In March 2000, we sent questionnaires to 3700 people who were registered in the category of Japan of our pen pal service and who indicated that they are willing to participate in surveys. We received 360 valid responses from Japanese people who live in Japan; 74% of them were female and 74% below 30 years young. In addition to the unbalance in age and gender, we must consider the fact that all survey participants are registered in an online international pen pal service, which may mean that they are overall more internationally and less traditionally oriented than the average Japanese.

Even though various flowers and blossoms enjoy great popularity among the Japanese, and the literal meaning of hanami is generally "flower viewing", hanami usually refers only to the viewing of cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms bloom for about one week in February, March, April or May, depending on the geographical location and year. In Tokyo the trees usually bloom in the end of March or beginning of April. Cherry blossom viewing is a custom with a long tradition. Already Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Japan's ruler in the end of the 16th century, is said to have celebrated hanami during the cherry blossom season.

According to our statistics, hanami is still a very popular custom. Only 4% of the survey participants indicated that they never do cherry blossom viewing, while 50% indicated to celebrate hanami regularly every year. Interestingly, the popularity of hanami is equally high between the different age groups and genders.

The next thing we wanted to know was, how hanami is celebrated. 43% answered that they picnic under the blooming cherry trees. Almost equally many indicated that they also enjoy some alcohol under the trees, while 8% of the participants even sing karaoke. There are several spots throughout Japan which are especially famous for their cherry trees, e.g. a landscape with especially many trees or an especially old cherry tree. 13% of the survey participants indicated that they undertake a special trip to such a famous hanami spot. Another 11% celebrate the season by holding garden parties.

As mentioned above, the cherry blossom is not the only popular, but clearly the most popular flower in Japan. Our last question asked the survey participants after their favourite flower/blossom among a selection of eight popular ones. As expected, the cherry blossom was chosen by a majority of 58%. Second most popular among the selected eight flowers was the tulip (12%), followed by the sun flower (11%), rose (9%), plum blossom (4%), hydrangea (3%), wisteria (2%) and camellia (1%).