If you look at the kanji for hanami, 花見, it translates as flower look. And indeed, in the dictionary it says flower or cherry blossom viewing. But if a Japanese friend or colleague asks whether you did hanami, they mean "did you sit on a blue groundsheet and drink and eat and talk and laugh a lot while looking at cherry blossoms?" Indeed a much more sociable prospect than just looking at flowers.
I did however have to come to my third year here to graduate from the latter to the former. (Full disclosure: the first year I was travelling at the time, the second year there was a wedding on the same day as the main local hanami event... now it's year three.) I finally attended a proper hanami event, as organised by local businesses and goverment.
Proceeds from the event will go to Tōhoku. A charity auction of goods donated by local businesses also helped to grow the amount. And you'll see a picture of my friend MANning UP FOR JAPAN into the donation box.
A highlight of the day was when an enormous tuna was carved up, then carved some more, and then served to us along with hamachi as a wonderful sashimi treat. I went a bit nuts with pictures (and the video below!) of the carving, but hey, how often does a guy carve a tuna in an open-air setting with cherry blossoms in the background?