Hanami or “flower viewing” is a traditional Japanese practice in which people enjoy the transient beauty of flowers. Typically, the flowers are sukura or cherry blossoms less popular are the ume or plum blossoms.
As this activity and the related festivals or parties are reliant on nature the few weeks when the flowers are in bloom varies from year to year. The Japanese weather bureau has traditional published a blossom forecast which is watched carefully by those who plan hanami.
In Japan today, hanami are typically outdoor parties that take place under sakura during the day and at night. At night they are called yozakura, this term is typically used by the larger festivals. At these yozakura paper lanterns or lights are strung near and weaved into the blossoms so revelers can view them in the darkness.
Often the sakura parties are crowded and noisy, typically filled with younger people. Older crowds sometimes enjoy the more ancient hanami, ume, or plum blossom viewing.
Although these gatherings have been canceled this year in Japan, traveling there to view the sakura and witness the festivals is worth the trip. If Japan is a little too far many places in the United States also celebrate cherry blossom festivals such as Washington D.C.’s National Cherry Blossom Festival and Brooklyn New York’s Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.