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Tokyo’s hanami season is one of the busiest and most celebrated times of the year. People from all over the world fly in to take in the sights, sounds and snacks of this festive occasion. The cherry blossoms are the main event. Even sharing the experience with thousands of others, you’re able to look up and see nothing but flowers. The sakura’s bloom lasts just a couple of weeks.
Hanami usually involves a picnic under the trees with friends or family. Special hanami bento are boxed lunches packed with easy to share food, make your own or they are available at most major department stores. The aristocrats of the Heian Era began this tradition over one thousand years ago, and it lives on in modern Japan.
There are many traditional snacks associated with springtime in Japan and picnics under the blossoms (often called a hanami party). These include hanami dango and other wagashi (sweets) with sakura or spring elements, such as the leaves, flavor or color.
More modern sakura snacks are popular, too, not just for hanami but for the spring season in general. While the sakura trees will never bear fruit, their petals and leaves create a surprisingly versatile flavor. It is used in everything from pastries and coffee to savory dishes. Every spring, nearly every bakery, pastry shop and confectionery in Japan will come out with their own spin on the popular flavor.