By Noemi Gamel
No one takes cherry blossom viewing as seriously as the Japanese people. They even have a verb to describe it: hanami, the art of viewing flowers. I was worried that we were not going to arrive in Tokyo in time for hanami, but fortunately that was not the case. We spent two nights at a hotel near Narita airport before interrupting our RTW trip with a brief trip to the US for job interviews.
On the morning of our only full day, we went to Sakura no Yama Park to hanami. The park was full of Japanese people who were there not only to view the cherry blossoms, but also to watch the airplanes from Narita airport arrive and take off. We felt like locals! We also felt like we were witnessing a very intimate, integral part of Japanese culture.
During cherry blossom season, the Japanese will take days off work to pack a picnic and come to different parks throughout the country to hanami. Most pack bento lunches, place a blanket on the grass under the trees, and enjoy the view for hours. We saw some hardcore cherry blossomers with tents, as the day was chilly, windy, and the skies threatened rain. Nevertheless, no one seemed bothered by the less than ideal weather.
Children ran around in the park. Young couples took selfies with the cherry blossoms. Multi-generational families ate together among the trees. We felt humbled and blessed to be part of this essential element of Japanese culture for the day.