by Rei H.

When the beautiful cherry blossoms start to bloom in Japan, people go under the cherry trees and have parties to celebrate the arrival of spring. These parties are called Hanami, which directly means to watch flowers (cherry blossoms), but it also indicates to have picnic style parties under cherry blossoms. Because Hanami’s best season lasts only for a few days to a week, a surge of people rushes to the cherry blossoms sights across the country.

At Hanami parties, people usually drink Sake (drinking alcohol in public is legal in Japan) or calmly enjoy a cup of tea with Japanese sweets. Since I do not drink alcohol, having a cup of tea with Japanese sweets under cherry blossoms is nothing but a joy for me. Typically, we usually have skewered Mochi (rice cake) balls. There is an idiom “Mochis over flowers (cherry blossoms)” which is equivalent to “Bread is better than the songs of birds.”  I am the living proof of this phrase because I love Japanese sweets so much. Why? Because they are tasty, beautiful, seasonal, healthy, and not too sweet.

I am obsessed with Japanese sweets so much that I make them at home from time to time. Most of the fresh Japanese sweets are not exported due to their short shelf life. One of my favorite Japanese sweets is the Sakura Mochi (cherry blossom rice cake), a rice cake with sweet red beans inside wrapped in a salty cherry leaf. The Sakura Mochi is the seasonal sweet sold only in spring. Enjoying them under the cherry blossoms with my family and friends is my ritual during the Hanami season, just like Michiganders enjoy donuts at the apple cider mills in fall!

Sakura Mochi

Since there are some cherry blossoms sights in Michigan, such as Belle Island and Hikone Road in Ann Arbor, how about you bring your tea and your favorite sweets to enjoy the Hanami season with your friends and family, just like Japanese people do this year? I am sure you will have a great time!