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Hanami Bento Box: picnic for the cherry trees blossom season

As we draw closer to spring  Yakult, Japanese food company with over 80 years of history, has the pleasure to share an authentic Japanese custom to greet the arrival of the fine weather: the hanami, which now joins the admiration for the cherry blossoms

From late March to early May, the Japanese landscape becomes more refined by the gradual flowering – from south to north – of delicate pink flowers that turn the big cherry trees in splashes of colour, a springlike appearance for the wide parks and long avenues.

So, in this period, they celebrate the hanami, that is the admiration of cherry blossoms . This tradition that has its roots in  ancient Japanese history which, in the eighth century, was actually imported from the Chinese culture, which  in those days was of great influence  to the Japanese aristocracy.

Nowadays, the hanami practice is primarily experienced as a festive occasion, during the day  people meet under the sakura (cherry blossoms) for the traditional picnic, while in the evening they celebrate by the light of the paper lanterns. Curiously, the night hanami has a specific name: yozakura (sakura at night).

But what do they prepare in Japan for a picnic in the shade of the bloomy cherry trees?

Let’s start from the picnic basket : unlike what happens in our culture, where we prepare food to then be shared by all our friends or family, in Japan they use the bento box. A bento box is a closed which is divided in compartments and contains the meal for every single person. For the hanami bento box, by tradition, the prevailing colours of the foods prepared are pink, red and orange – in honour of the coming spring.

Alongside the inevitable rice, you also find  specialties of shrimp, salmon or pink bream (sakuradai), recipes with pumpkin (kabocha) or carrots and sakura mochi, typical pink sweets in which coloured rice containing a red bean paste is wrapped in cherry leaves.