sakura

Space sakura have returned to Earth with cherry blossom superpowers

Space sakura have returned to Earth with cherry blossom superpowers

Rather than wading into the debate as to whether a tree covered in beautiful cherry blossoms or a piece of cutting edge technology is the more representative symbol of Japan, you could split the difference by awarding the title to one of the sakura cherry trees grown from seeds that were taken into space. Not only do they combine the country’s admiration of both nature and innovation, their seeds’ journey to the stars seems to have imparted some of them with the amazing ability to bloom in just half the time of regular cherry trees.

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Capybara enjoying a meal at Ueno Zoo treats us to the herbivore’s version of “Hana Yori Dango”

Capybara enjoying a meal at Ueno Zoo treats us to the herbivore’s version of “Hana Yori Dango”

As our readers may be well aware, we Japanese have a passion for the sakura, or cherry trees, turning it into a huge social event when they’re in bloom each spring, even though they last for only about a week. We’re also quite fond of capybaras, as you can tell from the way we delight in pampering them in hot spring baths, and also creating mascot characters out of them as well. Well, we’re right in the middle of sakura season in Tokyo now, and we’ve found a cute little picture that combines these two seemingly unrelated subjects in a delightfully unexpected way. Yes, straight from Ueno, one of the most famous sakura-viewing areas in Tokyo, we bring to you this lovely photo that has captured the hearts of Japanese netizens and gives renewed meaning to the Japanese expression, “hana yori dango.”

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Bored with traditional hanami? Four other ways to enjoy the cherry blossoms in the Tokyo area

Bored with traditional hanami? Four other ways to enjoy the cherry blossoms in the Tokyo area

It’s sakura (cherry blossom) time again in Tokyo! As the blossoms reach their peak in the next week, you can bet that people will be flocking to the parks to enjoy some much-needed R&R under the flurry of falling petals. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could get tired of gazing at the sakura since the flowers are only in full bloom for such a short time in the spring.

But if you’ve found yourself fighting through the hanami (blossom-viewing) crowds at Ueno or Yoyogi Park for several years in a row, you might be looking for a slightly more alternative, or even adventurous way to take in the ephemeral petals. If we’re describing you, check out these four alternative ways to enjoy hanami without having to break out that tired old picnic blanket or get up at 5 a.m. on your precious weekend to grab a decent a spot!

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Six sensational Starbucks for sakura spectators

Six sensational Starbucks for sakura spectators

With the earliest varieties of cherry blossoms already starting to bloom around Tokyo, it’s almost time for sakura season to get into full swing! It’s Japan’s most enticing time to get out of the house and enjoy the beauty of nature! There’s just one little problem, though.

It’s still pretty cold out.

So if you’re torn between feeling immersed in Japanese culture and feeling anything in your toes, here are six Starbuck’s locations where you can relax with a warm cup of coffee while gazing at the cherry blossoms just outside the windows.

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There’s something about sakura: It’s hard not to fall in love with Japan’s cherry blossom【Videos】

There’s something about sakura: It’s hard not to fall in love with Japan’s cherry blossom【Videos】

Spring has arrived in Japan, and that can mean only one thing: Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing parties! But what is it about hanami, and those pretty pink petals in general for that matter, that manages to capture the hearts and minds of so many?

Let’s take a look at a handful of videos that capture the mood of hanami season perfectly and see if we can pinpoint exactly what it is that makes the season so special!

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McDonald’s Japan celebrates cherry blossom season with new cherry frappe and mocha drinks

McDonald’s Japan celebrates cherry blossom season with new cherry frappe and mocha drinks

With certain varieties of sakura trees already covered in pink blossoms, Japan has got cherry trees on the brain. Everyone is looking forward to go out and see the flowers that’ll only be here for a short time, but why settle for one Japanese tradition when you can have two by combining it with limited-availability fast food, in the form of cherry mochas and frappes from McDonald’s.

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Know your sakura: Japan’s three best cherry blossom trees

Know your sakura: Japan’s three best cherry blossom trees

In Japan, cherry blossoms, or sakura, are the rock stars of the plant kingdom. People obsess over them, their rare public appearances send fans into a frenzy, and the most devoted enthusiasts will even follow their flowering tour as it spreads from Japan’s warmer southern prefectures to the chillier north.

But just as some music acts draw larger crowds than others, these three sakura trees are considered to be the absolute peak of the pink-flowered crowd.

