If my last post has left you going “Wait…Hanami…What?” (and I hope it has!) then here is a little insight into Hanami. I can’t remember quite how I discovered it, but as I often have Otaku tendencies it managed to come up in some routine internet browsing recently. I love all things Japanese. Originally introduced through video games and cartoons, I’ve extended my knowledge of Japanese culture to pretty much every aspect, and I even speak a little bit too ^_^. I’d love to visit some day, and experience the culture and lifestyle first-hand.

Hanami literally means flower viewing, but generally refers to watching cherry blossoms or ume blossoms. It has become a custom in Japan, where cherry blossoms bloom and fall within a short one or two week period around the end of March or early April. People go outside for parties and picnics, simply to enjoy the short period when the blossoms are on the trees. Japan-Guide.com states:

Hanami can be just a stroll in the park, but it traditionally also involves a picnic party under the blooming trees. Hanami parties have been held in Japan for many centuries, and today are held in public and private gardens and parks across the country. Famous cherry blossom spots can get very crowded, and the best picnic spots are fought after.

After reading about this for a while, I started to wonder what happens at the end of Hanami, if there is such a thing as the end. My imagination immediately flashed up images of parks and streets void of people, where everyone has simply retreated back inside. I imagined a world where the blossoms just drifted on the wind and sat on the ground before eventually completely disappearing. At first, I assumed it might be quite a calm and peaceful scene, but after thinking about it a little more I thought “perhaps it would be lonely.”

I’ve never been to Japan, but I’ve seen enough photos to realise how beautiful it can be. This sense of beauty comes across well in anime set in Japan, where backgrounds are typically exaggerated. In 5 centimetres per Second, the falling blossoms are compared to falling snow, and are placed floating around ordinary objects to make them appear nice than they really are!

I think this kind of imagery would work well within a game, immediately any object can be stylised with the addition of a slightly pink hue and an array of blossoms! There are plenty of other typical Japanese objects which could be applied to give any game world a far-Eastern feel, without having to recreate actual Japan.
This video is a compilation of photos after a man’s one year stay in Japan. It helps give a good, personal sense of what makes Japan different to anywhere else in the world, and with a little help from the music suggests an sense of calmness and serenity. There’s a huge difference between Japan’s big cities and rural areas, but these are often brought closer together with the help of things like Sakura blossoms in urban areas.

I don’t think Japan is really a lonely place, which is why it might be so poignant to portray it as deserted and eerily quiet. The objective of a game set in such a place would probably be dispel its loneliness…

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