= Nee ohanami ni ikanai?
= Hey, do you want to go see the cherry blossoms?
= Odango wa aru no?
= Are there “odango” (= sweet dumpling)
After a long cold winter, I finally feel the hint of spring in the air.
Spring in Japanese is
春 = haru
= Haru wa mou soko made kite imasu.
= Spring is just around the corner.
It’s my favorite season.
If you are planning to come to Japan, it would be nice to visit in the spring. It’s a great chance to see our beautiful cherry blossoms.
Today’s guest teacher is Basil Farrow. Remember him in ググるLesson? And this lesson is for his mom, La Carmina, the coolest Japan Goth blogger/TV reporter/author/journalist around. She will be hosting a Belgian TV documentary in Tokyo about what else? Cherry blossom season!
(Go check her website La Carmina It is REALLY cool!!)
So this lesson is about 桜 = sakura = cherry blossoms!
OK, here we go!
First of all, the above mentioned cherry blossoms are known, in Japanese as:
桜 = さくら = sakura
In Japanese flower(s) is 花 = hana
So cherry blossoms flowers are called
桜の花 = sakura no hana
Other related words:
•桜の花が咲く= sakura no hana ga saku = cherry blossoms bloom
or 桜の花びらが散る = sakura no hanabira ga chiru = the petals of cherry blossoms flutter down
•In olden days, we sent telegrams to announce whether or not someone had passed theie exams or not. If they pass them, the telegrams says サクラサク= sakura saku = He/she passed the exam and if they fail, it says サクラチル= sakura chiru
• A fake customer or decoy, by the way, is called サクラ = sakura.
= Watashi ga sakura ni natte kite ageyou ka?
= You want me to be a fake customer (for you and help you) to get real customers?
•花吹雪 = hana fubuki ＝shower of blossom
(The literal meaning of 吹雪 = fubiki is snow shower)
They start to bloom in late March and last through the beginning of April.
Sadly, they only last for about a week.
When the cherry blossoms start to bloom we say,
•桜の花が咲き始める= sakura no hana ga saki hajimeru
A more formal way to say the same thing,
•桜の花が開花する= sakura no hana ga kaika suru
= cherry blossoms come into bloom
Every spring, we hear the following on the weather report,
= Tokyo de no sakura no kaika sengen
= The official declaration of blooming cherry blossoms in Tokyo
= sakura no kaika yosou
= estimation for blooming of cherry blossoms
= sakura no kaika joukyou
= the blooming cherry blossom report
There are many kinds of cherry blossoms (over 200 kinds!!) but when they talk about this forecast, they are based on cherry blossoms called ソメイヨシノ = somei yoshino.
The line connecting all the 桜の開花予想日 ( = sakura no kaika yosoubi) of Japan is called 桜前線 = sakura zensen = cherry blossoms front
Every year, we hear on the weather report saying
= Sakura zensen ga hokujou shiteimasu.
= The cherry blossom front is moving north.
(Note: Since Japan is a long island, cherry blossoms first start to bloom in the south = 南= minami )
We describe the way they bloom as follows,
•五分咲き = gobuzaki = to bloom about 50 pct
•七部咲き= hichibu zaki = to bloom about 70 pct
•八部咲き = hachibu zaki = to bloom about 80 pc
•満開 = mankai = full bloom (八分咲き = hachibuzaki is considered to be 満開 = mankai = full bloom)
So the weather forecast announce both
•開花予想日 = kaika yosoubi = estimated date for blooming
•満開予想日= mankai yosoubi = estimated date for full bloom
You can enjoy cherry blossoms in many places in Japan.
Temples, parks, river sides, mountains, etc.
but the famous locations that you can see beautiful cherry blossoms are called
•桜の名所 = sakura no meisho
They are places where you can enjoy cherry blossoms illuminated by the lights at night.
•夜桜= yozakura = cherry blossoms at night
Ex. 夜桜を見に行く = yozakura wo mini iku = to go see cherry blossoms at night
Viewing cherry blossoms is called
•花見 = hanami
•お花見 = ohanami (more polite)
Usually when we say 花 ( = hana) it refers to flowers in general but when we say 花見 ( = hanami) it almost always refers to cherry blossoms (or occasionally 梅の花= ume no hana = Japanese plum)
•お花見をする = (o) hanami wo suru = to view flowers
•お花見に行く = (o) hanami ni iku = to go see flowers
It is said that this cherry blossom viewing tradition started in the 7th century or perhaps even earlier.
