The literal translation for ohanamiis “flower viewing,” and more specifically, it is the custom of appreciating sakura (Japanese for cherry blossom). Sakuragot its namefrom“Konohana sakuya hime,” the goddess of blossoms in Japanese mythology. Her shrine is found on Mt. Fuji. There is a belief that cherry trees are holy, have magical powers and people are enchanted within sakura's breath.
In olden times, people believed that the rice gods lived within cherry trees. When in bloom, farmers, along with the rice gods who descended from the mountains, celebrated, ate, drank and prayed together for a prosperous harvest. The Heian period (794-1185) nobility gathered to enjoy viewing sakurawith food, sake and poetry writing. As cherry trees were planted all over Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868), ohanamibecame popular among the people.
Sakura profoundly appeals to Japanese aesthetics. Blooms burst then soon fall like a quiet storm. It is the ephemeral and beautiful nature of life. For centuries, sakurahas often been featured in many art forms such as Noh theater, music, poetry and paintings, as well as daily living items like kimono, tableware and so on.
For ohanami, people will enjoy a picnic underneath the cherry trees, eating hanami-dango (tricolor sweet rice dumplings on sticks), sakura-mochi (sweet rice dumpling stuffed with azuki paste and wrapped in an edible pickled cherry leaf), hanami bento (boxed lunch with an assortment of foods artistically arranged) and a beverage such as sake.
Let’s take a moment to enjoy the blooming flowers and feel the beauty of life!
Mariko Sensei's Corner is a Japanese Language Column. This is not a class, and there will be no tests. Our sole mission is to introduce some of Japanese culture with a bit of fun. Arigato Gozaimasu and please enjoy!