From affordable konbini (convenience store) eats to luxurious menus and amazing restaurant views, here’s your guide to dining this spring.
*Some tours, events and venues might be closed, canceled or postponed due to the ongoing situation with the coronavirus. If you’re making plans, please check websites in advance for the latest updates. Read this article to learn about canceled hanami events. Check here for updates on more canceled events and venue closings.
Hanami is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers and it’s not complete without a bounty of snacks from the local konbini to munch on while taking in the view with friends. Around this time of year, the shelves are stocked full of seasonal delights that are easy to spot from their signature light pink hue and cherry blossom illustrations on the packaging.
Filled with pickled cherry blossoms and made with water steeped with cherry blossoms, wrapped in a pickled sakura leaf, this is the perfect salty snack.
The pink-colored chewy rice cake is sweeter than normal but features a contrastingly salty pickled sakura leaf wrapped around the outside for a balanced sweet and savory snack.
Three mini rice balls on a stick coming in seasonal representational shades; white for snow during winter, pink for sakura in spring, and green representing the grass that grows in summer.
Wagashi is a traditional snack that’s often served with tea, and for hanami season they’re often pink in color and shaped into cherry blossom flowers.
Grand Hyatt Tokyo is back with its spectacular cherry blossom menu and it’s quite the treat. The French Kitchen is serving up a Sakura and Strawberry Afternoon Tea Buffet that includes a mouthwatering pink ruby chocolate fountain, perfect for dipping Amaou strawberries from Fukuoka Prefecture.
For the more savory types, a bento-inspired box features six savory bites including crab tartlets, asparagus and prosciutto quiche, and sakura sandwiches filled with sakura shrimp, egg and mayonnaise (from ¥3,800). The Oak Door celebrates the seasonal change with a Sakura Picnic Basket that’s comprised of a pink burger, rosé champagne and a cherry blossom dessert (¥5,500).
For a snack on-the-go, the Fiorentina Pastry Boutique’s got you covered with a number of blossom-themed sweets such as Sakura Macarons, Sakura Pound Cake and Sakura Roll Cake to name but a few.
*The cherry blossom menu will still be available, however all buffets at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo have been suspended due to the ongoing situation with the coronavirus.
Dining With a View
This traditional kaiseki eatery is situated in the middle of Ueno Park; one of the hanami hotspots. The building dates back to 1875 and has an old-timey atmosphere with charming timber interiors. Diners can sit alfresco on the terrace surrounded by the blossoms, or inside admiring the view looking out from the floor to ceiling windows while munching on beautifully decorated bento. www.innsyoutei.jp/en
Kan is a modern izakaya that’s perfectly placed along the sakura-lined banks of the Meguro River. The interior has an industrious feel, and the food has a focus on fresh, seasonal produce with a contemporary presentation. It provides you with a more elevated experience than your traditional izakaya, resulting in a feast for your eyes as well as your stomach.
SubLime is the perfect place to get together with friends and enjoy a drink (or two) and some tasty food. Big windows overlook Inokashira Park, making it the ideal spot for hanami dining in a casual setting. The menu offers typical Japanese foods such as karaage, and fresh fish and horse sashimi that pairs well with sake from their collection.
We spoke to owner, magician and mixologist, Christophe Rossi, from Kyoto’s quirky L’Escamoteur Bar, and he gave us the perfect sakura cocktail recipe to make at home.
Kinobi Sakura Tonic
Kinobi Gin 45ml
Dover Sakura Liquor 5ml
Sakura flower or lemon twist
- Take a tall glass and put ice in it
- Measure and pour the gin and sakura liquor into the glass
- Top off with tonic
- Garnish with a sakura flower or lemon twist
Cruise on a Yakatabune
If you’re tired from walking the usual overcrowded routes, why not opt for a more leisurely pace by hopping aboard a yakatabune. These Japanese-style wooden boats can be found cruising along the cherry blossom-lined Sumida and Meguro rivers. The views can be admired during the day or at night when the trees are lit up by spotlight, making for a romantic setting.
While onboard, traditional Japanese foods such as sashimi, seasonal bento, and freshly fried tempura are served, with some cruises also offering all-you-can-drink packages. Tours can last between one and three hours making it a great way to see the blossoms with very little effort on your part.
If you’re worried about the coronavirus outbreak while traveling through Japan, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) operates a visitor hotline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Support is available in English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.
From Japan 050-3816-2787
From Overseas +81-50-3816-2787