Cherry blossom season brings with it one of Japan’s most cherished cultural and social activities called 花見, spoken as “hanami.”
花 “hana” means “flower” and 見 means “see,” or “look.” The combination is simply, “See (or look at) flowers.”
What this means to people in Japan is truly tied to their sense of being. It is a cultural activity as impactful as, perhaps, the celebration of Easter in Christian culture.
What happens during Hanami? Well, this year may not present the best climate for its most typical social manifestations.
Of the two most common defining activities of 花見 (and yes, you’ve just managed to read a bit of Japanese!), one involves shoulder to shoulder crowds wading through streets and along riverside paths looking up at clouds of blossoms above them, snapping pictures and selfies and nibbling on traditional festival foods.
The second and just as common activity involves groups of families, friends, or colleagues (or combinations of all three), sitting in small and large groups, tarp to tarp, drinking sodas, beer, and sake, laughing, joking, getting tipsy, and perhaps even singing karaoke in parks under spectacularly beautiful trees in full bloom.
2020 is sadly quiet in these respects for reasons we all know too well. But it is important to know that the defining feature of the season surrounds us all, even in the quietest corners.
This year, 花見 has taken on a very personal, private, and peaceful tone. Perhaps this is important too. After all, beauty is something we should sometimes, perhaps, pause to appreciate, quietly & reflectively.
At least, that’s what my dog Choco seems to tell me on our long walks through our strangely silent neighborhoods.