The month of March is associated with blooming cherry blossoms and new beginnings for most of Japan. The exact timing is up to the weather gods, but in recent years late March has been the standard.
As the sakura blossoms open up, the whole country shifts gears. Public life is set in motion with a bang and parks are crowded with people taking part in hanami (flower-viewing).
The warm spring sun means public gatherings and festivals are back, and besides raising a toast to the beautiful cherry blossoms, many also look to new careers, study and other opportunities ahead. Early April is when Japan’s academic and financial year tick over, and companies seek to hire fresh graduates.
Spring in Japan has a lot to offer, as the mild weather is perfect to get out and about. Read on to get an idea of what happens.
Japan’s Best Sakura Spots
With thousands of cherry trees dotted around the country, you’re certainly not spoiled for choice when picking a spot to take in the Japanese cherry blossoms. A single tree in the park will do just fine, but if you’re looking to get one of the more in-demand locations you better show up early. Hanami is a hugely popular activity, which almost the whole country takes part in, so crowds are simply a part of the deal.
Even if you generally prefer a quieter place for your sakura viewing, some sakura spots around Japan are so unique they are worth braving the crowds or the long way to get there. Read more about it in our article: Japan’s Best Sakura Spots.
A Snack Guide to Your Own Hanami
Picking the right cherry blossom spot can be difficult, but the planning doesn’t stop there. Even though there will most likely be no shortage of convenience stores or even hanami festival stalls where you are, once you’ve set up you want to stay in place.
There really aren’t any rules for what to eat and drink while watching the sakura blossoms, and most people will simply bring their favorite shareable foods and plenty of drinks. How you celebrate is up to you: With plenty of traditional Japanese hanami sweets and a glass of Japanese sake, or Japanese beer and savory platters.
Learn more about your snack options in our article: A Snack Guide to Your Own Hanami.
Curious to try unique Japanese flavors such as sakura yourself? Check out Sakuraco. Sakuraco sends authentic Japanese snacks, tea, and sweets sourced from local makers all across Japan straight to your door!
Preserved Flowers and More: What are Tsukemono?
Sakura season is short-lived, and while the fleetingness of cherry blossoms are part of the appeal of hanami, not everyone will find the time to take in the blossoms in full bloom. With plenty of traditional sakura flavored sweets available it should be little surprise that there have been successful efforts to preserve the blossoms for a little longer. Pickling has a long history in Japan, and despite pickled blossoms, there are many other popular choices available.
Find out how sakura blossoms are pickled and more in our article: Preserved Flowers and More: What are Tsukemono?
Bonsai Trees: Japan’s Tiny Sakura Trees & More
Pickling is one way to make the cherry blossoms last just a little bit longer, but for true enthusiasts there is yet another way to bring some sakura home without having to put up with any crowds: Sakura bonsai. For anyone willing to put in the effort, a miniature hanami at home is completely feasible. Japan’s miniature bonsai trees are famous around the world, but it’s difficult to know where to start when getting into the hobby.
Find out what’s behind the tradition with our quick guide: Bonsai Trees: Japan’s Tiny Sakura Trees & More.
Japan’s Once-in-a-Lifetime Cherry Blossom Tea
Tea is a part of daily life for Japanese people. With green tea drunk almost like water, its image can be a bit pedestrian compared to ceremonial matcha. With tea ceremony a lengthy ritual born out of zen buddhism however, important ceremonies like weddings call for something else. Cherry blossoms are seen as a symbol for the circle of life, effectively rendering cherry blossom tea a marker of new beginnings.
Learn more about this unique Japanese tea in our article: Japan’s Once-in-a-Lifetime Cherry Blossom Tea.
The Secret Ingredient of Japanese Wagashi: Wasanbon
Some traditional Japanese sweets like mochi are slowly finding their way overseas, but just as many remain relatively unknown. Equally unknown are some of their unique ingredients. Wasanbon is a little known fine-grained, high grade sugar, primarily used to make dry sweets to accompany matcha tea. Grown in only one region of Japan, this secret sugar might be the next big thing.
Discover more about wasanbon in our article: The Secret Ingredient of Japanese Wagashi: Wasanbon.