Spring is a beautiful time of year in Japan, as the country’s famous cherry blossoms (sakura) begin to bloom, transforming parks and gardens into stunning displays of pink and white. The start of the cherry blossom season varies from year to year, depending on the weather, but typically it begins in late March or early April in the Tokyo area.

But Spring in Japan is not only about the Sakura, Japanese cuisine is also heavily influenced by the seasons, and many dishes are prepared using ingredients that are at their peak during specific times of the year. Here are some popular Japanese spring foods you need to try!

Sakura mochi

This is a traditional Japanese sweet made with sweet glutinous rice and filled with sweet red bean paste, wrapped in a salted cherry blossom leaf. It’s a popular snack during the cherry blossom season.

Takenoko (bamboo shoots)

Spring is the season for fresh bamboo shoots, which are harvested before they grow too large and tough. They are used in a variety of dishes, such as boiled bamboo shoots, stir-fried bamboo shoots, and bamboo shoot rice.

Fuki no to (butterbur sprouts)

Butterbur is a vegetable that grows wild in Japan and is harvested in early spring. The young sprouts are used in dishes such as tempura and boiled with miso soup.

Soba with tempura

Soba noodles made from buckwheat flour are a popular spring food in Japan, especially when served with crispy tempura vegetables or shrimp.

Chirashi sushi

This is a type of sushi made by mixing cooked sushi rice with various ingredients, such as sliced raw fish, egg, and vegetables, and served in a bowl.

Hamaguri (clams)

Spring is the peak season for hamaguri, a type of clam that is popular in Japan. They are often used in soups and stews or served grilled or steamed with sake and soy sauce.

Strawberry sweets

Spring is also the season for strawberries in Japan, and they are used in a variety of sweets such as strawberry shortcake and strawberry daifuku (sweet glutinous rice cake filled with strawberry and sweet red bean paste).

One of the most popular ways to celebrate spring in Japan is with hanami, or cherry blossom viewing parties. Friends and family gather under the cherry blossoms with picnic blankets and food, enjoying the beautiful scenery and the company of loved ones. What foods will you bring to your Hanami this year?