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Celebrate spring with pink buns at McDonald’s Japan

Celebrate spring with pink buns at McDonald’s Japan

This year, the sakura cherry blossoms are scheduled to start appearing in Japan as early as March 20 and will slowly move their way north as the country begins to thaw after a particularly snowy winter. Just one day after the appearance of the actual blossoms, McDonald’s will release a spring-inspired burger that takes a cue from the very sakura that Japan is so famous for. But with a pink-colored bun and sakura mayonnaise sauce, it’s unclear if the odd combination will be as well received as cherry blossoms and beer.

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Starbucks Japan’s sakura drinks: One more reason we’re ready for winter to be over

Starbucks Japan’s sakura drinks: One more reason we’re ready for winter to be over

Is it spring yet? I know my southern Californian upbringing means I whine whenever the temperature is cold enough that I have to put on a jacket to go out, but I could seriously do with some warmer weather right about now. There’s all sorts of things to look forward to in the coming season, such as longer days, being able to spend more time outdoors, and the blooming of the sakura, or cherry blossoms.

And just in case the deal needs any more sweetening, there’s also Starbucks’ springtime sakura beverage lineup.

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Spring comes to Miyagi Prefecture…in October!

Spring comes to Miyagi Prefecture…in October!

We may be well into October, but spring has already come to Miyagi Prefecture!

This summer saw record high temperatures throughout Japan, and the heat is only now starting to let up now, with some days still hitting 32 degrees Celsius (89 degrees Fahrenheit). Even more surprising though, was the blossoming of some cherry blossom trees – six months early – down in Miyagi, leading some to believe the high temperatures are to blame for the early open sakura flowers.

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Cherry Blossom + a Sprinkling of Snow = Incredible Beauty 【Photos】

Cherry Blossom + a Sprinkling of Snow = Incredible Beauty 【Photos】

As April gets underway and Japan is finally able to thaw itself out, people across the country watch eagerly as a wave of delicate pink flowers gradually makes its way north, signalling the arrival of spring and — perhaps more importantly — the opportunity to have hanami drinking parties in public spaces. Apart from in a handful of especially sheltered areas, Tokyo’s cherry blossom has almost all disappeared from the branches above our heads, but for those in the north and naturally colder regions of Japan, the cherry blossom season is only just beginning.

Imagine their shock, however, when our friends in Nagano opened their curtains this morning to discover their towns covered in a thin layer of snow. 

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Cherry Blossom Season: Japan’s Top Three Hot Spots for Hanami

Cherry Blossom Season: Japan’s Top Three Hot Spots for Hanami

Ladies and gentlemen, winter in Japan is officially over. The thermal underwear and thick coats have been packed away and people, or at least those who don’t suffer from allergies, are throwing open their windows and letting the warm air in. It’s at this time of year that people rekindle their love of the outdoors and, armed with their blue plastic ground sheets and big bags of food, head to the park in order to catch a glimpse of the cherry blossom at its best.

The official name for this recreational activity is hanami (花見 lit. flower watching), but for many it’s simply a great opportunity to get together with friends to drink beer in the park. Still, if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right, so provided you can find it in you to fight through the hordes of other like-minded sakura (cherry blossom) fans, there are three locations in particular that we highly recommend visiting.

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High-Speed Chocolate: A Look at the New Shinkansen Kit Kat and Other Cool Japanese Kit Kat Packages

High-Speed Chocolate: A Look at the New Shinkansen Kit Kat and Other Cool Japanese Kit Kat Packages

Japan gets all the cool Kit Kats. Since 2000, Nestlé has introduced over 200 flavors and varieties of the chocolate bar to Japan, from chestnut and espresso to baked corn and soy sauce.

Some flavors come and go with the seasons and others are exclusive to certain regions; at the souvenir shops of my home prefecture Nagano you can find the tasty Shinshu Apple flavor and the questionable Ichimi Ground Red Pepper flavor.

One of our Japanese reporters recently came across a new variety of Kit Kat at Nagoya Station that we thought was pretty cool. While the Kit Kat bars themselves are the regular milk chocolate flavor—which, mind you, differs from country to countrythe box art is inspired by the Tokaido Shinkansen line and should be familiar to anyone who has ridden the bullet train in Japan.

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Fun Do-It-Yourself Mini Cherry Blossom Kit

Fun Do-It-Yourself Mini Cherry Blossom Kit

Who doesn’t love cherry blossoms (sakura) and cherry blossom season? That exquisite pink everywhere. Refreshing, energizing, even. It’s fun just to wander around checking out the different parks with cherry blossoms. Sadly, time flies and the petals blow away… Read More