Hanami [花見] – Viewing Flowers
Hanami is a Japanese custom of “observing” the beauty of flowers in spring. It normally means cherry blossoms [桜 sakura], even though plum [梅 ume] is also popular, and also for most people it does usually mean having a picnic/party with family, friends and even colleges under the cherry blossom trees. In Japan, you are allowed to drink alcohol in public…
(Often it also means getting heavily drunk 🙂 )
Hanami / Sakura Matsuri [花見 / 桜祭り] – The Cherry Blossom Festival
Hanami / sakura festivals are usually held at parks and castles. This kind of event takes day to night. Night viewing of cherry blossoms is called Yozakura[夜桜] and these are illuminated using paper lanterns, it is a very romantic view and popular for couples and adults. There are also many stalls (food, drinks, etc….) open till late.
Hanami season ends when cherry blossoms fall. Cherry blossoms bloom from the end of March to early May on the main island, but the blooming starts in the southern parts (Okinawa) already in February.
The weather bureau announces the blossom forecast every year and hanami need to be carefully planed. Cherry blossoms last only a week or two. Very short.
Viewing Plum Blossoms / Umemi [梅見]
Blossoming Plum [Ume / 梅] flower marks start of spring.
Plum blossoms bloom from early February to March in the main island. People enjoy viewing plum blossoms and its fragrance.
Many parks, shrines and temples hold plum blossom festivals [Ume Matsuri / 梅まつり].