Picnicking Under the Cherry Trees
Known as Japan’s national flower, the sakura or famously as cherry blossom, comes in many varieties. From the genus Prunus, cherry blossoms are closely related to other trees, like those of almonds and peaches. Mostly as ornamental, the plant does not bear any fruit although there are some edible cherries.
As spring approaches, the entire nation can be covered in shades of pink. But months ahead, retailers, organizers and TV stations await the coming of the blooms. They don’t really come all together, but rather in a sweep of stages from south to north, initiated by the so-called ‘sakura front.’
Meteorologists forecast and keep track. The first blossoms generally appear in Okinawa in January and slowly move up the archipelago, passing through Japan’s central islands (including Kyoto and Tokyo) in late March and early April, before progressing further north and hitting Hokkaido in early May. Where it advances, regions engage in their favorite past time – the hanami. It means ‘looking at flowers.’ People have picnics under the trees and appreciate the view.
The short-lived blossoms, in bloom for only a week before they fall off the trees, have deep symbolic meanings in Japan. The flowers refer to the beauty of the fleeting nature of life and to Japan’s most deep-rooted cultural and philosophical beliefs.
Japan celebrates the cherry blossoms and have festivals in certain locations. A few are the Ueno Park in Tokyo, the Maruyama Park and Imperial Palace Park in Kyoto, the Miyagi prefecture in the north. What special foods are prepared to celebrate at cherry blossoms festivals? Family picnics of homemade food, including seasonal delights specifically for cherry blossom viewing are available in parks and public places.
Onigiri are rice balls, some are salted and have fillings like pickled plums, cooked salmon pieces and tuna with mayonnaise. Some are white or pink like cherry blossoms. Grilled or fried meat, fish and vegetables are common festival foods. Ginger-fried chicken called karaage are easy to bring and so are fried chunks of kabocha.
Cups of miso soup also come along, as well as colorful sweet and savory treats like tamagoyaki, anko and mochi. If there isn’t much time to prepare, bento lunches can be bought anywhere. These lunches truly convey balance and the spirit of hanami.
Remembering Hanami in Bellevue
Sushi in Joy also celebrates hanami in Bellevue. Japan’s beautiful, iconic blooms are remembered with our specialties. Be sure to drop in and have some of those treats, or better yet, have bento.