Today our local park is full of people enjoying お花見 o-hanami—flower viewing.
Here in Osaka, the flowering cherry trees are almost 満開 mankai—in full bloom this weekend. Because of the record cold weather, the blossom is about 2 weeks later than usual.
People come to the park early in the morning, before 8 o’clock, to “stake out” their place under the trees.
In our local park, the タープ taapu—tarpaulin spread out on the ground is considered sufficient to reserve a space. Some spaces are reserved by literally roping off an area. I understand that in other locations, a person needs to be present to hold the space, and sometimes a young employee is sent to sit in the park all day to keep a space for his colleagues.
By 9 o’clock the park is starting to fill up with people. They bring picnic baskets, cooler boxes, portable barbecues, folding chairs, wind shelters and lots of beer.
Because hanami is not entirely about appreciating the beauty and impermanence of the flowers. It’s a celebration of spring with lots of food and drink, an occasion when it’s acceptable to drink lots of alcohol in public. In some places the area is lit and the celebrations continue after dark.
While the colour of the season is definitely pink, with pink sakura yoghurt, pink sakura pickles, and so on, the individual petals are definitely white. Only when seen as a mass of blossom do they take on their characteristic pale pink hue.
Note on the word of the day:
桜 sakura—cherry, refers to the cherry tree or its blossom, but not the fruit as it does in English. A cherry is called さくらんぼ sakuranbo. The left-hand side of the character is the “tree” radical. The character was formerly written like this: 櫻, with two “shell” symbols and a “woman” on the right-hand side. This “shell” radical is very often found in characters with money-related meanings.
花見 hanami literally means “viewing flowers”, combining the kanji 花 hana—flower and 見 mi—see.
When pronouncing these and other Japanese words, each syllable should receive equal emphasis. For example sa ku ra, not “saKUra”.