April is cherry blossom time in Japan. Even though we are a little late for the peak of the season, it is a time when it seems that all of Japan is out enjoying the spectacle of the blooms. They do this by having “hanami” parties – food and drinks under a cherry tree. Of course, such an event would not be complete with its own etiquette and manners.
Do not touch the cherry tree
Cherry trees are delicate. Bending and breaking off branches is a no-no. This leaves the tree vulnerable to disease which may cause it to decay. Diseases enter the tree through the “wound” in the tree. Children climbing the trees and hanging things like ropes from the branches is also frowned upon.
Be considerate when finding a spot for your party
Some people set out very early in the day to secure a good spot from which to enjoy the cherry blossoms. The Japanese are very considerate and do not take up more room than they need, so that everyone can enjoy the occasion.
Check the rules about open flames
Many people like to cook outdoors at a hanami party. Check the rules about this in the location you intend to go to. With so many people gathered together, the use of fire has an increased risk so if allowed, careful management is required.
Congestion in the restroom lines
With so many people out having hanami parties, there will be a lot of people needing to use the restrooms. Expect a long wait, and plan accordingly.
Avoid trouble from being inebriated
Like all parties, people like to have alcoholic drinks as they enjoy their time together. Hanami season is no different. Drunken fights are unwelcome especially in the crowded areas where hanami parties are set.
Take your garbage with you
Big parks and other hanami venues have limited facilities for disposing of rubbish. In Japan, there are strict guidelines about rubbish disposal, requiring it to be separated into different bins for recycling. If these are full, it is best to take your rubbish with you and dispose of it elsewhere. The Japanese would suggest that it is better to not be the person who ruined a beautiful view.
Engaging in the lifestyle
The Japanese people have a great appreciation for the aesthetic – in the way things are kept meticulously. The streets, public places and public transport are all neat and clean. It is the way the people in this country relate to others with consideration. By living by their rules, is one way to engage in the cultural experience of Japan.