Cherry blossom parties are the archetypal spring social event in Japan, but many see an upside to solo sakura.

With the sakura just about to hit full bloom in Tokyo, this weekend looks to be the peak period for cherry blossom viewing, or hanami, as it’s called in Japanese. But while the typical image of a hanami outing is a party where a large group of friends, family members, or coworkers spend the whole day together under the branches of a tree that’s covered in pink flowers, a recent survey shows that there are also plenty of people planning to do their hanami alone.

Japanese company Mitoriz conducted a survey of 3,000 users (aged 20 and up) of its consumer purchasing behavior data service about their hanami plans this year. When asked who they were planning to do hanami with, the most common answers were “family” and “friends,” but coming in at third place, for both men and women, was “I’m doing hanami alone.”

Men were comparatively more likely to have solo hanami plans, as well as hanami plans with coworkers, while women were much more likely to be doing their hanami with family, as well as more likely to be seeing the flowers with friends or to have a hanami date lined up.

Who are you planning to do hanami with?
● Men
Family: 43.2 percent
Friends: 25 percent
Alone: 23.3 percent
Coworkers: 14.1 percent
Romantic partner: 5.6 percent
Non-coworker work-related acquaintances: 2.5 percent
● Women
Family: 62.6 percent
Friends: 32.1 percent
Alone: 17.9 percent
Romantic partner: 6.9 percent
Coworkers: 6.6 percent
Non-coworker work-related acquaintances: 0.9 percent

Among those who’ll be seeing the sakura alone, younger men make up the largest by-percentage demographics.

● Planning to do hanami alone
Men in 20s: 30.4 percent
Men in 30s: 30.8 percent
Men in 40s: 18.2 percent
Men in 50s: 25.8 percent
Men in 60s: 21 percent

Women in 20s: 12.7 percent
Women in 30s: 17 percent
Women in 40s: 16.1 percent
Women in 50s: 20.8 percent
Women in 60s: 17.5 percent

▼ A TV news report on solo hanami in Tokyo

Proponents of solo hanami, or hitori hanami, as it’s alliteratively called in Japanese, cite a number of things to like about it. Popular hanami spots, especially in Tokyo, tend to get very crowded, and if you’re having more than a few people at your cherry blossom party, someone is going to have to arrive early in the day to stake out a spot, then wait there until everyone else in the day is ready to come out and picnic. Of course, whoever’s holding down the fort/picnic blanket might not be able to go and pick up drinks, snacks, and other supplies, since many parks frown on leaving your area completely unattended just to prevent someone else from taking it. So that means having to arrange for the other party participants to do that, often splitting up who’s going to be buying what based on how heavy the stuff is, where it can be bought, and whether or not it has to be kept chilled. Coordinating all those shopping schedules can be very tricky, too, so there’s a good chance that the start of the party is going to get delayed while you wait for the last few stragglers to show up. More people also means more trash to sort and possibly haul home from the park if it doesn’t have a place for you to throw it away on-site.

Pretty much all of those hassles are eliminated with solo hanami. Even at crowded venues, you can usually find a spot you can squeeze into to park just yourself, and even if you can’t, strolling through a park and doing hanami all the while is pretty easy when you don’t have to worry about if someone else’s feet are more tired than yours. Solo hanami also appeals to artistic types you might want to quietly and leisurely photograph or sketch the sakura scenery, focusing on the endeavor to their heart’s content without needing to make small talk.

Those sentiments are echoed in comments to the above video such as:

“Looking at the sakura by yourself while eating a bento boxed lunch and drawing pictures of the flowers. Nothing wrong with that.”
“Just like I like taking trips by myself, I like doing hanami by myself too.”
“I just went and did solo hanami today. It’s nice and relaxed.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“I’ve got my picnic blanket and my coffee thermos all set for my solo hanami together. Fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain.”
“Whether you’re by yourself or with other people, cherry blossom viewing is cherry blossom viewing. All you need are the cherry blossoms.”

As a final note, it’s worth bearing in mind that the survey allowed for multiple responses regarding hanami plans, so it’s not like all of the respondents planning to do solo hanami are completely against the idea of having a cherry blossom party with other people, nor that all of them lack friends or anyone else they’re close enough to in life to go see sakura together with. All it means is that, regardless of the reason, if you’re in the mood to do hanami by yourself, you won’t be alone in thinking it’s a nice way to spend the day.

Source: PR Times, YouTube/TBS NEWS DIG Powered by JNN
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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