04/02/2015 10:39 am ET | Updated Jun 02, 2015

Enjoy the Japanese Art of Flower Viewing, No Matter Where You Live

The following post first appeared on THINK Global School student Sydney M.'s blog, Train Case Travels.

I took these photos one year ago in Hiroshima, Japan, during a long after-school bike ride. It was almost always a bit grey on the streets of Hiroshima, but the gloominess fit the architecture of the city in a peaceful sort of way. The statues in the Peace Park always appeared bolder when they didn't have to compete with sunny skies, and the general grey-undertone of the city complimented the off-grey-color found above in the sky and below when reflected in the city's many rivers. But around this time of year, when the cherry blossoms are peeking through, the city is lit up with a new sort of light. The little flowers come as a sort of refreshing restart, the frigid days of bundling up in Daiso brand mittens and running through the streets of Hondori with red cheeks and a cold nose being replaced by bike rides up and down the rivers, looking for relief from the heat in a cool cup of iced matcha.

Hanami (flower viewing)

Hanami is a popular activity this time of year in Japan that essentially entails going out and enjoying the cherry blossoms. Last year I saw many people having picnics under the trees or simply going on walks through the Peace Park or near Hiroshima Castle, two beautiful locations as is, but even more magnificent when brightened by the delicate pink flowers. I found that along the rivers was a less popular location for hanami, but in a way that was nice because it made biking down these roads a bit more special. I think that having been in Hiroshima before and after cherry blossom season made me appreciate the flowers a bit more, because it showed just how special and unique they were.

In honor of the cherry blossom season, my advisory decided to go on our own hanami. We stopped by Sparks and picked up a couple of packs of supermarket sushi and found a little spot along the river to eat. It was probably a funny site to others because the season was almost over, so it was more of looking down at the fallen petals than up at the ones on the trees. We also chose a spot with an inconvenient hill, so we ate at a strange tilt towards the river. Nonetheless, I like to think it was a fair gaijin attempt at hanami.

How to hanami (advice from a gaijin)

So now that I have given a bit of background about cherry blossom season and shared my own personal hanami experience, I have a bit of advice for anyone planning to have their own hanami party, or one like it...

1. Find a good spot, desirably under a cherry blossom tree. Rivers are a good spot if there is a nice, grassy area because (depending on the river) it isn't as populated as the parks.

2. Bring a blanket or something to lay on. You aren't just going there for a lunch break - it's more of a sobre la mesa kind of deal. Lots of chatting with friends, laying back, and enjoying the flowers.

3. Explore the area. After snacking and resting under the trees, grab a bike or a friend and go explore other areas with cherry blossom trees. You will find some beautiful, postcard-esque photo opportunities.

For more tips, check out Japan Monthly. Their tips are helpful and a lot more specific to planning a hanami rather than my advice from exploring around. With that, to anyone who has, is, or will see cherry blossoms or participate in a hanami, enjoy every minute of it! Some of my fondest memories of Japan were from walking under the cherry blossom trees.

-Sydney Morris