Japan is known for having a wide variety of interesting words, words that literally can’t be translated into other languages. Shinrinyoku translates to ‘forest bath’, komorebi translates to ‘sunlight filtered through tree leaves’, Kuidaore translates to ‘eating yourself into bankruptcy’… see what we mean? One such word is hanami which directly translates to ‘viewing flowers’, but which is also the name of the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival.
The first hanami is said to have taken place over 1,000 years ago when Japanese aristocrats would enjoy looking at the cherry blossoms and write poems inspired by them. Rather than being an aristocratic celebration, it has become something that everyone can enjoy in a festival that is akin to picnicking under a tree. People will enjoy food, sake, and comradery as they congregate around the blooming trees.
The purpose of the celebration has to do with another fun Japanese word, mo no aware. This translates to ‘the poignancy and sadness of transient things’ or, in other words, finding beauty in things that are temporary. This concept is very prevalent in Japanese culture and cherry blossoms are the perfect symbol for this idea since they only bloom for no more than two weeks.
Although these festivals take place primarily in Japan, they can be enjoyed in several countries around the world including China, Korea, Taiwan, Europe, and even in the U.S. The biggest Cherry Blossom Festival in the U.S. takes place in Washington D.C. and it has some history behind it. In 1912, 3,000 Cherry Trees were given as a gift to Washington D.C. by Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo. Now, the city celebrates the blooming every year not only for the blossoms themselves but also to celebrate the enduring friendship between the U.S. and Japan.