It's officially cherry blossom season! And that means hanami time :)
Hanami (花見) literally means "flower viewing" and it's a Japanese custom of enjoying and appreciating the beautiful cherry blossoms, typically by gathering with friends and family and having a lovely picnic with Japanese bento under the cherry blossom trees.
Hanami is a fun and wonderful time - we at Zusetsu truly miss it as we had to cancel our Kyoto flights this time last year! For many of us, this spring is still looking a bit different from typical years, but we still want to embrace the hanami spirit and have a good time with new friends - and so this year we’re celebrating online with our furoshiki workshop, hanami edition! :) You can find out more about it here!
The Cherry Blossoms of Omuro at Kyoto in Spring by Tokuriki Tomikichiro
Cherry Blossoms in Japanese Poetry
Cherry blossoms have long been revered and loved by the Japanese. The following poem was collected in the Kokinshuu: the anthology of Japanese poems that was compiled in the early tenth century:
Are they not like
this fleeting world?
no sooner do they flower
than they fall.
Tosa Mitsunobu, Under the Cherry Blossoms (Hana no En)
Of course hanami has to have a romantic connection to those Heian courtiers of the Kyoto court over a thousand years ago. In those days, hanami was largely an activity for the aristocracy. It wasn’t for another 500 years (late-15th century) that it became an anticipated event for everyone.
From Tales of Ise:
The Cherry Blossom Banquet:
Long ago, the man [Ariwara no Narihira] recited a poem upon being summoned to attend the Cherry Blossom Banquet at the palace of the mother of the crown prince.
I never tire of the blossoms
that each year
I must bid farewell to,
but never with such poignancy
as I part from them tonight.
Mono no aware
The two Heian era poems above perfectly demonstrate the Japanese concept of mono no aware. Mono no aware describes the poignant beauty of things. It’s an idea that stems from the Buddhist understanding of the transitory nature of everything worldly. Cherry blossoms perfectly describe a fleeting beauty that cannot be captured, and they create a sense of the impermanence of life and the understanding that nothing remains as it is forever. It is this sense of fleeting beauty that still captures the hearts of many Japanese people as they celebrate hanami today.
The cherry tree continues to be a symbol of the Japanese spring, and its beauty is captured in this wonderful screen painting by Sakai Houitsu (below).
Blossoming Cherry Trees, Sakai Houitsu, (c. 1805, Met Museum)
Our English Cherry Blossom Viewing
There is an enchanted orchard a few fields walk away from our home. Every year we look forward to the budding and blossoming of this little grove of trees. The blossom hums with bees, and the grass beneath it is soft and full of daisies, and is lush to lie on.
It’s our special place for our English cherry blossom viewing!
Last year when we were all together there, I picked one or two of the blossoms and pressed them.
I’m a children’s book illustrator, and so it is natural that I love to create for Zusetsu :)
Back at home I scanned them into Illustrator (a design and illustration programme), and began to draw the little flowers and leaves up digitally.
An idea for a furoshiki design began to grow, but this always takes time.
Gradually, the cherry blossoms became stylised, and I continued to develop the design.
As Yukki and I talked, the ideas flowed and we knew we would love to create our own Zusetsu furoshiki design featuring our beloved cherry blossoms!
We would love our furoshiki design to be used for those really special moments: for wedding bridal party gifts and wedding table favours, for christenings, and special birthdays.
The prototype, with the design still in development!
Made in Kyoto!
It’s only natural that we would choose to have our furoshiki authentically made in Kyoto – the city where furoshiki originated, and where the artisan skills are traditional and frankly, incredible! Our Zusetsu Cherry Blossom furoshiki will be screen-printed by hand by the skilled artisans of a Kyoto furoshiki-maker!
We hope you love the story of our first Zusetsu furoshiki - we will be so excited to share more about our first Zusetsu furoshiki with you in a blog soon!
Patchin Bags Perfect for Hanami!
Our gorgeous patchin handles make the easiest furoshiki bags for your hanami picnic!
Our Large Patchin Handle in Walnut with our Large Hamamonyo Furoshiki Emerald Blue
Our Large Patchin Handle in Japanese Nara Oak with our Large Hamamonyo Furoshiki Happy Cherry
Our Small Patchin Handle in Walnut with our Medium Modern Girl Furoshiki Konpeitou
Our Small Patchin Handle in Japanese Nara Oak with our Medium Modern Girl Furoshiki Dot
They're so easy to make - all you do is pull each of the four furoshiki corners through the four holes in the patchin. The patchin snap together with magnets to keep your contents secure. Finally, all you need to do is tie the ends into two handles. It can be done in moments!
You can find our patchin and furoshiki instore here!
If you’ve enjoyed this article, why not take a look at one of our other articles about Japanese culture, like this one about Japanese wrapping culture, here!
Have a happy hanami, wherever you are, and thank you for reading,
Cathy and Yukki
Bursting blossom at our favourite cherry orchard!
Anonymous, The Tales of Ise, (Penguin Classics, 2016).
Haruo Shirane ed., Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600 (Columbia University press, 2007).
Harvard Art Museum: Tosa Mitsunobu, Under the Cherry Blossoms (Hana no En), Illustration to Chapter 8 of the Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari).
Met Museum: Sakai Houitsu, Blossoming Cherry Trees (ca. 1805).