The Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival: What to Know For 2021
Every spring, South Korea has an event called the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival. Millions of people from all over the country and the world travel to witness the beautiful blooms for themselves. A few sites or local areas host their own cherry blossom festivals. But, the one out of Jinhae in the South Gyeongsang Province (a.k.a. the Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival) is the largest.
However, the Coronavirus pandemic really changed many aspects of events. For 2020, the organizers canceled the event and many other local festivals for the safety of the public, and it is, unfortunately, similar for 2021. At the end of the day, it seems to be up to the municipalities of each region. Some local festivals have limited attendance, but even with these changes, many are still traveling to see the cherry blossoms.
The Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival
This festival really started as a memorial service for Naval Admiral Yi Sun-sin. He was most known for his victories in the Imjin War during the Joseon Dynasty and the turtle ship. Eventually, his memorial service turned into the cherry blossom festival. It’s still located around the naval base in this area today and happens around the Military Band and Honour Guard Festival. Due to the dates of both festivals, the military band is able to give performances for the festival-goers as they walk through the cherry blossoms.
The cherry blossom festival lasts up to 10 days with food, music, and other fun things to enjoy. It surely is a sight to see. There are many areas to see the blossoms, but some major areas of interest are Gyeonghwa Station and Yeojwacheon Stream. Apparently, these areas in the region are quite pretty, which makes them the perfect place for great pictures.
Some treats to try that are only available during the festival are cherry blossom ice cream and cherry blossom treats. Many vendors sell these food items, so when the area opens back up again for the next festival these treats should be a must-have.
As for the actual date of the festival, it is said to usually happen in early April. Though, if you just want to see the blooms they are usually ready before the festival. In 2011 and the year after, the cherry blossoms bloomed in early April. Now, the cherry blossoms bloom 15 days faster in 3-5 days compared to a decade before. Apparently, the cherry blossoms bloomed in mid-March since 2013 due to a warmer climate. When it is safe to travel again, you can go by train or bus while in the country.
What’s the Big Deal?
There are many cherry blossom festivals across Asia, not just in South Korea. For instance, Japan has many known cherry blossom festivals (hanami) and cherry blossom trees to visit. It’s also an important custom for them where they can view the blooms or even have picnics with friends and family. In Japan, there are cherry blossom trees (sakura) that bloom at different times across the country, so local festivals depend more on the timing of the blooms.
I would say that what makes South Korea’s Jinhae Gunhangje Festival unique is the origin and meaning. It is said that in Japan, hanami began more than 1,000 years ago. Apparently, aristocrats would view and enjoy the blossoms and write poems about them, which began the tradition. The picnics in Japan would then turn into fun festivities in the evening since sake is usually a part of the day.
However, the meaning of sakura is a bit deeper than picnics. It is said that since sakura blooms last only two weeks, they symbolize the idea that nothing lasts forever. In Japanese, this means “mono no aware.” This is apparently the reason why sakura are depicted in a lot of art.
I think the point is that each country has its own unique history and culture. Even though a country has a similar springtime festival to another, it could express a very different experience. For example, the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival has a lot of rich history to learn about, especially if you are not from there. When things open after the pandemic, festivals like this will be a great way to experience authentic Korean food, culture, and to get awesome pictures and memories.
What to Expect for Future Festivals
It seems to be a given that this year is very different from the past years in regard to events. Hopefully, the future will be better with open festivals and events. With the duration of the pandemic, it may be safe to say that most of 2021 will stay the same. Meaning, there may be more online, limited, or canceled events. Though, I do think that the next few years will look more optimistic.