When we say 花見 ( = hanami) cherry blossom viewing 2 types of activities spring to mind.
One type of 花見 ( = hanami) focuses on appreciating the beauty of the cherry blossoms themselves.
Many cherry blossoms viewing areas have a lot of 屋台 = yatai = food stands
In addition people bring their own drinks and food and have little picnics under the trees
or they have drinking parties under the trees.
•宴会 = enkai = drinking party
•花見酒＝hahami zake = drinking sake viewing cherry blossoms
Since everybody wants to have a drinking party under the beautiful cheery blossoms tree, it is always hard and hard to get a good spot.
•場所取り = basho to(do)ri = to keep the place (for 花見 = hanami)
Many companies send their 新入社員 ( = shinnyuushainn) = new comers as its 幹事 = kanji = party organizer to stake out a good spot. It’s not uncommon for them to go there early in the morning or even the night before the party!
So for a lot of people 花見 ( = hanami) means to eat and drink near the cherry blossoms.
If you haven’t seen the lessons I made regarding drinking or alcohol related Japanese, you might wan to check those lessons now.
Although Japanese have an international reputation for being shy and reserved, you will be surprised to see all the crazy antics that the Japanese people get up to as they drink, sing and dance under the beautiful flowers.
(I know, I know…. we have a very square image but once we get loosened up… it is out of control!)
For many Japanese, it is more fun to eat and drink than enjoy the flowers.
It is called
花より団子 = hanayori dango = dumpling rather than flowers
From the picture above:
= Nee, ohanami ni ikanai?
= Hey, do you want to go see the cherry blossoms?
= Odango wa aru no?
= Are there “odango” (= sweet dumpling) ?
So this is a
団子 = dango = dumpling called 花見団子 = hanami dango
A typical hanami dango has three different colored dumplings on a stick.
They are made of sweet sticky rice.
(Each color represents a season. White = snow → winter, pink = cherry blossoms → spring, and green = plants and trees → summer)
We also eat
桜餅 (= sakuramochi) in spring
The outside leaf is a real salted cherry blossom leaf and you eat it,too.
You will also see a lot of other sakura related food or items in Japan in April.
•桜ごはん = sakura gohan = light pink rice cooked with salted cherry blossom,
•桜ワイン= sakura waine = cherry blossoms wine,
•桜茶 = sakuracha =cherry blossoms tea
(Note: This tea is considered to be good luck and and we serve it at engagement gathering, etc.)
There are even cakes with cherry blossoms flowers.
We also have tea cups, plates, table mats with cherry blossom design, etc. etc.
For many Japanese people 桜 = sakura = cherry blossoms are very special flowers.
Some think that it is because 桜 = sakura only last for a short period of time. The beauty of the flowers won’t last long and it reminds you how short life is.
But more than anything with the appearance of cherry blossoms, we feel the coming of spring, and they also symbolize a new start of the school year.
Most Japanese schools start in spring. (So if you are born on March 31 and your friend is born on April 1st, you two will end up being one year apart at school.)
Usually 卒業式 = sotsugyoushiki = graduation ceremonies are held in late March and 入学式(=nyuugakushiki = entrance ceremonies are held in the beginning of April.
Many school yards have cherry blossoms so that it is customary for new students, especially new first graders (小学校一年生 = shougakkou ichinensei) to have their pictures taken beneath the cherry blossom trees.
The image of sakura is not only associated with new school years but also corresponds with the time new employees start to work at Japanese companies as freshmen or freshwomen.
桜の季節 = sakura no kisetsu = cherry blossom season is a season to meet new people and also say good-bye to students.
Some graduate from the University or high school and start to work in spring.
Not just students but some businessmen also get transferred to new branches every spring.
There are tons of songs related to 桜 = sakura = cherry blossoms
This song is a very traditional one.
Almost all Japanese learn this song when they get to elementary school.
さくらさくら(or さくら）= sakura sakura (or sakura)
= Ato suushuukan de kireina sakura ga arayuru tokoro de miraremasu.
= In a few more weeks, you will be able to see beautiful cherry blossoms everywhere.
= Minasan mo zehi kono kisetu ni “odango” wo tabe nihon ni kite kudasaine.
= Come to Japan in this season and eat “dumplings”!
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