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Hanami in Washington, D. C

Published: March 22, 2019

Doesn't a picnic under blossoming cherry trees sound lovely?

Sakura blossoms

The Japanese custom of hanami, picnicking under a blooming sakura (cherry) or ume (plum) tree, has been observed for centuries.  It is said that it began with elite members of the Imperial Court in the  Nara period (710-794 CE) picnicking under ume trees.  Over time,  hanami became synonymous with cherry blossom viewing throughout Japan.  The cherry blossoms are considered a metaphor for the exquisitely beautiful, yet fleeting and transient nature of life, and the festival is an opportunity to reflect and enjoy nature.

It is also an opportunity to eat delicious food with friends and family.  The parks in Japan are filled with families, friends, and business colleagues gathering together to enjoy a picnic on a beautiful spring day.  In the evening, lights and lanterns are strung through the parks for yozakura (literally, night sakura).  Traditional hanami foods include hanami dango- tri-colored sweet dumplings and sakura mochi- a sweet, pink ball of mochi rice, wrapped in a cherry leaf.

Hanami dango

But even if you aren’t in Japan this Spring, you can still celebrate hanami!  The most famous hanami opportunity in the United States is in Washington, D.C.  In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo donated 3000 cherry trees in honor of the close bonds between the United States and Japan.  The 2019 Cherry Blossom Festival  just began on March 20, and will run until April 14, 2019. 

Whether or not you live near an organized festival, you can always gather your friends and plan a hanami picnic of your own.  In fact, we’d love to see our Mori No Ike friends celebrate!  Tag your hanami  photo with #morinoike, and we may feature it on our Instagram account @morinoike.