History of Hanami

Sydney Herkner

Apr 04, 2024

It's the time of the year when people gather around and participate in the Hanami cherry blossom viewing festivals with their friends and family. Hanami, also known as おはなみ/お花見 in Japanese, is an ancient Japanese festival where you go to admire the beauty of the blooming cherry blossoms on the trees. It directly translates to “flower-viewing”. The hana in hanami means flower; hana ー> はな ー>花. The mi in hanami means to see, or in this case, to view; mi ー>みー>見. If you’re wondering why the o (お) is included – it’s added out of honor and respect for the event.


It's been said that Hanami was started in the Nara period, which took place from 710 B.C.E. to 794 B.C.E. But during this period, they would admire ume blossoms rather than cherry blossoms. Ume means plum in Japanese. It was only for aristocrats and those of higher status. But as time passed, it became more popular with lower-class citizens, and the attention gradually moved from ume blossoms (plum blossoms) to sakura blossoms (cherry blossoms). Hanami is depicted in the traditional Japanese print pictured below.

Yayoi asukayama hanami by Kitao small.jpg Yayoi asukayama hanami
by Shigemasa Kitao (1739-1820)

Currently, roughly 60 million people – natives and travelers – visit Japan to see these flowers bloom. This tradition has been honored by viewers for about 1,313 years! Crazy, right?

Fun Fact

Did you know that sakura trees blossom throughout the year in different parts of Japan? They can bloom as early as the beginning of January and bloom as late as November! For example, there are the Obara Shikizakura trees in Obara, Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture (Nagoya’s prefecture). You can admire the beautiful reds with the contrast of the light pink flowers against them. They even have their own festival in November when they are at peak bloom! It’s a perfect place to go if you’re unable to make it to Japan in the spring.

Siki-zakura.obara-toyotasi.jpg mannbow-mannbow, Wikimedia/Creative Commons

Of course, you can always enjoy the cherry blossoms at Cincinnati’s very own Ault Park. Ault Park has 1,000 trees that were gifted to Cincinnati Mayor Russell Wilson in the 1930s. They are always happy to be viewed in a respectful manner. Check last year’s article for the do’s and don'ts of Hanami etiquette!


Asianati is holding its third annual Hanami Picnic. There will be family-friendly activities and performances that the whole family will enjoy!

Saturday, April 6, 2024
Noon-3 pm
Ault Park’s Cherry Tree Grove
5090 Observatory Circle, Cincinnati, Ohio 45208