Time edges closer to the much anticipated blossoming pink sakura season. Long days will be filled with picnicking around falling blossoms and gazing over pink covered petalled ponds. The hype for cherry blossom season in Japan can’t be compared to another event. As tourists, both domestic and international flock to famed viewing areas like Nakameguro.
As we enter the season, it is important to be aware of Japan’s cherry blossom etiquette. Japan has a unique set of manners that must be followed to avoid daggering glances and passive exhales. To avoid making faux pas, here is your ultimate list of don’ts during the beautiful pink sakura season!
Mindfulness of personal cultural differences and respecting Japanese customs and traditions are essential. So, keeping that in mind, where can you seek cherry blossoms?
Sakura viewing spots are often found in public areas, parks, and river banks. However, you can also find carefully groomed blossoming trees at Shinto shrines and temples. Although these areas are open to the public, they are still significant and sacred places that should treated with respect. It’s essential to follow any rules or guidelines posted at these locations, such as no smoking, no littering, and no loud yelling or speaking. At these locations, it is frowned upon to set up a picnic, so if you get sudden hunger pangs, make sure to have your snacks off the premises.
This should go without saying, but it is considered disrespectful to climb onto the sakura branches whether it’s at a local park or at shrine. Both white and pink sakura blossoms are incredibly delicate and should be admired from a distance with eyes only.
When picnicking under the sakura trees, be considerate of others. Some popular sakura viewing spots can get crowded, so it’s essential to be mindful of your surroundings and take up only a little space. Having a picnic is a great way to enjoy the limited edition sakura foods and drinks, but make sure to have spare bags for your trash. In Japan, separating trash is essential, and having at least three different bags for the garbage is a must.
One for general trash, one for cans, and one for glass and plastic bottles. Some public areas do not have access to trash areas either, so be ready to carry your garbage too. And under no circumstances dump the trash. This is both for etiquette and for the legibility of it. Otherwise, you may have to have a few words with the local police. So, clean up after yourself and dispose of any trash properly!
Photography is popular during the pink sakura season, so it’s important to be respectful when taking photos. Avoid blocking other people’s view or getting too close to the sakura for a photo. Be aware of any rules or guidelines regarding photography at a particular location, especially at shrines and temples. It’s also important to respect people’s privacy and not take photos of people without their permission! Just ask if you want to take some pictures.
While you’re out enjoying the blossoms, you’ll notice that it is popular for people to bring their much-loved pets for a sakura photoshoot. And although the Shiba inu dressed up in a pink jacket may be the cutest thing you have ever seen in your life, check before you snap! Just ask if you can take a photo. Here is a simple phrase in Japanese you can use in this situation:
“Shashin wo totte mo ii desu ka?”
(Is it OK to/may I take a photo?)
Or for a simpler version that can still be understood:
“Shashin ii desu ka?”
Being aware of personal privacy is vital in Japan. Make sure you ask ahead before taking a photo because the worst thing they can say is no!
The cherry blossom season is such a much-awaited occasion. Due to it being a special event, it is common practice to see people wearing traditional clothing such as kimonos or yukatas. As a tourist, it is perfectly fine to join in on the festivities and rent a kimono or yukata to walk amongst the blossoms. However, feel free to wear regular clothing too! Keeping that in mind, it is still important to dress respectfully. Japan is all about the art of subtlety, so avoid wearing clothing with offensive graphics or texts.
The pink sakura season is a popular time for tourists to visit Japan, but it’s essential to be aware of proper etiquette when visiting sakura viewing spots. Respect Japanese customs and traditions, be considerate of others, always take your trash with you, dress respectfully, be mindful of photography etiquette, and most importantly, be respectful of those around!
Following these guidelines and etiquette rules ensures that everyone can enjoy the sakura in a respectful and enjoyable way. Remember to enjoy the fleeting beauty of the pink sakura season and take home beautiful memories, not just pictures!
What etiquette surprised you the most? Did we cover etiquette around the sakura season? Let us know in the comments below!
Tokyo based writer that's very enthusiastic about snacks, treats and all things sweet!
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