This year has already seen unseasonably warm weather, and it seems the 桜 (sakura, cherry blossoms) are eager to show themselves. That means you’re going to have to start preparing for your 花見 (hanami, blossom viewing) parties earlier as well.

Despite its name being a simple combination of 花 (hana, flower) and 見 (mi), from the verb 見る(miru, to view), if you’ve spent any time in Japan during spring, you’ll know that 花見 isn’t as simple as looking up into the trees. Sure, there is some flower viewing at a 花見, but there may also be a ピクニック (pikunikku, picnic) with food and drink. It may serve as a work function meant to build camaraderie or a reunion with old friends. It can be a stroll alongside a 桜並木 (sakuranamiki, row of trees lining a street) or a full day in the 公園 (kōen, park) ... those two kanji in 花見 are actually doing a lot of work.

The prevailing story this year is 桜の開花は、全国的に平年並みか平年より早くなる見込みです (sakura no kaika wa, zenkoku-teki ni heinen-nami ka heinen yori hayaku naru mikomi desu, the cherry blossoms are expected to bloom earlier than average or at the average time). For Tokyoites, that means we should start to see flowers around March 20. The following week will see 開花 (kaika, first blooms) across most of the rest of the country, too, with most of Tohoku and Hokkaido seeing the blossoms in April and May.