Hanami, or flower viewing, is a Japanese tradition dating back centuries. Hanami celebrates the transient beauty of flowers and traditionally centres around plum and sakura - cherry blossoms. But like many things in Japan, the tradition has evolved and modern day hanami has evolved into a great excuse for a party beneath the blossoms.
If you think it sounds like fun but you don't have the time or the budget to hit the land of the rising sun, fear not! While, at least for now, Canberra doesn't have a formal Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival), it does offer ample opportunity to host your own hanami party. Want to know how? Read on.
Best places for hanami in Canberra
1. Nara Peace Park
This park celebrates Canberra's sister city relationship with Nara, Japan and is the perfect place to experience the Japanese celebration of blossoms. The park has both plum and cherry blossoms and a landscaped Japanese garden. Perfect for a long afternoon hanami picnic.
2. Beijing Gardens
Right alongside the Nara Peace Park, the Beijing Gardens have weeping cherries which bloom very early, magnolias galore and a stand of blossoms backed by pines. Great for both picnics and walks.
Ornamental pear, Queen Elizabeth Terrace, Canberra
Ornamental pears are the blossom of choice here - while not traditionally celebrated, the pear blossoms here form a spectacular cascade of white running the length of Queen Elizabeth Terrace. Perfect for a hanami on the move, take a stroll past the blossoms and take in the beauty.
4. Forest 17 at the National Arboretum
This forest is home to Yoshino cherries which burst with delicate pink blossoms in the spring. Its located near the central valley between the main entrance road and the wide brown land sculpture.
5. Tulip Top Gardens
Probably the best option if you plan to really settle in and make a day of your hanami party. With a huge amount of blossoming trees and the added bonus of bulbs, bringing picnics is encouraged at Tulip Top. You can also pick up some local wine and listen to live music while you enjoy that transient blossoming beauty.
The cherry capital of Australia, Young is surrounded by field after field of cherry trees. These provide plenty of photo opportunities but if you want to really get into things, check out the Cherry Blossom Long Lunch - just get in early because this event sells out.
Cowra has some top class Japanese Gardens and every September, they host a one day cherry blossom festival with tea ceremonies, taiko drummers, ikebana, bonsai and plenty more. For details on this years date, schedule and ticketing, click here.
What to pack in your hanami picnic box
While Japan's hanami treats include plenty of goodies made with cherry blossom and even special sakura bento boxes which aren't available in Canberra, you can still find plenty of snacks to get into the hanami spirit.
The best place to get these sweet treats is Molchi - they offer bean paste, peanut butter and coconut versions and can be found most weekends at the Jamison Trash and Treasure Markets.
2. Bento boxes
While you may not find the sakura versions, a beautiful bento box is a perfect and portable option to enjoy among the blossoms. Lots of restaurants do takeaway versions so stock up and enjoy!
A staple hanami snack - either pick up some supplies at your local Asian grocer and make your own or just grab some to-go. Whichever you choose, these are a must try on your picnic list.
4. Japanese street foods
Yakitori, takoyaki, okonomiyaki - these salty, sweet, delicious Japanese street foods are just begging to be included on your hanami picnic menu.
5. Snacks and grog
For a huge selection of Japanese snack foods and liquor, head to Bestore in Mitchell and stock up - just remember, if you plan to enjoy some whiskey, Asahi or plum wine, check the rules for the location you plan to picnic.
The blossoms are fickle and you have to be a little bit flexible with planning. While Japan has whole reports dedicated to watching when the blooms will appear, in Canberra you'll just need to keep a lookout. Early blossoms appear in mid-August but the best times for blossom are September and early October.
And that's all there is to it - pick a place bursting with beautiful blossom, pack your picnic, get your friends together and have a happy hanami!