Travel, Teach, Live in Japan
During the beginning of the month of April, HANAMI season comes to Japan. The word HANAMI is literally translated into "flower watching." The flower of choice is the beautiful SAKURA, Japanese Cherry Blossom. If you have ever been to Washington, D.C., or even if you haven't, you have undoubtedly seen photos of the Cherry Trees given to the United States from Japan.
For the next few weekends, every city, state, and national park in Japan will be bustling with millions of Japanese people celebrating HANAMI. To celebrate is quite simple. Here is what you need:
1. A SAKURA (Cherry Blossom) Tree - Space is very limited, and this may actually be hard to find. Most businesses will send an employee out early in the morning to track down a "prime location" for their after work gathering! Good Luck finding a tree for yourself! And ONLY Sakura trees are used!
2. A GOZA (a plastic mat/picnic blanket) - This should be large enough for a group of 2 or more. Never do HANAMI by yourself. You are better off staying at home! The GOZA is used to protect you from the ground, bugs, etc. As always, Shoes are NOT ALLOWED on the GOZA, so take them off before sitting down!
3. OBENTOU (lunch box) - Okay, if you are with a signifcant other, family, or friends, HANAMI is potluck style. So, you need to pack something that you can share with everyone else. If with coworkers, the business will usually buy OBENTOU for everyone, so no need to worry...unless you don't like Japanese food! Some people also have YAKINIKU (Japanese barbecue).
4. OSAKE (liquor!) - Yep! HANAMI is not complete without Japanese Sake, beer, etc. This is a time for Japanese people to have fun, relax, and get a little "red in the face." Oh, and if, per chance, a SAKURA (cherry blossom) petal falls in your SAKE, it means Good Luck for You!
5. KAZOKU (family), TOMODACHI (friends), DOURYOU (coworkers) - These are a necessity for HANAMI. Again, while it is okay to do some things by yourself, HANAMI in Japan is NOT one of them!
Places with large a number of SAKURA trees will most likely have a set up similar to a county fair with numerous places to buy food, gifts, souvenirs, and alcohol. HANAMI can be done during the day or even at night. One of the most beautiful sights in Japan is a Cherry Blossom Orchard illuminated by floodlights in the middle of the night. This is known as YOZAKURA, or "nightime sakura." Be prepared for cold weather, because evenings in April can be quite chilly!
Regardless of whether you you are able to participate in HANAMI in Japan or not, take the time to have a meal outdoors with your friends, family, or coworkers. Step away from the humdrum of life and get outside to enjoy nature. Life is too busy and too short not to learn a valuable lesson from the Japanese people...
Troy S. Hogg