The only person you need to enjoy the sakura is yourself.

The ideal image of hanami, or cherry blossom-viewing parties, is a large gathering of friends, seated in a circle on a large blanket spread out under sakura tress in the park. That doesn’t just go for the real world, either, as it’s also what you’re most likely to see in TV dramas and anime.

But while hanami can be a fun group activity, there’s no minimum number of people required to enjoy the cherry blossoms. There are actually several upsides to doing hanami alone, as our Japanese-language reporter Mariko recently found out.

1. No scheduling headaches

Scheduling a hanami gathering can be a serious pain. First, the timing of when the flowers open is infamously hard to predict, and once they open you’ve only got about a week or so until the petals fall. That can mean the sakura are in full bloom on a weekday, but in overtime-crazy Japan, a lot of working adults don’t really know when they’ll be able to leave the office on any given day, making it difficult, if not impossible, to coordinate schedules.

But if you’re doing hanami by yourself? There’s no one’s schedule you’ll need to consider but your own.

2. A comfy seat and no bashotori

For group hanami parties, someone has to go early and stake out a spot in the park, a task called bashotori in Japanese. Mariko was going solo, though, and it’s pretty easy to find enough space for one person even in Tokyo’s most crowded sakura venues.

Even better, instead of spreading a blanket out on uneven ground and sitting on it as her backside got chilled and her legs fell asleep, being on her own allowed Mariko to sit in style in a camping chair she picked up for just 1,000 yen (US$9.35) at discount retailer Seiyu (though some parks, such as Shinjuku Gyoen and Yoyogi Park, prohibit the use of chairs, they’re allowed at Edogawa Park, where Mariko did her one-person hanami).

3. Eating and drinking exactly what you want

Looking at cherry blossoms is only one element of hanami. Equally important are enjoying snacks and drinks, and once again Mariko was happy to be on her own.

Hanami are usually run like a potluck party. Everyone brings food and drinks to share, which means you have to prioritize everyone else’s preferences over your own, and even if you happen to also personally love whatever crowd-pleasing fare you brought, the portion you yourself get is severely limited.

But solo hanami lets you drink as much or as little as you want, without any disapproving looks as you drain that container of your favorite booze or go completely alcohol-free. There’s also no need to worry about screwing up someone’s Instagram photo op of high-class sweets by bringing your personal favorite cheap snacks from the convenience store.

▼ Low-alocohol carbonated plum wine in a can isn’t exactly a mainstream choice, but it was Mariko’s choice.

4. Mobility

Like we said above, if you’re doing hanami with a large group, you pretty much have to stake out a spot beforehand if everyone wants to sit together. That also means that once you’ve got your space, you’re pretty much stuck there. Even if you’re dissatisfied with that spot because the view of the sakura isn’t as nice as you’d hoped, the other nearby revelers are too noisy, or any other reason, you can’t really pick up the party and move if it means finding a new spot for a dozen people.

But for Mariko, this was no problem. While she was perfectly happy with her initial spot, after an hour or so she found herself craving a change of scenery, so she folded up her chair and started walking along the sakura-lined walkway next to the Kandagawa River. Then, when she found another cherry blossom tree that struck her fancy…

…she set her chair down and started the second round of her solo hanami party.

Had she been with a group of people, it would have felt a little odd trying to cram everyone under this one tree. But its modestly sized branches were still plenty big for Mariko. As she sat and looked up at the flowers, she didn’t feel lonely, but relaxed and happy, since now that she’s open to the idea of solo hanami, each and every sakura tree she passes by is an opportunity to enjoy the season.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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