Thursday, February 25, 2010

Japan Blossoms in Spring!

Spring is just around the corner, and in Japan, that means it’s time for hanami festivals! Hanami means “flower blossom viewing” and the parties, picnics and parades take place when the sakura (cherry blossoms) are in bloom (January through May in different parts of the country). Sakura are admired and celebrated by visitors from all over the world. With more than 150 varieties of cherry trees in Japan, it’s no wonder their delicate beauty is imitated in Japanese art, clothing, decorations and more.

My friend, Teruko, was raised in Japan and is now a college Japanese Language Instructor. She said “Just imagine that there are pretty, sweet, pink-colored sakura everywhere when you look up. It is a breathtaking, beautiful scene!” Even though she has lived in the U.S. for 16 years, Teruko’s memories of the hanami festivals are crystal clear. “I felt a breath of spring in the air under the cherry blossoms. It was also joy to watch people’s peaceful and happy faces, and I felt happy too.”

The Japanese celebrate with special hanami foods which they share at picnics under a canopy of blossoms. Some areas are so popular that people have to mark their spot early in the morning. Most of the party and picnic fare are “finger foods” that can be easily transported. Some of the most popular are Kushidango, Japanese sweet dumplings with a sweet and salty sauce; and Yakitori, kabobs are made with chunks of chicken and sometimes negi (green onion).

Yakitori (Chicken Skewers)

2 to 2 1/2 lbs. chicken breasts or thighs
1/4 cup mirin or sweet white wine
1/2 cup light soy sauce
3/4 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated finely
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbs. sugar

Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks. Using a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the chicken and reserve the marinade. Thread the chicken pieces onto 12 bamboo skewers. Cook the chicken skewers on a grill. Turn them during cooking and brush with the reserved marinade (Only brush with marinade during the first half of the cooking time). Cook until browned all over and cooked through.


  1. Mmm... That recipe looks delish! :)

  2. Now I want to go to Japan! You paint a lovely picture, I can almost smell the blossoms.