A Cherry Blossom Picnic

Having lived in Japan, we fell in love with their spring tradition of o-hanami, a spring picnic under the cherry blossoms (sakura). In late March and early April, in parks, gardens and along river banks around Kyoto, famed for its cherry blossom, you would find o-hanami in full swing. Grandparents and grandchildren. Mums and dads. Lovers. Lots of students. Many in traditional kimonos. All out to celebrate the season’s snow-petal beauty with mochi (rice cakes), plum wine, rice balls…


The Japanese are so dedicated to the cherry blossoms (and autumn leaves) that there are whole magazines dedicated to the best places to spot them, and the weather forecast has a special section predicting and showing the height of the natural displays. The most famous tree in one of the main parks is reputed to be many hundreds of years old. It is a truly a national obsession, and shows a very romantic side to the Japanese temperament.

So now we have our own garden with not one but two cherry trees in, we have been watching in anticipation as the buds swelled, and now we have full blossom. In celebration, our cherry blossom fairy now takes pride of place on the nature table.

We have been learning the traditional Japanese cherry blossom song Sakura in preparation for the picnic. (See here for a link to the tune). 

sakura sakura
yayoi no sorawa
mi-watasu kagiri
kasumi ka kumo ka
nioi zo izuru
izaya izaya
mini yukan

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Across the Spring sky,
As far as you can see.
Is it a mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the air.
Come now, come,
Let’s look, at last!

This song holds dear memories for me. My father taught it to me as a child. I used to sing it as I cycled around Kyoto streets when we lived there. And then my father sang it for me at my wedding. So I have been delighted to hear my children going around singing it all day for weeks.

So we made sakura cupcakes (check out the recipe on my Queen of Puddings blog) and spring flower tea. We had our picnic under a grey sky with the snowy blossoms bobbing above our heads. And Timmy dressed up in his Chinese suit! 

The tea was a revelation: adults and kiddies loved it. It lifts the spirits in the making… and the drinking. We added wild primroses (the pale yellow ones, not the bright cultivated ones), violets, wild strawberry flowers and leaves, scented geranium leaves (but you could use lemon balm or lemon verbena instead) and, of course, cherry blossom to boiling water and left it steep for 10 minutes. Truly the taste of spring.


Happy o-hanami to you too!
  1. teresa
    teresa03-31-2011

    This is so beautiful and so much fun. I can’t wait to listen to the song.

  2. laangel
    laangel03-31-2011

    oh so lovely, would have loved to share it with you all x x
    I keep meaning to say thank you for my award, blogger has been a bitch to me lately and am finding it hard to get logged on. Thank you humbly my dear friend x

  3. Carol @ There's Always Thyme to Cook
    Carol @ There's Always Thyme to Cook04-02-2011

    That picnic would definitely lift my spirits! Patiently waiting for spring here but I can’t think of a nice tradition, lovely picnic! Beautiful cherry blossoms!

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