In Japan, watching the Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) bloom is a sport. The Japanese celebrate by having Hanami picnics all over the country where the trees are in bloom. They spread out blue tarps on the ground under the trees and spend hours and hours eating and drinking and watching the flowers of the trees above. Families celebrate; friends celebrate; office-mates
celebrate – everyone does it. “Where are you doing Hanami this year?” is a popular question. In offices, the boss sends out the most junior associate to stake out the best spot and sit in it until the rest of his colleagues are ready to leave work. Food ranges from onigiri (Japanese rice balls) to sandwiches to elaborate bento specially prepared for the occasion. Wine, Sake and beer are all in large supply for everyone and anyone. Everyone shares. There is all manner of dress – from the formal to the casual. Some of the outfits on the women were unreal in their complexity and attention to detail. As usual, all outfits are not complete until the shoes are considered. The irony is that no one is allowed to put shoes on the blue tarps so you see picnic areas covered with the tarps and the edges of the tarps littered by shoes.
The picnic foods you see in Japan are always entertaining. They go through great lengths to ensure that meals are portable, well balanced and neatly packaged. Obento lunches are common – perfectly boxed little bits of perfection that contain artfully arranged bits of veggies, meat and rice. The Japanese, always environmentally conscious and clean conscious, carry their trash home because there are no litter receptacles in the park. What you bring in, you bring out. It’s a fascinating concept and a wonderful idea. We spent our Hanami Saturday in Arisugawa Park in the Minami Azabu section of Tokyo and it was relaxing to simply while away the hours with friends, drinking and eating and drinking again while the kids all played. There are no expectations or complaints. It was time to just sit and watch the blossoms bloom. In a city of people who spend their time rushing hither and yon, this is a refreshing break from reality. It’s time to work hard at relaxing.
(photos taken by Debra Reiskind Bajaj)