Eating sakura (cherry blossoms and leaves) article in the Japan Times

Sakurayu - cherry blossom 'tea'

My latest article in The Japan Times is about edible cherry blossoms and leaves. Japanese people love the cherry tree so much that not only do they eagerly look forward to their all too short flowering season each spring, they use the whole plant. They eat the berries of course later on (cherries are called sakuranbo and are in season in June and July) but they also eat the blossoms and the leaves, pickling them in salt and umeboshi vinegar (a by-product of making umeboshi). The wood is used for various things too, as well as the bark. See how sakura bark strips are used in the making of magewappa (bent wood) bento boxes here on JustBento. The bark is also boiled and used as a medicinal tea.

Some photos that didn't get into the article below.

This is how salted/pickled sakura leaves and flowers are typically sold. The flat package contains leaves, and the jar has flowers. You can find them in well stocked supermarkets or in department store food halls in Japan around this time of the year.


Closeup of some cherry blossoms straight out of the jar. As you can see they are quite salty, so for most uses you need to soak them in water for a bit. But for sakurayu or sakura tea, just put a blossom or two in a cup of hot water. The 'tea' is salty and sour with a subtle fragrance.


The easiest way to enjoy the taste of sakura in Japan is via wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets). This is a sakuramochi - an an (sweet bean paste) filled mochi cake wrapped in a sakura leaf. The salty-sour taste of the leaf is a perfect foil to the sweetness of the cake inside.


Here's another kind of sakuramochi; the mochi cake is made of Doumyouji rice, which is medium grain instead of short grain.


How the sakuramochi looks inside. It's a nice couple of bites.


This is a sakura manjuu. The filling is an again, but the dough is different from mochi (but still made with rice). The top is decorated with sakura flavored salt. You can also find sakura manjuu with a salted cherry blossom on top.


Finally here is a sakura-flower shaped nerikiri, a delicate confection made just from smooth an. Beautiful, isn't it? It doesn't actually taste like sakura, unlike the more rustic sakura mochi and sakura manjuu, but it's meant to enjoy the season via the eyes. This one is from Kagizen Yoshifuka, a famous old tea room in Kyoto that I have written about previously a couple of times.


You can also buy seasonal sakura flavored candies, chocolates and the like but to be honest, most of these are pretty but just taste like sugar.

I have noticed that a lot of people (at least in my circles) are travelling to Japan this spring. This is a good thing. If you're in Japan or planning to go there soon, enjoy the sakura season!

Filed under:  spring japan writing elsewhere japan times japanese culture

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Thanks for this post - it is most interesting!

I just noticed your Amazon widget on the side - I tried watching "Supermarket woman" after you recommended it, but I could only get my hands on a copy in Japanese without English translation, so that didn't work out well for me.

I saw you liked "Whisper of the heart" - my girls are great Studio Ghibli movies fans and watch everything I can get in translation or with subtitles. They too liked "Whisper of the heart" but their favorite movie is "Howl's moving castle" followed by "Totoro" and "Ponyo on the Cliff". "Spirited Away" was too scary for them, maybe when they're older.

Spirited Away is a bit scary for me too! ^^ Your girls may like Kiki's Delivery Service, as well as the newest (well actually the 2nd newest, but the newest out internationally) Ghibli movie, The Secret Life of Arrietty (also called The Borrowers Arrietty I think). Both star very brave and resourceful girls.

Just looking at your pictures makes my mouth water. Hope you are feeling better. Maybe some okayu with umeboshi would help. Gambatte!!!!

Ah, I miss Japan so much at this time of year! I was lucky enough to go to Japan during Ohanami and it was so wonderful! I remember that I didn't know what to expect when I first tried sakura mochi - the taste surprised me. But now, I crave it so much.

Thank you for this!

I bought sakuramochi when I was in Kobe last year (Sorry for the long link.)

I didn't realize you can eat the leaf, so I took it off ^^;

When I was in Japan we had Sakura ice-cream. It was pretty good, although I mostly thought it tasted "interesting." I think it's because I've never had flower-flavored ice-cream, and it was definitely a different base flavor compared to normal ice cream. It was like...cherry flavored but sophisticated and complicated. I wish we had some here in Colorado! I don't know how much I'd like pickled sakura, but that mochi and dumpling look pretty tasty.

did you google to find Japanese food near you or have it shipped to you from other states?

I'm sorry to discover that I had not the opportunity to try this edible sakura when I stayed in Japan.

Anyway, I asked myself why there were sakura drawings on all those products in supermarkets, you answered, thank you !

I hope you are feeling well today :) Thank you for the fantastic articles. I'm finding myself wanting some sakura leaves and flowers but I can't find them here. Do you know of a good place to order them online?

This is a wonderful post! I recently had the pleasure of attending a wagashi workshop at the NYC Japan Society by a master wagashi-maker from Kyoto, and encountered the pickled cherry leaves for the first time. I was fascinated by the idea of pickling these beautiful leaves and am delighted to learn more from your article.

this makes me very excited to be in Japan next week. I can not wait to see and taste such beauty

Thanks for this wonderful article about edible cherry blossoms. It makes one want to try it.

For those who have difficulties finding pickled cherry blossoms, I am a producer based in Japan with an international online shop.


This link is not only the product in the shop but it also explains how pickled cherry blossoms are made.

I wish all of you a lot of fun with pickled cherry blossoms.


Hello Nicolas, please use the Contact form regarding advertising (select Advertising). Thanks!

Dear Makiko,

I just left a comment about pickled sakura on your blog. My name is Nicolas and I own a traditional Japanese fine foods company with my wife. Pickled cherry blossoms are part of our product line up.

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As I can see you already have a partnership with J-List, which provides a wide range of products from Japan. Our line up is very different and would add more diversity to your readers.

If you are interested in adding us as a partner I would be very please to talk about your terms as well as products you need for your recipes and readership.

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When I was in Japan for the first time (on my honeymoon) during cherry blossom time, we stayed at a ryokan and we had a Doumyouji rice 'ball' (it was a cylinder) with eel in it. It was wrapped in a sakura leaf and was served in a sakura blossom syrup.

Oishi desu!

My wife and I were in Kyoto last weekend (just got back from a two-week vacation in Japan), and we found a sweets shop selling sakura salt, as well as sugar. We picked up a jar of the sugar (and a jar of matcha sugar) - figure it'll be awesome on shortbread cookies. Also, tried sakura soft serve in Nara, and I think we're addicted *LOL*

These are beautiful! I just discovered your blog and all the amazing recipes. Definitely going to try your tofu making method for my blog.

After reading your article, I was curious about how it feels because I never tasted it #drool

While ordering my favorite Shoyu, I noticed started carrying sakura! Thank goodness, because I found a salty chocolate cookie recipe that would just be adorable with this on top!