Posts Tagged ‘sakura’

Get a taste of spring with cherry blossom-inspired goods

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

sakuracombo2All of Japan will soon be in the pink as the country celebrates the sacred sakura with picnics and drinking sessions underneath the cherry trees

Part of the hanami tradition includes eating cherry blossom-flavored snacks, including classics such as sakura mochi. Now the number of sakura-themed goods are blossoming as more and more major corporations jump on board with their own snacks and items. Here’s a taste of some of the items on shelves now.

Starbucks

This season Starbucks isn’t roasting just coffee beans but cherry petals with its sakura chiffon cake. You can also wash down the sugary treat with even more sugar — either strawberry sakura lattes or strawberry sakura frappuccinos.

If you want to experience spring all year round, you can also pick up Starbucks’ cherry blossom-themed mugs and tumblers. Get a move on; these sell out fast.

Kimura Drink

Now that you have your sakura mug, why not fill it up with Kimura Drink’s sakura cola? This fizzy concoction contains the extract of real sakura leaves for an authentic taste of spring.

Worth noting that Kimura Drink has previously launched sodas with curry, tomato and wasabi flavors so they clearly know what they’re doing.

Suntory Chu-hi

If you want something with more of a kick, Suntory has got you covered with their sakura flavored chu-hi (a canned alcoholic drink consisting of shochu and fruit juice.)

Suntory’s chu-hi drink is made with real Sato Nishiki cherries and sakura liqueur. At 4 percent alcohol, it’s about half as strong as most shochu drinks, giving it a light, sweet and fragrant taste.

Sanktgallen beer

If sake or chu-hi is a little strong for your taste, you can always go with the more refined option of this sakura-mochi beer. This beer uses much less hops than your average beer and balances it out with flavors inspired by sakura-mochi — a traditional spring treat consisting of rice cake and bean paste wrapped in a cherry leaf.

This delicious beer is produced by Sanktgallen, a microbrewery based in Kanagawa Prefecture, who insists on using only the famous Takato cherry blossoms from Nagano Prefecture in its sakura beer brewing process.

McDonald’s

In the past McDonald’s has released a sakura burger, but this year they are keeping it simple.

Available now are the sakura soda, sakura float and ume fries. While the soda is just what it sounds like, the fries are more interesting. Probably inspired by its successful chocolate fries, the side comes with plum powder, which should be put on the fries and liberally shaken.

Kit Kats

It’s well-known that Nestle saves its wacky flavors for Japan. In the past the company has created a variety of Kit Kat flavors ranging from pumpkin to, yes, cherry blossom.

This year it is trying something new with pistachio and raspberry-flavored Kit Kats that come in a spring-themed box along with a sakura keychain. The company says, naturally, that the new flavor is the “perfect” hanami treat.

Lindt Chocolate

For a more sophisticated sakura treat, Lindt is rolling out its sakura macarons. The treat is filled with a cherry puree ganache. Its special macarons are available until April 12 and the company’s Lindt Chocolate Cafes.

And if that wasn’t sweet enough, Lindt also has a white chocolate cherry ice drink. Its topped with white chocolate shavings and cherry syrup.

Calbee’s sakura butter chips

Sakura butter might sound like an odd flavor, but if you’ve ever had sakura shortbread cookies, then you’ve already experienced it. What does it taste like in the form of a chip? That’s for you to find out.

Calbee has never shied away from strange flavors as it has produced shrimp, pizza and okonomiyaki chips in the past.

Red Bull

In case you need some pep in your step at the hanami party, Red Bull has a Japan exclusive for you.

Its “spring” drink, featuring a bright pink can, will keep you out of a food coma. Grab a couple of these in case your party heads off to an izakaya once the sun sets.

Baskin Robbins

Baskin Robbins is doing something really special this time around. After a 24-year hiatus it is finally bringing back its sakura salted ice cream.

The ice cream contains real sakura leaves and a hint of sea salt to contrast the light, sweet floral taste. It’s available till the end of May, so stop by your local Baskin Robbins and scoop it up.

But wait! There’s more …

You’re sure to be a hit at the hanami parties if you show up in Nike’s sakura shoes. The modern kicks have a traditional look with prints that somewhat resemble suibokuga (Japanese ink wash paintings).

The sakura line is available as skate shoes, sneakers and even high tops. So whether you’re on a short jog or taking it to the courts, you can do it while decked out in your sakura swag.

Need to have that spring feeling wherever you go? You can bring sakura experience with Itoman’s cherry blossom toilet paper.

Itoman’s cherry blossom toilet paper.

Itoman’s cherry blossom toilet paper.

This sakura toilet paper is covered with sakura print, making your trip to the bathroom almost as great as a hanami party.

Happy hanami!

Hanami! Sakura! Spring snacks have also sprung

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

I am not one to require too much of a reason to throw a mini cream puff party in the office, but Beard Papa‘s announcement of karintō cream puffs was a good one; so, I take the liberty of starting this spring snack write-up with our impressions.

If you’re not familiar, karintō are those things in the snack aisle or local dagashi-ya (sweet shop) that look like dirty twigs. The dirt, however, is brown sugar and the twig is best explained as “fried.” Not fried “something” but just . . . fried. The main ingredient besides sugar is flour, and they’re crunchy like cookies despite being cooked like doughnuts. By the time you get that far, it’s only a couple leaps to the cream-puff idea.

Beard Papa‘s surprisingly delicious karintō cream puffs

Beard Papa‘s surprisingly delicious karintō cream puffs

The website copy calls it a “masterpiece confection that can be confidently recommended to karintō fans since it captures the flavor of the real thing.” Here are some comments from our tasting panel . . .

