A highly awaited season in Tokyo, Hanami or the season when Sakura blooms, is a sight to behold not only for Japanese people but for tourists as well. It’s a wonderful time to just sit in a park and marvel in the beauty of Cherry Blossoms. And what other way to enjoy the magnificent view than enjoying a good time with family, friends or your significant other while relaxing over a nice meal while being showered with the delicate petals of Sakura.
Selecting the perfect spot for your next Hanami is crucial as it can really get jam-packed during the blossoming season. Luckily, amidst the bustling modern Tokyo, several parks were preserved to offer a great view of Sakura blooms. Some of these areas include the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, Ueno Park, Chidorigafuchi, Sumida Park, Inokashira Park, Megurogawa, Yoyogi Park, Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens, Rikugien Gardens, and Asukayama Park.
With the Hanami or flower viewing season nearing, let us help you prepare the ideal al fresco treats to relish on your next Hanami picnic.
Let the viewing (and eating) begin.
What to Eat at Hanami in Tokyo
For starters, since the season might still be cool, especially in the evening, it is advisable to pack a thermos filled with miso soup to the warm up your tummies. Aside from the soup, one can also start with tsukemono (pickled vegetables) and salads. These serve as a great compliment to grilled meats or fish like kara-age (bite-size fried chicken), ebi tempura, and takoyaki. Also, Hanami Bento are popular during this season. These on-the-go lunch box food treats are commonly loaded with inarizushi or tofu pouches stuffed with sushi rice, Japanese-style omelet or tamagoyaki, sushi rolls, spring herb dumplings, rice, grilled fish, simmered spring vegetables, and fish cakes in pink and white, similar to the colors of the Sakura.
Onigiri or rice balls packed with fillings like pickled plums, salmon, and tuna mayonnaise get a Sakura twist with the infusion of salted Cherry blossoms. These rice balls are highly recommended for those who are on-the-go and who prefer an easy-to-carry meal that’s filling.
Stay sweet under the blooms with these dessert treats that will make your Hanami picnic more enjoyable. Popular desserts include Hanami dango or dumplings made with sweetened rice flour. During Sakura season, these rice dumplings usually come in tri-colored (green, pink, and brown) to represent the colors of the Cherry Blossom trees and are served in skewers. Another favorite dessert is the Sakura mochi or rice cake balls filled with red bean paste and wrapped in salted cherry blossom leaf.
Other dessert and light snack options include Cherry Blossom Cookies or butter cookies infused with salt-pickled cherry blossoms. Cherry Blossom Milk Pudding, or pudding layered with cherry blossom-flavored jelly.
To cap off the meal and cleanse your palate, enjoy a kampai with sake and Sakura-themed beers. For those who’d rather opt to sober up, Sakura-flavored hot teas or the traditional matcha tea ideally compliments whatever Hanami picnic food you might want to chow during the viewing season.
With the Hanami season coming, while we revel in the glory and splendor of Sakura, let us not forget to be mindful of our trash and do not attempt to take home a twig for this might affect the future blooms. The best way to enjoy this precious blooms is to lay down your picnic basket, eat, share a good laugh and savor the moment.
Oh, and don’t forget to take pictures.
Aleli is a wanderlust whose main itinerary is to culture soak in the places that she sets foot on, sinking her teeth in the gustatory offerings that the place has to offer and knowing the story behind it. Food for her is a marriage of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the rich history of every city she explores and uses the pen as her tool to share to the world each unique experience she unravels.