Hanami - Cherry Blossom Festival
Spring is one of the best times of year to be in Japan, as the temperature is warm but not hot and there’s not too much rain. The spring starts with the famous cherry blossoms, the time for picnics and festivities.
Hanami can be just a stroll in the park, but in present-day Japan, Hanami mostly consists of having a picnic party under the blooming Sakura trees during daytime or at night. Hanami at night is called Yozakura "夜桜 = night Sakura".
People gather wherever the flowering trees are found such as castles and parks. In many places like Osaka Castle and Ueno Park temporary paper lanterns are hung for the occasion of Yozakura.
The blossom forecast is announced each year by organizations such as Japan Weather Association, and is watched carefully by those planning Hanami as the blossoms only last for a short time, usually no more than two weeks. The first cherry blossoms happen early February in the subtropical southern Islands of Okinawa. In cities like Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo normally the cherry blossom season takes place near the end of March and early April. On the northern Island of Hokkaido they bloom around end of April and early May.
Usually, people go to the parks to celebrate Hanami with family, friends and company coworkers. In popular places, sometimes in early hours of the morning or even a day before, a picnic spot must be reserved by spreading a picnic sheet. The sheet must be marked with the group’s name, or just have somebody stay there until the rest of the group arrives.