Cherry blossoms have now started to open in several cities in Japan, including Tokyo (8 days earlier than average). The cherry blossom (sakura) is Japan's unofficial national flower. It has been celebrated for many centuries and takes a very prominent position in Japanese culture. The Japanese celebrate that time of the year with hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties under the blooming trees. Hanami literally means "flower viewing", however, it commonly refers only to cherry blossom viewing. Cherry blossom viewing is easy: Simply enjoy the intensity of the many blossoms by looking at a single tree or a group of trees. From a distance, the trees appear as beautiful clouds, while the beauty of single blossoms can be enjoyed from a close distance. 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.