In the mood for Sakura: Blooming delicious seasonal eats in Japan
SPRING has arrived in Japan, which means that the highly anticipated sakura (cherry blossom) season is finally here. And the Japanese take the celebration very seriously.
In Tokyo, rows upon rows of sakura trees bloomed on March 24, and it’s expected to last about two weeks.
The celebration of the sakura blooming is such a big deal that travel and tour companies, F&B corporations, cosmetics and skincare brands, convenience stores, and retail outlets, all cash in on the annual occasion.
While locals and tourists alike are buckling up and quickly flocking to flower-viewing venues to picnic under the beautiful pink blossoms, a practice that’s known as hanami, companies are gearing up to push seasonal flavored food and products in line with the tradition. This is likely the only time of year that stores will be filled with sakura-themed goodies.
From stationery to greeting cards, to tumblers and drinks, here are some seasonal and limited edition sakura-themed items that you can’t leave Japan without trying/buying.
Popular Japanese convenience store franchise chain FamilyMart is celebrating the blooms by selling a sakura roll cake.
The soft dough is filled with fluffy whipped cream and topped with red beans, and big enough to share with your hanami buddy.
Lawson, the other popular Japanese convenience store franchise chain, has also filled their stores with everything pretty-in-pink.
They’ve got mouthwatering-ly good sakuramochi (rice cake wrapped in a salted sakura tree leaf), “Pururun” water jelly (a raindrop cake enhanced with sakura extract), sakura and matcha cake roll, and more.
It’d be hard to not go crazy shopping in there.
While you’re at either one of the above convenience stores, be sure to grab a tub of Haagen-Dazs on your way out.
This year, the ice cream brand is promoting its Mochi Sakura, a flavor with a triple helping of cherry blossom deliciousness: sakura ice cream, mochi topped with a sweety salty sakura and red bean paste, and finally drizzled with sakura sauce.
It can’t get any more sakura-crazy than that.
While some of you may be picking up sakura-flavored shakes and teas, Japanese beer company Asahi has other ideas.
Asahi has rolled out a repackaging of its Super Dry beer in pink cans and bottles featuring a flowery motif.
On top of that, the company has also added their new fruity beer, Sakura no Utage (cherry blossom banquet) to its Clear Asahi line.
In 2014, McDonald’s Japan released its limited edition Sakura Teritama burger, a creation comprised of a teriyaki-glazed patty, egg, lettuce, a mayonnaise-based sakura pickle sauce, and pink buns
Although the burger didn’t make a grand return this year, the fast-food restaurant is still very much in line with the celebrations.
Head on over to a McDonald’s near you to sample some french fries seasoned with sakura salt.
The world-famous coffee chain is also contributing to the festivities with three sakura-themed drinks: the Sakura Strawberry Pink Mochi Frappuccino (with bits of sakura-flavored mochi and strawberry chocolate chips), the Sakura Strawberry Pink Milk Latte (with bits of sakura leaf and sake lees), and the Sakura Strawberry Pink Tea (Starbucks’ first sakura-flavored tea).
This is on top of the pretty, cheery merchandise that’s for sale.
From January to March last year, Lipton released its sakura tea exclusively on its online store for the first time.
The fragrant tea, which gets its flavor from sakuramochi, was an instant hit, cinching the number one position in online sales.
Now, back by popular demand, Lipton’s sakura tea is available on Rakuten and Yahoo! Japan for a limited time.
Japan’s homegrown snack food brand, Glico, is not one to be left behind this spring.
The brand’s snack food, Pocky (flavor-coated baked pretzel sticks), just added Sakura Pocky to its range – though for a limited time only.
Each box has 24 sticks (dusted with both sugar and salt) in total in four small sealed pouches, available at 7-Eleven convenience stores and supermarkets York Mart and Ito Yokado.
Pocky’s competitor, Nestle’s KitKat, has also jumped the bandwagon this sakura season with the repackaging of three of its flavors in flower-themed wrapping: milk, dark, and iyokan (citrus).
Its specialty boutique, the KitKat Chocolatory, will also be offering a strawberry sakura flavor in a tall cylinder decorated with the pretty pink blooms, as well as a sakura-shaped charm made of cherry blossom wood.