Once a year for a very short period of time, a special type of tree blooms across Japan. That is the Japanese cherry blossom. They are the source of inspiration for paintings, poetry, love stories, clothing designs, and food presentation.
During the spring when these blossoms bloom, cherry blossom themed stationary and flavored foods are sold all over the place. There is not a single store or business that does not take advantage of this beautiful part of nature and uses it to sell their products.
Marketing products using cherry blossoms gets more and more creative every year, but there are some classic dishes in Japan that traditionally use actual parts of the trees.
Sakura mochi and pickled cherry blossom blooms are common and delicious sweets, which I think are quite delicious. Sakura mochi is a dessert that is made of pounded short-grain rice that has been dyed pink to represent cherry blossoms, filled with sweet red bean paste and covered with a pickled cherry blossom leaf. It is probably my favorite traditional sweet.
There are dozens of varieties of cherry blossom in Japan, each with their unique, beautiful flowers. They bloom at slightly different times in the year, but the one thing that all trees share in common is their short bloom time. Sakura usually bloom for no more than 2-4 weeks, and the peak bloom time can be as short as one or two days. Japanese people pay close attention to weather forecasts that track bloom times of cherry blossoms and turn up in large numbers at parks, shrines and temples with family and friends to hold flower-viewing parties.
While I personally think that the beauty of Japanese cherry blossoms is a little overrated, their sheer numbers and presence on literally every block makes them a hard sight to ignore, and seeing as the barren, dead brown trees abruptly spring to life with bright pink exploding flowers is a sight to behold. It is breathtaking and truly beautiful.