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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogSakura Mochi and More Amazing Hanami Snacks

Sakura Mochi and More Amazing Hanami Snacks

Thuy FangThuy Fang
Published Time
Posted on 
March 13, 2024
Modified Time
Updated last 
April 24, 2024
A spread of sakura mochi, hanami dango and ohagi.

In Japan, spring brings beautiful cherry blossoms and tasty hanami snacks like sakura mochi. They make cherry blossom viewing events even more fun! These hanami snacks hold an essential place in Japanese culture, representing the happiness and renewal of the season. Let’s dive into the world of spring delights and discover their cultural significance and unique flavors.

Sakura Mochi

Sakura mochi is a light pink rice ball with yummy red bean paste wrapped in a pickled cherry blossom leaf. When you take a bite, you’ll taste a delightful mix of sweet and salty flavors with a hint of fragrant cherry blossom. In Japan, everyone enjoys this delightful treat during typical spring occasions like Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day) and Hanami (cherry blossom viewing picnics).

A plate of sakura mochi.
Sakura mochi is a rice ball with a filling inside! Image via Shutterstock

This treat comes from a lovely place called Mukojima in Tokyo. In 1717, Shinroku Yamamoto, who used to work as a gatekeeper, invented this yummy sweet. He started a teahouse and wrapped the sweet in cherry blossom leaves he found nearby. Then, people loved sakura mochi so much, especially those enjoying cherry blossoms by the Sumida River.

Generally, there are two main styles of sakura mochi: Kanto and Kansai. In the Kanto region, like Tokyo, they use wheat flour and shiratamako (glutinous rice flour) to give the mochi a crepe-like texture. Meanwhile, in the Kansai region, including Osaka and Kyoto, domyojiko, a coarser glutinous rice flour, is used for chewier bites. Both styles are equally delicious and familiar throughout Japan.

Ichigo Ame

Ichigo ame (candied strawberries) is a delicious treat many Japanese people love. Like how you might find candied apples or other fruity sweets, you’ll come across them at traditional festivals, Disneyland, and most amusement parks in Japan. It said that the root of this candied fruit is traced back to China, where it’s known as tanghulu

A platter of ichigo ame.
Ichigo ame is candied strawberries. Image via Shutterstock

The process of making ichigo ame is unique. Fresh and juicy strawberries are carefully coated in a syrupy sugar mixture that hardens into a crunchy shell as it cools. This creates a great contrast between the sweetness of the candy coating and the slight tartness of the real strawberries. It’s like a flavor explosion in your mouth! 

Japanese strawberries are famous for their exceptional quality and size, making this fruity snack even more special. They’re often enjoyed during late spring and early summer, adding to the festive vibe of the seasons.

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Taiyaki

Taiyaki is a super cool and tasty snack shaped like a fish waffle. It has crunchy golden outside and a yummy filling inside. In addition, you can watch the entire process of making taiyaki at food stalls in Japanese festivals. They use a unique fish-shaped mold to bake the batter. Then, they fill it with yummy stuff like sweet red bean paste before closing it up and letting it cook until it’s nice and crispy.

Someone holding up a sakura colored pink taiyaki.
Taiyaki is one of many popular snacks in Japan! Image via Shutterstock

Nowadays, you can find all sorts of taiyaki fillings, from the traditional red bean paste and custard to more popular flavors like cheese, matcha, chocolate, or even ice cream.

Taiyaki appeared in the early 1900s (the Meiji period) when a confectioner wanted to make a snack that people could enjoy on the go. Thus, he took inspiration from another treat called imagawayaki and shaped it like a fish. Fish are considered lucky in Japanese culture, so taiyaki quickly became a symbol of good fortune.

Ume kombu

When springtime rolls around in Japan, one of the most beloved flavors is ume (plum). Among the snacks that are perfect for those cherry blossom picnics is ume kombu!

A couple of rice balls with ume kombu.
Ume kombu is a common ingredient in rice balls! Image via Shutterstock

Ume kombu is an exceptional treat made from seaweed called kombu and flavored with Japanese plum. It’s not like your usual snacks – it’s dried and made chewy, giving you a fun texture to munch on. Think of it like chewing gum, but you’re getting a burst of plum flavor and seaweed goodness instead of just chewing. And the longer you chew, the tastier it gets!

What’s excellent about ume kombu is that it’s not just tasty, it’s also healthy! It’s rich in potassium, calcium, and dietary fiber, all vital nutrients your body needs. Plus, it’s low in calories, so even those on a diet can enjoy it without any worries. This dish is usually enjoyed with tea. Moreover, Japanese adults like to have it with beer, sake, or other alcoholic beverages.

Hanami Dango 

Hanami dango, or three-colored dango, is among the most favored treats during Japanese cherry blossom season. It’s a trio of dumplings skewered together, and each dumpling has a different color: pink, white, and green. They reflect the stages of cherry blossom growth: pink buds, white blossoms, and green leaves. This iconic dango is truly a symbol of springtime joy and celebration.

A plate of hanami dango.
Hanami dango represents the color of spring! Image via Shutterstock

People have been eating hanami dango during sakura season for a long time. It’s said that Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a historical figure, served them at a unique cherry blossom viewing party in Kyoto.

Hanami dango also stands out since it has a distinctive texture and a bit of sweetness. It’s made from sweet and glutinous rice flour, giving it a chewy and slightly firm feel. The pink one usually tastes like cherry blossoms or strawberries. The green one has a grassy flavor from yomogi. The white one is simple, letting the rice flavor come through.

Why should I enjoy snacks like sakura mochi this spring?

Again, experiencing hanami snacks like sakura mochi is not just about indulging in delicious treats; it’s about savoring the season’s essence and celebrating spring’s arrival with every bite. Indeed, these snacks are also cherished by many locals and visitors at every cherry blossom festival. So, why not treat yourself to some of them and experience the joy of spring? What’s your favorite springtime treat? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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