Oh! Hanami 🌸 Ukishima

For us Japanese Spring time is all about ‘Sakura’ Cherry Blossom. You might think all the Cherry blossoms are the same, however, there are many different types. The species with single petal flower start blossoming first and then other types with multi petals follow to open flowers. So that, although the best viewing time is quite short for each tree, we can enjoy viewing Sakura Cherry blossom for quite a long time betwee mid – late March and throughout April in Japan.

These days it is getting quite well known that Japanese have a picnic party eating and drinking under a full blooming Cherry tree. It is called ‘O’Hanami’. It literally means ‘the viewing of Sakura blossoms’ and it tells how much we love seeing Sakura. I tried to think a perfect Japanese sweets for this O’Hanami occasion which is something delicious in the Cherry blossom theme and also easy to pick and eat outdoors.

O’Hanami Ukishima

The sweet I created for the O’Hamani occasion is ‘Ukishima’. It looks quite like a western cake but is actually a very Japanese sweet with a soft, light texture. When I tasted this sweet the first time, I fell in love with it! The best thing about it is it’s so moist.

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Hanami-Dango for viewing Sakura Cherry Blossom

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The Cherry tree for fruit in my garden is in full bloom too

We are in the middle of the full Cherry Blossom season in London. There is a traditional custom called ‘Hanami’ (‘Hana’ means flower/ blossom and ‘Mi ((Miru))’ means to look/ watch) that people picnic under a cherry tree and enjoy eating & drinking whilst viewing the beauty of Sakura.Β 

We also have a proverb ‘Hana yori Dango’ which means ‘Food comes before Flower (Beauty)’. This describes that although viewing Sakura blossom is enjoyable, it cannot beat the delight of eating delicious food.

There is a sweet during this Sakura season called ‘Hanami-Dango’. It is composed of three balls of a ‘Mochi‘ type sweet in tricolour of Green, White and Pink stuck together with a skewer. But why these colours and why in this order? There seems several theories behind this colour scheme but the one I like is like this. ‘White’ is a symbol of ‘Snow=Winter’, ‘Green’ is the ‘New Leaves’ just about coming out from under the snow and ‘Pink’ is the colour of ‘Sakura=Spring’. So all these colours together explain the season which people have longed for the arrival during the long cold winter.

Hanami-Dango

I made Hanami-Dango with Tofu this year. Why Tofu? You can use water instead but by adding Tofu the Mochi Dango becomes softer and bouncier texture and the softness lasts longer. You can make this in almost the same way as the ‘Shiratama Dango’ I introduced before.

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Japan in Spring Time – Sakura/Cherry Blossom

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This became the post fact report, but I have been to Japan from the end of March and I just came back from there. So I will write about my visit in Japan in the next few posts regarding these topics.

  1. Japan in Spring Time (Sakura/Cherry Blossom)
  2. Onsen Inn and the Dinner
  3. Restaurants, Fast (Food) Ramen and Other Food
  4. Food Shop situation in Japan – Depa-chika
  5. Food Shop situation in Japan – Super Market
  6. Food Display in Japan

Japan has four completely different seasons and each one of them has its own good side. In my opinion Spring is the best season to visit Japan. One of the reasons for this is of course the famous Sakura/Cherry blossom. You get surrounded by Sakura/Cherry Blossom scenery anywhere you go. When you see the dense but fluffy pink clusters you cannot stop feeling very celebratory and having a supreme moment of bliss.

buds for webThe winter in 2014-15 was actually quite severe in Japan which brought lots of snow in many places especially in the north. When I arrived to the country, the weather seemed finally becoming milder and the cherry tree’s flower buds were just about to open … and then the cold air came down again and it became like winter suddenly. There was even blizzard in the northern part. I was glad I took my thick jacket with me as well as two lighter ones in my suitcase, however, I had to wait a little bit longer to see the buds open.

Actually the opening of Cherry Blossom is a big deal in Japan. People are looking forward to seeing the great scenery. We have a β€˜Sakura Forecast’ on TV news every day in spring that shows the β€˜Cherry Blossom Front’ telling people in which part of the country & when we can see the blossom.

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Sakura Blossom Front (sakura.weathermap.jp)

When finally the flower buds start opening, the Sakura Forecast tells which part of Japan you can see the blossom. Surprisingly Nagoya, the city where I stayed, was the second earliest place declared that Cherry blossom’s opened this year. That is unusually early for the city and very rare. So we did have the Sakura Blossom at last after waiting for a while.

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Once Sakura trees became nearly in full bloom I visited several famous spots in the area to view the scenery. They were Nagoya Castle, Tsurumai Park and Yamazaki River bank.

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Nagoya Castle through pink shades of Sakura. Shame the sky was not blue …

I have been to the first two of these places to view blossom in the past, however, it was Yamazaki River that really amazed me with the scale and the beauty!

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Yamazaki River at dusk. Dense pink canopy continues for several miles

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People enjoy walking along Yamazaki River with many Sakura trees in full bloom

Comparing to other places where people sit down feasting underneath the light pink canopy until the late night, along the Yamazaki River people were just admiring the beautiful scenery. Some area was lit up to show the different look during the evening which created another great atmosphere. Many bats flying around over the river showed that balance of nature is well protected in this area too.

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Yamazaki River at night (Photographed by Yuuta Hibino)

So, what was my thought? Excellent! Even just for seeing this view it is worth visiting Japan. It was very nice to see the city covered in pink fluff and everybody appreciating the scenery. Lots of people, including many foreign tourists, visit the spots for walking, taking photos, having picnic or just quietly viewing.

I thought we are very privileged living in this fortunate part of the world without worrying about starvation, sheltering from bombing or escaping from massacre. We also should not forget that so many people who lost family members in the 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster were viewing the same sight under the same sky. It is important to appreciate whatever you have at any time.

Happy Sakura Viewing.