CONTINUE READING about spring snacks →

J-blip: Google Street View Cherry Blossom Edition

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Google Street View

People come from all over the world to get a short glimpse of Japan’s blooming cherry blossoms. Google is taking advantage of this worldwide sakura passion to show off their virtual-tour map feature with Street View Sakura Edition, which shows cherry blossom scenes not only in normal pictures but also as 360-degree panoramas. It’s actually more like Path View, as in most of the scenes you can navigate off the main roads.

While you don’t get to see petals actually scattering to the ground, it’s always warm and sunny on Street View, even as clouds and rain are subduing some of the peak viewing days in the real world this spring. The Blossom Edition features sites from Kyushu all the way up to Aomori, including about 50 different spots, and gives information such as the number of cherry blossom trees, the area they cover and, in some cases, the history of the locations. Even someone in Japan wouldn’t be likely to have the luxury of seeing all these locations without this technology.

If you are in Japan and looking for spots to look at the blossoms, check out our post on hanami technology. But hurry! The blossoms came out ahead of schedule this year and won’t last long. For more virtual cherry blossom viewing, check out our page of reader  cherry blossom photos and hanami experiences from last year.

Crowd-sourcing sakura viewers

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

sakura3

Crowds in Ueno Park view ’em while they last. (Satoko Kawasaki photo)

Everyone’s talking about the unpredictable weather, and this year they’re doing something about it. Crowd-sourced cherry blossom reports are taking the place of the official announcements that were put out by the Japan Meteorological Agency every year since 1955. This year, the agency declared the beginning of the season by measuring a tree at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine and ended the official predictions. This opened up the blossom-predicting business to private weather companies and Web sites.

Several companies are competing to replace the official JMA blossom report, giving office-bound nature lovers plenty of options for desktop tree-tracking. Weathermap Sakura takes a scientific approach, with charts, graphs and indoorsy-looking columnists predicting peak bloom times.  Weathermap’s sakura Twitter feed sends status reports on viewing spots, comparing this year’s full-bloom date to the historical average and last year’s date.

Not to be confused with competing private forecaster, Weathernews, which also has an interactive map. Its main selling point is photos and “My Sakura” reports from some 20,000 users keeping tabs on the state of the blooms. The site’s “SakuraSimulator” lets armchair forecasters slide a time bar to track the daily cherry blossom front as it spreads across a satellite image of Japan.  (Those who really like to plan ahead can have a go at the 100-year simulation.)

Japanese portals Excite and Yahoo! both launched sakura sites this spring. Excite has info on 500 flower viewing spots around the country, and Yahoo! ups the ante with 1000. They have similar searchable information that includes the number of trees at each spot and supplements like picnic recipes, cherry blossom crafts and sweet shops near popular parks. Maps and data can be sent from a PC right to a cell phone from a one-click email box or QR code on each page.

Both portals are packed with the one item more indispensable than portable hand warmers: user-generated content. Both have galleries of thousands of photos submitted by registered site members and blog posts about their blossom viewing experiences.

The blossom information on Idoldog is also crowd-sourced — by dogs. Well, by their proud owners. Hover over the cherry blossom icons on the map to see photos of pets amid petals uploaded by users.

These galleries may or may not lead to better blossom predictions, but they do provide an outlet for the millions of photos of the flowers people snap every year, macro lenses and tripods in tow. It kind of makes us wonder what people did with all the lovingly crafted pictures before there were so many places to upload and share them.

Tools you can trust for the perfect hanami

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

No surprise why Naka-Meguro is a popular hanami spot in Tokyo.

No surprise why Naka-Meguro is a popular hanami spot in Tokyo.

In Japan, when the little pale pink cherry blossom petals start appearing in late March to early April, it’s a cause for celebration, organized celebration. So what could be so hard about having a party under the snowy branches with friends or coworkers? Plenty. A pre-season hanami “fail” survey this year by goo Research found 10 ways a hanami can go wrong.  It can be hard to get the timing right. You can get rained on, end up at a place with no toilets, or pick a place with few trees. Even a best-case scenario can have you and your friends starting out sprawled in the sun and ending up a freezing mass, huddled and hungry on your cold, blue tarp in the unpredictable spring weather.

iSakura app gives weather and bloom information

iSakura app gives weather and bloom information

The survey,  translated by What Japan Thinks, found that the number one problem hanami party organizers have had was finding and keeping a good spot. With more Japanese people carrying smart phones, sophisticated applications are coming to the rescue, including new iPhone apps from AAA, Weathernews and iSakura.

The iSakura app, from BayardNetwork Co., appears to be one of the most popular. It has info on 1,000 cherry blossom-viewing sites across Japan and has been hovering in the top 10 free downloads in the Japanese iTunes store. It can search for flower-viewing venues by name, area, train line or highway exit or by using GPS to find the nearest spot. The database is also searchable via specific conditions, such as night viewing, free entry, availability of parking and public toilets, and whether beer, sake or snacks are sold on site. For each location, in addition to those details and the venue phone number, it tells how open the blossoms are on a 10-degree scale from budding to full and offers the capability to jot down digital notes.

The second most common problem blossom party organizers reported was running out of food and drinks. The Domino’s delivery iPhone app, also featured in the Apple store as a hot item, uses GPS to deliver right to wherever you are, even when you’ve lost track of where in the sea of tarps that is. It also has 20% off coupons within the app until April 25.

Continue reading about hanami-friendly apps →

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