In Japan, a "hanami" party usually consists in having a meal and some drinks under a cherry tree to enjoy a view of the blossoms. Let's learn about the proper etiquette and manners to observe when taking part in a Japanese cherry blossom viewing party so that you can truly enjoy the event without inconveniencing others.
1. Do not touch the cherry tree
Cherry trees are very delicate. You may see people bend the branches of a cherry tree and place them in their hair as if they were hairpins, but this is a no-no. Cherry trees have to fight foreign enemies that enter through the wound on the branch just like the skin of an injured human would have to. In some cases, that small wound may cause the whole tree to decay. Of course, climbing on the trees is out of the question. Small kids may feel especially attracted to climbing and hanging from the branches of the trees, so stay aware of the proper etiquette to teach them otherwise.
2. Be considerate when it comes to securing a place
In order to really enjoy viewing the cherry blossoms, you will need to find a spot with a nice view. There are even people who set out very early in the morning so that they will be able to secure a good spot. Everybody wants to enjoy the cherry blossoms from a good spot, so please be considerate and do not take more space than necessary or steal someone else's spot. Do not hang ropes from the branches of the cherry trees either, as these may hurt the trees.
3. Check whether it is OK to use fire, and be extra careful with it
If you are going to use fire during your hanami party, make sure in advance whether you are actually allowed to do so. There are probably a lot of people who would like to use fire to cook during an outdoor hanami, so that they can have hotpots, barbecues, or hot sake, but it is actually forbidden to use fire in most public parks. Even if you are in a place where you are allowed to use fire, be extra careful about it, since carelessness can result in the fire getting out of control, and the smoke and ashes could bother those around you.
4. The congestion is inevitable! Line up with plenty of time if you need to use the restroom
Eating and drinking will inevitably result in you needing to use the restroom halfway through your hanami party. However, most hanami spots tend to have a very limited number of restrooms. Lines get especially long for women, and it is not rare to have to wait for several tens of minutes. In famous cherry viewing spots in the mountains or along rivers, there are no restrooms available. It is part of your duty as a grownup to check in advance for places with a restroom and the number of these around your hanami venue. And if you feel like you may have to go to the restroom, it is a good idea to not wait until you cannot wait anymore to line up, but rather to just go whenever you find one.
5. Avoid trouble caused by drinking too much
When you are having fun drinking together with friends, it is easy to drink way more than you would at a regular drinking party in an izakaya. Every year, there are many adults who cause trouble to the ones around them during the hanami season by getting into drunk fights that need police intervention, or by drinking so much that they need to be taken to a hospital in an ambulance. Pay attention to how much you are drinking, sit back and take it slowly so that you can truly enjoy the event. And if a drunk person tries to get your attention, do not engage.
6. Take responsibility for your garbage
The garbage problem is almost inevitable when it comes to hanami locations. Big parks and other large hanami venues usually have garbage cans available. If you are throwing the garbage out in a public place like this, make sure that you separate it properly. In addition, sometimes the provided garbage cans are not enough, and they overflow with garbage. If that is the case, try and take home with you as much of your own garbage as you can (the lunch box, plastic bottles, other disposable tableware, etc.). You do not want to be the one to ruin the beautiful view.
Nowadays, people from all over the world come to Japan during the season of the cherry blossoms. It would be nice if all of them, including the Japanese, would learn and stay aware of these simple guidelines so that everybody can enjoy a hanami party in a beautiful mood to match the cherry blossoms.