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2022 Sakura and Sake Guide

2022 Sakura and Sake Guide

Okay, you're not the only one. We all miss Japan crazily, especially when the beloved hanami season has already started and cherry blossoms are in full bloom throughout Japan. This year, though Japan eases border restrictions, travelling to the country is still out of reach. In order not to miss the seasonal pink blossoms, search online for any social media live broadcasting, order locally produced sake, prepare some authentic Japanese gourmet foods for the virtual appreciation of cherry blossoms. Here are six destinations for your virtual hanami.

 

Hiroshima
The first bloom in Hiroshima has already started on March 21 and will last till early April. Conveniently located in the city centre, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a great place to view sakura. With 300 cherry trees planted in the park and along the river, the historic park is ideal for hosting a picnic. To celebrate, open a bottle of Hakuko Junmai or Junmai Daiginjo produced in Hiroshima for its softness and umami flavour. Hiroshima is famous for its ultra-soft water and Hakuko is now the 7th generation that refines the technique of soft water sake brewing. Taste it with Hiroshima Okonomiyaki, a savoury cabbage and yakisoba noodle pancake for the real local taste.

Yamanashi
From now until mid-April, you could see clouds of pink flowers throughout Yamanashi. The popularity of Yamanashi hanami is not only because it's 90 minutes away from Tokyo, but it's also because of the natural landscape of the temples and parks with the spectacular Mt. Fuji as the backdrop. Renowned as the Kingdom of Fruits, Yamanashi also supplies premium quality rice, including Yukimegami, Yumisansui and Bizen Omachi; and crystal-clear water from Mt. Fuji and Mt. Kaikoma. Try some outstanding brews from Dan and Shichiken. Pair them with the local speciality, Hoto, a fresh noodle in miso soup with assorted vegetables and meats.

Nagano
Adjacent to Yamanashi, Nagano also overlooks Mt. Fuji providing a fascinating snow-capped mountain as a backdrop for instagrammable hanami photos. April is the best time for viewing sakura blooming fully in Nagano. Visit Takato Castle Park for 1,500 sakura trees and for its fame as one of Japan's Top 100 cherry blossom viewing spots. Nagano is truly gifted with natural resources that turn the prefecture into a world of sake. The natural spring water is mineral-rich while the climate and clean air nurtured the birth of Miyama Nishiki in Nagano prefecture.

Celebrate the charmingly pink scenery with a bottle of Kikusaki or Takizawa which are both brewed with the native Miyama Nishiki. The fruity and floral character is excellent to pair with Robatayaki and hot pots.

Niigata
Heading up North you will arrive in Niigata, a destination where you can experience “Yozakura”, literally meaning cherry blossom viewing in the evening. Takada Castle Site Park is prized as one of the best Yozakura spots in Japan, home to 4,000 cherry trees lit up at night and decorated with paper lanterns. Truly jaw-dropping. Niigata is also named as the top rice-producing region. So, enjoy the exquisite beauty of sakura with the locally brewed sake from Manotsura, a brewery found in 1892 that focuses on brew master's skill to produce sake by using high-quality groundwater from the mountainous ranges and rice varietals such as Gohyakumangoku and Yamadanishi on Sado Island in Niigata. Soft and balanced. Great with snow crab and soba noodles.

Miyagi
Located in the Northern East part of Japan, Miyagi's hanami season starts a bit late in April and lasts the entire month. Check out the diversified cherry blossom scenes in Miyagi, including Hitome Senbon Zakura, the activity held at the bank of Shiroishi River featuring the magnificent Mt. Zao in the back; Saigyo Modoshi No Matsu Park, the breathtaking bay near Sendai surrounded by countless cherry blossoms; and Shiogama Shrine where you can see 300 cherry trees with more than 20 varieties. Enjoy the pink floral scenes with a Junmai, the majority of sake type produced in Miyagi prefecture. The award-winning Zankyo Junmai Daiginjo is a perfect match for the freshest sashimi and oysters from Northern Japan.

Though we're not able to admire these iconic scenes in person, we could still savour some of the best regional gourmet and drinks from Japan. Let's hope for the best we'll be catching some falling sakura petals with our palms next year in Japan.

Taste of Sakura