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Origin of Hanami (Cherry Blossom Viewing)

Somei Yoshino accounts for about 80% of Japan's cherry blossoms.

In spring, cherry blossoms, peaches, rape blossoms, and many other flowers are in full bloom, and there is much to see. Why, then, do we talk about cherry blossom viewing when Japanese people talk about hanami? It's because cherry blossoms have been synonymous with flowers since the Heian period (794 – 1185). In the Nara period (710 – 794), the word "hanami" referred to plum blossoms and bush clovers, by the way. The aristocrats of the Heian period were so enchanted by cherry blossoms that they began to enjoy cherry blossom viewing, compose poems and hold parties to enjoy the blossoms. For farmers, hanami was also an occasion to pray for a good harvest. It was believed that the god of rice fields went to the mountains in winter and returned to the villages in spring. The "sa" in "sakura (cherryblossom in Japanese)" refers to the god of rice and rice paddies and "kura" means the place where the god sits. The god of the rice paddies were welcomed and entertained under the cherry trees, and the harvest of the year was predicted by the way the cherry trees bloomed, and preparations were made to sow seeds during the cherry blossom period. Eventually, in the Edo period (1603-1867), hanami spread among the general public as a springtime pastime, and became a form of hanami that involved the sharing of sake. The third shogun, Iemitsu, planted cherry trees in Ueno, Tokyo, and the eighth shogun, Yoshimune, turned the Sumida riverfront and Asukayama into cherry blossom viewing spots. The improvement of varieties of cherry blossoms during this period of thriving horticulture made it possible to enjoy cherry blossom viewing in immediate surroundings.


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