Takada Castle Hanami party

Hanami is the Japanese word for a party under the cherry blossoms. Someone once told me that hanami is celebrating the cycle of life and the precarity of it since the blossoms, sakura, only last a couple weeks before falling to the ground. A foreigner told me this. Japanese, and my own experience from going to 4 hanami parties, tell me it’s just fun to drink under the beautiful blossoms.

My good friend Ross came to Japan a couple weeks ago to visit a few cities and, mainly, to ski. I went to go meet him in Tokyo and while we were checking out the shrine at Meijijingu we happened upon a huge hanami at Yoyogi park. The whole park was in blossom and there were families everywhere sitting on blue tarps, drinking wine and sake, taking photos and playing music from portable stereos.

We did the same thing again the following week near Ueno in Tokyo with my friend Hiroko. It was great fun. We met a bunch of new people and ended up at a small house party afterwards. The next week in Hiroshima we went to Koba rock bar and the owner, Bom, invited us to his hanami party the next day. This was the hardest partying hanami of the three we had been to. It took place right along one of the beautiful canals only a few hundred metres from where the atomic bomb was dropped.

My 4th hanami of the season was at Takada castle. Japanese castles usually involve a large square moat with a high rock wall and the castle is really more of a multi-story wooden house than a stone European-style castle. The huge grounds of the castle had 4000 cherry trees in a beautiful white blossom and many of them were lit up with pink or purple lights. It was a really stunning sight and ripe for photo taking. Apparently the rest of Niigata prefecture thinks so too as it was overwhelmingly busy. The main difference between this and the other hanami I had seen was 200 or so vendors of food and alcohol and cake-on-a-stick, which had a line of about 50 people. Sadly I never got my cake-on-a-stick and had to settle for meat-on-a-stick.