Hanami (meaning flower viewing) is the Japanese tradition of enjoying the natural beauty of flowers, almost always meaning the sakura (cherry blossoms). Although there are actually cherry blossoms elsewhere in the world, notably in Europe and North America, the sakura that bloom all over Japan have been deeply rooted in their history and culture since ancient times.
Starting down south in the Okinawa Islands from the start of February, this wave of blooming creeps north, reaching the main island of Honshu and spreading throughout the country from the end of March to early May. The first bloom is forecast each year by the weather bureau, and watched carefully by those planning hanami as the blossoms only last a week or two.
Having jumped on the sakura bandwagon for the last month and a half in Japan, we had noticed the cherry blossoms starting south in Kyushu and briefly in Fukuyama, Kyoto and Kobe. The official first bloom had finally arrived in Osaka.
The practice of hanami is many centuries old and evolved into the now famous annual flower-viewing parties the locals enjoy today. Thousands of people continue the tradition by gathering with friends, family and company coworkers in parks, riverbanks, temple grounds; anywhere the trees flower. Usually for a picnic while playing and listening to music (with a little sake on the side too!).
We took our own picnic, bought from the local convenience store. Don’t be shocked! The myriad of convenience stores all throughout Japan sell delicious bento boxes amongst all sorts of fresh sushi, salads, sandwiches and much more!
We settled on enjoying our hanami in the park grounds at Osaka Castle. Since we had visited the castle during our previous Japan trip, we knew it would be popular. And we weren’t wrong.
Strolling the grounds, we couldn’t resist laying eyes on the wonderful Osaka Castle again.
We also couldn’t leave Osaka without visiting Andrew’s long-time friend, Mio, for a delicious dinner of make-it-yourself takoyaki, a ball-shaped snack of wheat flour-based batter filled with diced octopus, pickled ginger and green onion.
An Osaka favourite that is enjoyed topped with a special brown sauce and mayonnaise with shavings of dried bonito fish. Yum!
Visited 31st March 2014.