry blossoms. Japanese cherry blossoms, called sakura, are a motif found frequently in Japanese art and daily life (and on the hundred yen coin!)
There’s this fascinating thing called the sakura zensen, or cherry blossom front. The Japanese Meteorological Agency tracks the progress of the sakura, from down south in Kyuushuu in March up to Hokkaido in the north in May. I’ve heard stories of people who spend a month or two following the blossoms up the country!
I can certainly see the appeal.
I love the sakura-themed drinks and treats that come around this time of year, and it’s fun to people-watch everyone who come to Tsutsujigaoka Park.
Tatebayashi’s sakura are absolutely resplendent! They line the river, which is strung with koinobori, or carp flags, for Children’s Day in May.
On Mondays, Tuesdays, and most Wednesdays I now teach at 3sho, which is on the other side of the park from my apartment – so last week I got to bike through here a lot! It was the perfect excuse to meet up with friends. The first time was to meet my friend Kayla to catch up.
We had some yakimanju, soft grilled buns glazed with a salty-sweet miso sauce. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but after almost four years here, I have to say, I quite like it! (And apparently this is a traditional Gunma treat rarely found outside the prefecture, which is pretty cool!)
There’s a beautiful little temple a block over from the river I bike past every day on my way to school:
We had an ALT meeting on Friday, which was easily the most beautiful day that week. On our ways home we all stopped on the bridge to take pictures. (I’d already taken plenty of sakura pictures, so I took advantage of my friends’ beautiful faces!)
And Katie caught me!
And there were so many cute doggos, hooooooo boy!
Saturday was cooler and overcast, and there was a small shower in the morning, but we just put on an extra layer of clothes and spent the afternoon out with friends in the park.
(Our friend Jansen invited some of his friends from out of town, and man, has it been a loooong time since I’ve met other English-speakers my age! )
I definitely recommend trying to come to Japan in the spring. If you want to see Tatebayashi’s sakura, the best time is the first week of April. They last for about a week, depending on the weather, and they are gorgeous.