Hanami Festival Reminds Smithies that Spring is Upon Us

Hannah Carlson '15Contributing Writer

The Sazanami Japanese Culture Club hosted the Hanami Flower Viewing Festival on Sunday, April 14. “Hanami,” Japanese for “flower viewing,” is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers – typically cherry blossoms or plum blossoms – during the one to two weeks they are in bloom. The tradition is so important in Japan that the weather bureau carefully monitors the blossoms, and a blossom forecast is announced to predict when Hanami will be held. The event usually includes outdoor gatherings in parks where friends and family come together to celebrate the end of winter and arrival of springtime with celebrations that often including eating traditional Japanese foods, drinking and musical performances.

The Hanami event at Smith included a number of musical performances with traditional Japanese instruments. Smith campus has several cherry blossom trees of its own around campus, and their locations were provided on a map in the event programs. In addition to musical performances, the Sazanami Club held an origami workshop and showed students how to wear a yukata, or an article of traditional Japanese clothing that bears resemblance to a kimono but is typically worn in warmer weather. What drew the most students was the delicious food provided, including a traditional vegetable curry and a mochi sundae bar with Japanese sweets like red bean curd, sweet soy sauce and fruits.

The program of musical performances began with the Mountain River Taiko Community Group. This ensemble consisted of three musicians who played a traditional Japanese drum, fue and shamisen, or a bamboo flute and stringed instrument. Such music is often played during Hanami festivals in Japan where people dance in addition to enjoying delicious food offerings. For those unfamiliar with contemporary Japanese music, the experience was quite impressive.

First-year Yvonne Ho, who attended the event, commented, “I was familiar with the Hanami festival before I came to Smith. I think it’s a wonderful idea for the Sazanami club to bring the tradition to campus. Regardless of your cultural background, it’s nice to take a moment out of our busy school lives to celebrate changes in the seasons, especially in the beauty of [the] Smith campus. I was really impressed by the number of musical performances I saw and I would never pass up a mochi sundae.”

For those who might have missed the Hanami festival, spring has only just begun and the cherry blossom trees on the Smith campus are still blooming. There are several of these beautiful trees planted around the Japanese tea hut and Paradise Pond.