What a Japanese cherry blossom party is really like

It’s cherry blossom season in Japan and social media is awash with stunning photos of the Sakura blooms across the country.

I lived in Tokyo back in the mid-eighties and I can vouch that it’s an exciting time to be in Japan.

The nightly news features special segments tracking the path of the blossoms from the southernmost part of Japan to the north.

And everyone gets ready for hanami, the traditional Japanese custom of enjoying the transient beauty of the blossoms.

Roughly translated hamani means ‘flower viewing’, which conjures up a vision of people strolling under the flowering trees in quiet contemplation.

In reality it’s just an excuse to have a picnic party under a tree with lots of food and drink and getting roaring drunk.

Cherry Blossom party in 80s Japan (Peter Moore)

There was only one cherry tree in the park closest to where I lived and the locals took turns having a party under it.

Each evening when I came home from work a different family or group of work colleagues were writing themselves off under the tree and each evening they’d wave for me to come over and join in.

Sometimes there was a blanket on the ground. Other times it was just a bit of plastic or a sheet of cardboard.

There was always lots of food. And even more bottles of sake.

My local cherry tree wasn’t anything to write home about. Just a single tree in a scruffy park with parking spaces at the back.

But each evening (and weekend) during the fleeting Sakura season, it was party central in my little corner of Tokyo.

And some of the most fun I had during my time there.

About Author /

Australian travel writer and podcaster with a funny way of looking at the world.

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