There's just something so special about spring in Japan. No matter where you're traveling to, it's sure to be spectacularly beautiful. And with the new season comes a wave of seasonal foods to sample and enjoy — because, like the cherry blossoms, they won't be around for long!
In spring, you'll see slightly bitter green mountain vegetables at restaurants or supermarkets, takikomi gohan, and, last but not least, sakura and strawberry-themed snacks all over the country. You can't miss them, even if you tried to.
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9 Japanese Springs Foods To Try
Let's review some Japanese treats, seasonal trends, and a few spring ingredients you'll likely encounter if you visit Japan in the spring.
- Sakura Mochi
- Takikomi Gohan (Japanese Mixed Rice)
- Ichigo Daifuku (Strawberry Mochi)
- Cherry Blossom Sweets at 7-Eleven
- Starbucks' Cherry Blossom Drinks
- Sansai (Mountain Vegetables)
- Takenoko (Bamboo Shoots)
- Nanohana (Rape Blossom)
1. Sakura Mochi
If there's only one spring food on this list you need to try, it's sakura mochi. This type of mochi is exclusive to cherry blossom season, and you get it anywhere in Japan, from your neighborhood supermarket to the quaint wagashi-ya in your local shopping arcade.
Sakura mochi is pink-colored mochi, which gives it the soft pink flush like the flower it's named after, stuffed with red bean paste and wrapped in a sakura leaf. The leaf is edible, and it'll add a really refreshing salty element to the otherwise sweet mochi.
2. Takikomi Gohan (Japanese Mixed Rice)
One way to make the most of your spring veggies is to mix it in with your rice. Takikomi Gohan is one type of mixed rice, and in spring, you'll often see ingredients like asari (little neck clams), snow peas, and takenoko (bamboo shoots). It's a simple dish but a great way to make the most of the nutritious veggies spring gives us.
3. Ichigo Daifuku (Strawberry Mochi)
Another mochi treat and spring staple is ichigo daifuku or strawberry mochi. Strawberries in Japan are harvested a few weeks (sometimes months) earlier than in other parts of the world. They are more of a winter and spring ingredient here and less of a summer one.
Because of this, during spring, you'll see strawberry mochi everywhere. Strawberry mochi is one whole strawberry (yes, whole!) covered in red bean paste and wrapped in chewy mochi. The balance of crunchy and chewy is one you don't want to miss this season.
Now, admittedly, you can enjoy tempura all year long in Japan, but spring is really when Japanese people crave it the most. Spring veggies are also especially good when covered in a delicious, crunchy batter, which takes away their naturally bitter taste. Popular tempura items are taranome (angelica tree buds) and sansai (more on that below). Eat as-is, topped with some salt or with some soba noodles.
5. Cherry Blossom Sweets at 7-Eleven
You really don't need to go out of your way to find cherry blossom-flavored desserts. Just take a trip to your local conbini! 7-Eleven, in particular, sells fan-favorite items like sakura and matcha mochi parfait, sakura milk pudding, and sakura cheese puffs. Also, check out special spring-themed packaging from your favorite conbini food and drinks!
6. Starbucks' Cherry Blossom Drinks
Starbucks Japan never disappoints with its seasonal. From cappuccinos to iced tea, every year sees a limited selection of sakura-flavored and sakura-inspired drinks available only at this time of year. The coffee mega-chain also released some sakura food items, including sugary doughnuts and tarts.
7. Sansai (Mountain Vegetables)
Japan's first harvest includes sansai, or mountain vegetables, which are said to taste the best in the spring. The usual suspects are fuki (butterbur), udo (mountain asparagus) and warabi (bracken). They're incredibly delicious fried tempura-style or eaten with soba.
8. Takenoko (Bamboo Shoots)
Takenoko, or bamboo shoots, is also one of spring's conspicuous grocery store ingredients. Takenoko is usually eaten with rice; its delicate and earthy smell immediately amps your appetite.
9. Nanohana (Rape Blossom)
Another showstopper ingredient during the springtime — and this one is local to Japan — is nanohana, also known as rape blossom. You may have seen them around the country with their vibrant yellow flowers. They're not only nice to look at, but they're delicious. Nanohana is often boiled or stir-fried and dressed in sesame oil.
It's time to take off those heavy coats and boots and start exploring the city with the warm sunlight on your face. Walk around the city in search of the best spring flavor conbini sweets, ingredients, or a restaurant serving these dishes, although you won't have a hard time finding them. Follow your five senses.
Spring Guides to Japan
Visiting Japan in the spring? Lucky you! Check out our other guides to make your trip the very best one yet: