By Natalie Laber
One of my top three favorite things* about Japan is the culture around cherry blossoms. I love the fascination with a beautiful bloom made even more exquisite by its delicate and fleeting nature, a symbol not only of spring but of the wonder and fragility of life itself. Also, I think they’re really pretty and I’m a sucker for any and all sakura-themed merch.
It follows, then, that hanami is one of my favorite events of the year. So of course, like an IDIOT, I scheduled a vacation to Kansai for Golden Week, which is when the Aomori cherry blossoms will be in full bloom and the ones down south will have long fallen from their branches, crushed underfoot much like all of my hopes and dreams when I realized my folly.
Nevertheless, I come to you today with a list of tips and tricks to doing hanami right, based on my personal experience and also the internet.
Do: check out this list, although I probably don’t have to tell you that because you’re a faithful reader of GMA and have already pored through this post multiple times, right? Any of these places would be dope. Pictured above is Hirosaki Castle, where I hear they grow extra ichiban premium sakura bud, so that’s my osusume.
Don’t: just bring a blanket and bento to the first random sakura tree you see on the street. No disrespect to the random trees, though. You should still show them love because the rest of the year they’re not much to look at. But don’t picnic somewhere weird. You don’t have to settle, just go to a real park.
Food and Drink
Do: pack your preferred lunch and also a bag for trash because this is Japan. And if you’re going to bring alcohol, research beforehand whether or not you’re allowed to. Also, don’t drink and drive.
Don’t: buy a bottle of sake and a six pack of beer and then show up to Shinjuku Gyoen where they definitely don’t allow alcohol. And then if you do end up in that scenario, for the love of Jesus don’t abandon the line you waited in for half an hour, skulk around in the residential area outside the park walls, decide to stash your alcohol in a bush where one of the neighbors definitely saw you do it and stared as you ran away, go back to Shinjuku Gyoen for hanami but then exit from a different gate than the one you entered so you can never get back to the alcohol you stashed. Common mistake.
Do: wear something comfortable and cute, and bring a jacket.
Don’t: forget your jacket. I mean it. You’ll get cold. And if it’s warm enough that you don’t need to wear it, now you have a jacket that you can sit on to protect your butt from the hard ground because goodness knows those flimsy little tarp things they sell super cheap for hanami will barely get the job done.
In closing, I would like to leave you with this faithfully translated and very #relatable haiku by Matsuo Basho:
木のもとに | ki no moto ni
汁も膾も | shiru mo namasu mo
桜かな | sakura kana
petals falling everywhere
* The other two things are instant yakisoba and the fact that the shorthand for the fast food chain First Kitchen is ファッキン.