Hanami under the Cherry Blossoms

Hanami is a traditional Japanese ritual that goes beyond flower viewing. It’s a much-loved celebration that welcomes the warmth of spring after the retreat of winter. This tradition is particularly popular among the youth, who enthusiastically participate, often indulging in food and drink. It is a joyous expression of renewal and vitality.

People compete intensely for the perfect hanami spot in popular parks. Some enthusiasts even camp out from the previous day to secure their place. The essence of hanami varies depending on the company and location, but it is a moment when the country comes together to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Hanami is like a festival-like picnic adorned with blossoms, lights, and music. To ensure an unforgettable celebration, it’s essential to equip oneself with the right gear, choose the right spot, and observe proper etiquette. Here are some detailed recommendations for gear to bring along and etiquette to observe, ensuring a harmonious hanami experience.

Essential Hanami Gear:

  • Picnic Sheet: Choose from plastic tarps to bamboo mats for dining and lounging.
  • Seating: Bring a thin cushion or a portable chair for added comfort.
  • Trash Bags: Essential for leaving no trace behind.
  • Warm Clothing: Evenings can be brisk, so dress accordingly.
  • Dining Ware: Opt for disposable cups, plates, and chopsticks for convenience.
  • Hygiene Items: Wet wipes or tissues are must-haves.
  • Openers: Don’t forget a bottle or wine opener.
  • Food & Drinks: Remember to pack everything out, from special bento boxes to your preferred snacks and beverages.

Hanami Etiquette:

  • First-Come, First-Served: Arrive early, around dawn, to secure your spot. While tempting, leaving just a sheet and a note is not advisable.
  • Check Before You Picnic: Ensure picnicking is permitted in your chosen area.
  • Leave No Trace: Dispose of your garbage properly, especially in the absence of designated trash areas.
  • Respect the Trees: Enjoy the beauty without damaging the blossoms or branches.
  • Shoe Removal: Treat your picnic sheet as an indoor space, removing shoes to maintain cleanliness.
  • Be Considerate: Maintain a pleasant atmosphere for all, embodying the spirit of community and respect.

Please keep in mind that the essence of hanami is centered around enjoying the beauty of nature, celebrating seasonal changes, and sharing the joy with others. By following these guidelines and embracing the spirit of the occasion, you can ensure a memorable spring celebration. If you’re searching for a place to enjoy the blossoms, plenty of options are available around Nagoya.

Nagoya’s Hanami Sites

Okazaki Park

Okazaki Park is home to Okazaki Castle, a museum, and many historical sites. For 300 years, Okazaki Castle has been revered as the birthplace of the deified local historical figure, Tokugawa Iyeyasu, and the cradle of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The park is a popular destination in spring when visitors can enjoy stunning views of cherry blossoms and Japanese wisteria along the Oto River, among the region’s best. Okazaki Park is included in “Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots.” Another highlight of the park is the “Great Iyeasu Kou Aoi Bushoutai,” a troupe of warlords dressed in armor who entertain tourists with their shows and pose for photos. Although the park is about an hour outside Nagoya, the beautiful scenery and peaceful atmosphere make it well worth the trip.

Okazaki Park 〒444-0052 愛知県岡崎市康生町561-1 (map link)

Inuyama Castle

Inuyama Castle is located north of Nagoya in the city of Inuyama. It overlooks the Kiso River, which separates Aichi and Gifu prefectures. This area hosts some great fireworks festivals during the summer, and you can also enjoy watching cormorant fishing, a very relaxing activity. Inuyama Castle is a national treasure and one of the few Japanese castles built before the Edo period. It is about an hour outside Nagoya. Although it is not a great spot for picnics and drinking, the castle is an excellent place to take a walk and enjoy the flowers. You can go down the hill to the river to have a picnic.

Inuyama Castle, near Inuyama Station (map link)

Four Seasons Road at Yamazaki River

If you’re looking for a great spot to see cherry blossoms, Mizuho Park is one of the best places in the region. It’s conveniently located near Mizuho Undojo Nishi Station (on the Sakuradori Line). Once you get there, take a short walk from the station, and you’ll find more than 500 cherry blossom trees covering a 2.5 km/1.5-mile stretch of the Yamazaki River between the park and the baseball/recreational fields. Walking along this path is a fantastic experience and very popular, especially with couples. Four Seasons Road at Yamazaki River is listed among “Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots.”

Mizuho Park, near Mizuho Undojo Nishi Station (map link)

Gojo River

You can access the Gojo River and its 1400 cherry blossom trees via Iwakura Station on the Meitetsu Inuyama line. The trees are just a short walk, about 5 minutes from the station. According to the official information, the start/stop points of the cherry blossom viewing area are “between Meiji Bridge and Daiichiba Bridges.” However, I’m not sure which bridges these are. I walked from Iwakura to Ishibotoke Station during my last visit to this spot and then rode the train back.

Iwakura Station, Aichi (map link)

Tsuruma Park

Tsuruma Park, often mistakenly referred to as Tsurumai Park, is the oldest park in Nagoya. It was established in 1909 and features a large fountain and a gazebo constructed in a European style. The park is quite famous among the long-term residents of Nagoya, who know it from the Nagoya Walkathon. The park boasts around 1200 trees, which alone are worth the visit. However, this place may not suit you if you seek a quiet day at the park. This is because the park is the most popular spot in Nagoya to enjoy hanami, and during the hanami party season, the park is packed with revelers. Approximately 90% of the visitors are drunk as a skunk, so if you plan to visit the park, make sure you’re ready to get very drunk and have fun with a large group of people or endure others who will. Tsuruma Park is the happening spot among the party people of Nagoya, so get there early to grab your spot and plan to be cozy with the neighbors!

Tsuruma Park, near Tsurumai Station (map link)

More Information

Cherry Blossom Forecast – Japan Guide
The Bloom of Cherry Blossoms (JNTO)

Image by: KKPCW, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons