Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sakura in Ueno Koen

In Ueno, some of the cherry trees were already in full bloom, and there were lots of people there watching the flowers. Cherry blossom viewing, hanami (from "hana" - flower, and "mi" - seeing), is a huge thing in Japan. People go out in large groups and sit under the trees and drink lots of alcohol. There are special "sakura reports" (sakura are cherry blossoms in Japanese) on TV showing how far up the country the line of blossoming cherry trees has moved each day, and prognoses telling you when the trees will be in full bloom where you live. In Sapporo, we are about 6 weeks behind the Tokyo area...

There were of course lots of other people in Ueno watching the flowers. We saw some interesting looking people, and lots of normal looking ones. Since it was a weekday and during working hours, it was not that crowded, though.

In Sapporo, hanami means barbecue. Specifically barbecued lamb. Other things are eaten too, but pretty much everyone brings a grill and barbecues things under the cherry trees. This is only allowed during the cherry blossom season, at other times barbecue in the park is strictly forbidden. In other parts of Japan they apparently do not have this barbecue custom. They buy bento (something like ready to eat lunch boxes) or other ready to eat food and bring that with them.

Around Sapporo, going to the sea also means barbecue. Most people go to the sea and never swim or even dip their feet in the water, they just go there for barbecue. This is weird to me, and apparently it is weird to a lot Japanese people from other parts of Japan too.

My sister in law was asked by a foreign tourist if she could take a photo of her with her camera. When I tried to take a photo of this happening, another foreigner came up to me and asked me to take a photo of him with his iPhone.
Me and my brother, apparently being "annoying"
Lots of people had selfie sticks.
Tokyo style hanami apparently means sitting on asphalt, which looks uncomfortable. In Sapporo, people sit on grass.
The Japanese "look like a doll" fashion

Hanami results in lots and lots of garbage, so the hanami season is one of the few times when it is easy to find a trash can in Japan. Normally you are expected to take your garbage back home and throw it away there, but this does not work with the huge amounts produced during hanami by the large number of extremely drunk people.
They had some festival food on sale too, so I bought something which was "gooey rice on a stick, wrapped in meat".

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