Spring is here and with it comes the long-awaited blooming of the cherry blossoms. Festivals and flower viewings (called Hanami) pop up all over the world to celebrate these beautiful pink clouds. “But, wait!” You say, “I’m too far from Japan or Washington, DC to enjoy it!”
My answer to you is, you can throw an indoor cherry blossom flower viewing. That’s right! This is your all-inclusive guide to throwing your own indoor Hanami. All you really need is good food, good friends, and a whole lot of crafty magic.
Step One: The Food
I would argue that the food is the most important part of any celebration or gathering. I mean, what’s a birthday party without cake or a family reunion without a great potluck of family specialties? For your own Hanami, make all your favorites. Go all out!
In Japan, the markets are flooded with cherry blossom (or sakura in Japanese) themed and flavored foods during this time of year. People will pack lunch bento boxes with all their favorite foods, no matter how long it takes to make them. In addition, people will feast on barbecue and sake as they sing and enjoy each other’s company. When it comes to food, everyone gets their favorites during this time.
For my own party, my friend and I went all out with a full 14 hours of cooking. We made ramen, chashu port, ajitsuke eggs, hanami dango, and takoyaki.
I got the ramen, chashu pork, and ajitsuke egg recipes from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, the coveted author of The Food Lab and well respected food nerd. You can find a great Hanami Dango recipe here and have fun enjoying this sticky-sweet mess of awesome. My friend and co-host found a great recipe for takoyaki from YouTube chef, Cooking with Dog. All of these recipes were well worth the wait and really teleported us all to Japan.
Step Two: The Atmosphere
You can make the party feel however you want it to be. In Japan, it’s not uncommon for friends to meet to hang out, large parties of people with alcohol to spring up, or even business gatherings to take place under the coveted cherry blossoms. My friend and I invited a bunch of our own friends over, so of course we decided to go with a friendly, fun atmosphere. To set the mood, we made invitations, made sure the place was clean, and played some background music on low.
Cleanliness is probably among the most important parts of this. No one will have growling stomachs when they can see and smell your dirty socks from last week on the dining room table. Make sure you clean up so the sights and smells of the wonderful food can fill up your space and entice your friends to dig in!
The music was just my study music playlist which has a lot of alternative and 50’s rock, but my friend also played some songs from popular anime and video games.
I decorated the invitations with different colored glitter pens and pictures of some of the food we were making. I also took a few of the paper flowers and flower petals and stuck them on either side of the invitation cards.
Step Three: The Decorations
The key to hosting your own indoor Hanami is to have decorations galore aimed at presenting the beauty of the cherry blossoms (or “sakura” in Japanese). Obviously, you need to have plenty of cherry blossoms all over the place. You can also decorate with traditional Japanese art, blue mats to resemble the ones used for picnicking in Japan, paper lanterns, or anything else that comes to mind that might fit your theme.
I did a little bit of everything for this. I bought fake sakura flower branches and vases to place them in from the dollar store as well as blue and pink construction paper. I made some super simple paper lanterns with the blue construction paper and pink sakura flowers with a little glitter glue and a lot of scissor time. I was also lucky enough that I already had some tree decals on my wall and a divider in the corner that I absolutely littered with these flower cutouts, as you can see.
Step Four: The People
You can’t have a party without people, but you can invite anyone you feel comfortable with to your hanami. This is something that would be especially appreciated by friends, foodies, and other fans of Japanese culture. As I mentioned above, it’s not uncommon for hanami to be a business affair as well, so you can make it into whatever you want.
For my own dinner party, I invited some of my friends and my co-host invited some of hers. They were all─of course─anime lovers just like me, and we all had a blast bonding over food, games, and fandom alike.
I can now say with certainty that my own indoor Hanami was a great success. Everyone had a great time, enjoyed the food, and were begging for another dinner party sometime soon by the end of it. If you carry on with this article as a guide, you and your friends will have a great time─even if you can’t see the cherry blossoms bloom in person.