Beyond the cherry blossoms

Pink things that only appear during The Season

Sure, the cherry trees are pretty in pink, but The Season offers far more delights (and horrors) than elbowing a million other flower fanatics out of the way for that perfect shot. For example…

The sublime: Things lit up in pink at night

These buildings deck themselves out in pink from mid-March to mid-April, and discovering a new one is just as delightful as getting a clear shot of a particularly fine tree in full bloom.

Mitsukoshi department store lit up in pink for cherry blossom season
From department stores…
Fukutoku Shrine lit up in pink for cherry blossom season
to dancing blossom animations at shrines…
Bank lit up in pink for cherry blossom season
to banks…
Tokyo Tower lit up in pink for cherry blossom season
to Tokyo Tower…
Fuji TV building with animated light show for cherry blossom season
…to the grandest building display of all, which belongs to the Fuji TV Building in Odaiba, where they put on an animated light show in all the windows, starting at 18:00
Tokyo Midtown hanami illumination of Mt. Fuji
There are even some special hanami-themed nighttime illumination shows, like this Mt. Fuji at Tokyo Midtown
Blooming cherry trees on model at Tokyo Legoland
And let’s not forget to look for the little things: Small nods to The Season are everywhere, like the blooming cherry trees that suddenly appear in the room-sized Tokyo model at Legoland

The “Sure, I’ll try it once”: Sakura-flavored foods

What do cherry blossoms taste like? To be honest, they are about the most disappointing thing you will ever experience in Japan. They’re not naturally very pink, and the vaguely floral flavor some people claim to taste is mostly wishful thinking. Every food purveyor hoping to lure customers back for seconds also adds a boatload of artificial coloring and spikes their offerings with other flavors associated with pink food. Like…

Starbucks sakura drinks for cherry blossom season
Starbucks’ frappucinos and lattes goose the “sakura” flakes with strawberry and raspberry purees…
Seven-eleven sakura pudding for cherry blossom season
Seven Eleven’s “sakura” pudding makes sure there are enough whipped cream and white chocolate ingredients to make up for the tastelessness of the actual sakura flavor…
Haagen-dazs sakura ice cream flavor for cherry blossom season
Haagen-Dazs keeps the pink goo confined to a thin layer on top of it otherwise tasty vanilla ice cream…
Cherry blossom themed beer
Most beer is thankfully free of any actual cherry blossom ingredient, confining their hanami marketing to the packaging (although there are a few beers and sakes that DO use cherry blossom petals as an ingredient, which should be avoided at all costs.)

The Ridiculous: Pink foods that have no business being pink

Entire teishoku lunch of pink foods for cherry blossom season
Cafes offering cherry blossom themed teishoku lunches are all about the pink. The soba noodles and the rice cake in that traditional spring sweet wrapped in a pickled cherry leaf actually do have sakura petals in them, but no cherry blossoms were harmed in the making of that tuna sashimi or the bacon-topped veggie steamer just waiting to have a fire lit under it.
Cherry blossom burger at First Kitchen
Fast food joints like First Kitchen sometimes offer sakura-themed burgers, but the pink part comes from food coloring (the bun) and shrimp (the “burger”)
Pink rice sushi roll for cherry blossom season
This sushi roll’s rice is colored/flavored with sakura WHY
Salad made pink with beets for cherry blossom season
And topping my list for “most disappointing,” this festive pink salad gets it flavoring from…beet sauce UGH

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Jonelle Patrick writes mystery novels set in Tokyo, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

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