Although earlier than expected, spring is officially here in Tokyo! And spring in Japan can only mean one thing: cherry blossoms. If you're in the city, be sure to take advantage of the perfect timing to see the the sakura. Head to Yoyogi Park and you'll be greeted with a lively atmosphere as company employees and college students engage in drinking games and fits of laughter while celebrating the start of a new year. Or if you prefer some place quieter and more spacious for a picnic with close friends and family, try Shinjuku Gyoen--just remember, no alcohol allowed inside. Even when you're not partaking in hanami (literally "flower watching" but usually refers to enjoying the company of others underneath the cherry blossoms) there are still ways to get in the mood of the spring season. And what better way to enjoy than by eating? Usually around March and April food and beverage companies reveal their line of seasonal sakura products to welcome the season of sakura. While there are thousands of cherry blossom edition treats, here are some to get you started.
1. Kirin Sakura & Strawberry Milk Tea
Milk tea by itself? Classic. Milk tea+sakura+strawberry? Now that's a drink that's fully embracing the season. You can find them at most convenience stores for less than 200 yen.
2. Starbuck's Sakura Blossom Cream Latte/Frappuccino
Every year, Starbucks unveils its line of sakura inspired drinks plus a ton of gorgeous sakura products including tumblers and mugs and this year is no different. Unfortunately, this year's spring limited drink was only available until March 14. But you can still snag some sakura themed merchandise at any Starbucks.
3. Starbucks Sakura Latte
The good news is you can still enjoy Starbucks' sakura latte that are available at most convenience stores.
4. Lindt White Chocolate Sakura Ice Drink
5. Suntory Sakura Cherry & Strawberry Chūhai
Ask almost any Japanese, and they'll agree that a hanami picnic isn't complete without booze. These seasonal cocktail drinks from Suntory are perfect for enjoying underneath a sea of cherry blossoms.
6. Asahi Beer Special Spring Packaging
No, this beer isn't actually sakura flavored, though that would be quite interesting to try out (someone should get on this). Beer is the most commonly consumed alcoholic beverage during hanami season, and it seems Asahi is going along with the spirit of spring with their cute pink packaging.
1. Krispy Kreme Sakura Donuts
Chances are there's a Krispy Kreme in your country, but it's worth to try out these donuts which are only available in Japan during the spring. You can choose from three different flavors: sakura, yuzu, or green tea.
2. Seven Eleven Three Colors of Spring Parfait
Convenience store desserts can't be beat for their ultra affordable prices, quality and value. For just 280 yen (tax included) you can indulge in this three layered parfait--green tea sponge cake, rare cheese mousse, and strawberry mousse--topped with cream, strawberry sauce, and baked cheesecake. Each convenience store brand (Seven Eleven, Family Mart, Lawson, etc.) carry their own special spring edition desserts which means you can enjoy trying many different sweets at super reasonable prices.
3. Lawson Edible Rilakkuma Wagashi Spring Sweets
How cute are these?! Almost too cute to eat if you ask me. These are wagashi or Japanese sweets that are often more subtle in their sweetness so they're perfect for those who prefer their desserts not to be overly sugary. The Rilakkuma (left in picture) version is pudding flavored and the Kīroitori (right) version is yuzu flavored. And as expected of convenience store sweets, you can get them both at Lawson for just 395 yen.
4. Patisserie KIHACHI
Another pair of desserts that's almost too beautiful to eat, Patisserie KIHACHI has unveiled their spring limited desserts--sakura mon blanc (left) and sakura bellini (right). You can find their branches at most major department stores such as Isetan, Takashimaya and Daimaru. They're usually located in the "depachika," the basement floor of department stores where all the desserts and deli are sold.
5. Max Brenner Sakura Mochi Crepe Brûlée
Is the Tokyo Skytree part of your itinerary? Then you can try out this seasonal item from Max Brenner which is only available at their branch in the Skytree's Solamachi.
6. Gin no An Sakura Taiyaki
Taiyaki is a popular Japanese street food which is essentially a fish shaped cake with filling inside. Usually it is filled with red bean paste but there are other fillings available such as custard or sweet potato. In the springtime, Gin no An, a large taiyaki chain sells their classic sweets with a little twist--instead of red bean paste or "anko," they fill them with sakura mochi.
There are tons of sakura and other spring limited treats available--the ones in this list are just the tip of the iceberg. Spring is a really big deal in Japan as it signals new beginnings and offers a chance to celebrate life with loved ones. I hope you're able to enjoy the cherry blossoms, and remember, no hanami is complete without food, drinks and good company!