News and Events

Botanical Buzz - Sakura

Monday, October 13, 2014

Enjoy a uniquely Japanese custom this weekend at Shoyoen, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden. Stroll amongst the spectacular cherry blossoms and participate in the ancient custom of hanami.

Hanami (Japanese for “flower viewing”) is the Japanese tradition of enjoying the beauty of cherry blossoms (sakura). In Japan, mature groves of cherry trees in full blossom look like soft, delicate and abundant clouds of petals. People flock to see them and experience the ephemeral loveliness. 

A typical hanami consists of holding an outdoor party under cherry blossom trees during the day or night. Food, beer and sake are enjoyed as visitors bask in the cherry blossoms that fall from the trees.

The tradition is widely believed to have started over twelve hundred years ago during the Nara Period. At that time farmers believed that the arrival of the cherry blossoms revealed omens which would impact upon the success of their crops. They prayed and offered food to the spirits of the trees.

During the Heian Period (794 to 1185) Emperor Saga acknowledged the custom with celebratory feasts and parties under the cherry trees in Kyoto's Imperial Court. While originally limited to Japanese royalty and the elite upper class, hanami spread to all citizens by the Edo Period in the early 1600's.

The cherry blossom was also considered an especially beautiful and important symbol for Japanese samurai because at the height of its beauty it would inevitably fall to the ground to die. Samurai also had to be willing to sacrifice themselves in their prime, and the cherry blossom was considered evidence that this is the natural way of things and could even be beautiful and pure.

Cherry blossoms only last for a brief time so plan your visit to Shoyoen within the next couple of days to ensure that you do not miss this spectacular and culturally significant display.

                                                                                                                           By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan