It’s time to celebrate all things Spring!
Yes, it’s that gorgeous season of renewal, where the world is bursting with fresh green grass, cloud-dappled blue skies and, especially in Japan, those gorgeous pink and white cherry blossoms. Spring is the time for picnics, and what better way to enjoy light, bright, tasty treats than under these beautiful trees.
Japan’s cherry blossom (“Sakura”) season peaks late March to early April, but depending where you are in the country the blooming period actually covers nearly four months. Subtropical Okinawa bursts into bloom in late January, with the best viewing in February. The northern island of Hokkaido, home to Sapporo and Hakodate, are the last to bloom – usually not until the first weeks of May. In-between favorite cherry blossom viewing destinations like Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, and Yokohama, all have their own Sakura moments.
To welcome in the spring – or maybe just a great excuse for a celebration now that things are warming up – flower-viewing parties called hanami are being held across Japan. While often informal gatherings amongst friends or families, some Japanese companies hold their own celebrations in local parks wherever there’s a large concentration of Sakura trees to be found. In Tokyo, Yoyogi Park is a very popular place for such events, with people often arriving very early just to reserve a spot!
Traditionally, a blue plastic sheet is used as a mat for people to sit on under the blossoms. Everyone first removes their shoes and settles in for a relaxing time taking in the springtime beauty. People often bring food and drink to share. Sakura-themed bento lunch boxes are also popular, with blossom-shaped food or pink decorations to honor the occasion. It’s also common to eat Sakura mochi – rice cake wrapped in the leaves of the Sakura tree.
Many Japanese towns hold cherry blossom festivals, complete with stunning nighttime lights that cast an otherworldly atmosphere as they illuminate the elegant blossoms. Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival in Aomori is particularly famous, attracting over two million visitors each year. If a trip to Japan to experience the cherry blossoms is in your future, this festival is an absolute must!
Here in the U.S., cherry blossoms can be viewed in Washington D.C. along the stunning Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. The original trees there were actually a gift from Japan in 1909 – a 2000-tree-token of friendship between Japan and the United States. The tradition of cherry trees there has remained for over 100 years, and they continue to excite and entertain millions of visitors to our country’s capital each year. D.C. isn’t the only place to view these beauties, however. You can find them in parts of California, Washington, Michigan, and other states as well.
You may not be in exactly the right place at the right time this spring to view the Sakura trees, but don’t let that stop you from getting outside and enjoying the beauty of spring with a picnic or party full of light, bright food. Try Miso Marinated and Grilled Chicken or Grilled Miso Lamb Cutlets. And our Green Beans Almondine are a perfect complement to either of these delectable dishes. All three of these delicious recipes taste spectacular and are fast and easy to prepare, giving you the chance to savor the spring season and taste joy with your favorite people.