Spring is well and truly with us here in Tokyo, and—along with the warmer weather and azure skies—soft pinks are beginning to splash the landscape as cherry blos-soms burst into bloom, transforming large swathes of the city into a fantastical pink paradise. Called sakura in Japanese, and now widely known worldwide, there are few sights more iconic of Japan. The act of viewing the blossoms is called hanami and is, without a doubt, the highlight of the spring calendar.
And with good reason, too, as there is nothing quite like being bathed in the blos-soms on a clear spring day as you sip Japanese sake and enjoy delicious seasonal food with family and friends. Until you have done that, you really haven’t experi-enced the essence of Japan!
Let us guide you through our recommendations for a Japanese hanami to treasure!
Where to Enjoy Cherry Blossom Season in Tokyo? Make it Ueno Park!
Beloved by Tokyoites in the know as one of the best places to sit and while away a day in the company of the blooms is Ueno Park, formally known as Ueno Onishi Park. Within the park is Ueno Zoo, Japan’s oldest, which is known for its giant pan-das that have become ambassadors for Ueno as a whole. Surrounding the zoo is the museum district, which is packed with historical buildings. For now, our destina-tion is the park itself and the countless cherry blossom trees, known in Japanese as sakura.
But simply seeing the flowers is only a small part of the full hanami experience. A unique culture has developed over the centuries that is a feast for the senses. And what feast is complete without food? Luckily, Ecute Ueno is on hand to make that easy for you.
Enjoy Hanami Festivals Your Way
While an important tradition, hanami is also always ready to move with the times. You are as welcome to opt for a traditional Japanese obento lunchbox as the center-piece of your picnic as you are to savor the blossoms with a donut and glass of rosé. However you choose to mark the stunning season, do it your way.
To prep for the party, the Ecute Ueno store conveniently located inside JR Ueno Station should be your first port of call. You can arrive at the station, hit the shops, and be ready for hanami before you even leave the ticket gates! Ueno Park is also just a stone’s throw away from the station, accessible directly through the Ueno Park Exit.
An oasis of calm in the kinetic station, Ecute Ueno has everything you might need to prepare your viewing feast, whether you are going to enjoy it with friends, fami-ly, or a special someone.
Inside, you are spoiled for choice, so take your time and browse more than 50 stores that take you from Western classics to traditional Japanese, with plenty of contemporary fusion to match all tastes. Today, we will be making sure we have a main dish, dessert, and, of course, some drinks to finish it all off.
Keep it Traditional with a Classic Obento Lunchbox
For a brush with time-honored tradition, make it an obento lunchbox, which come in a range of sizes, flavors, and themes. For spring, many Japanese chefs take great pride in making sure their lunchboxes look as good as they taste, packing them with plenty of fun visual references to the season.
It doesn’t stop there either. Seasonal flavors and ingredients also turn up everywhere you look in store. From flashes of pink sakura petals used for flavor as well as okowa steamed rice that is specially selected for the hanami season.
Steamed okowa rice specialist Sakura Yonehachi offers a fantastic selection of fresh obento boxes made on the premises that are ready to eat right away. You can even select your own okowa rice, and full explanations of each okowa rice are available in English to help you choose.
For spring, they recommend handpicked cherry blossom okowa rice that is made us-ing last year’s sakura blossoms that has been marinated for a year in plum vinegar for a truly aromatic experience, as well as bamboo shoot okowa rice that is prepared with butterbur and bamboo shoots that flourish in this season.
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth
If you want to indulge your sweet tooth Japanese style, then try the wagashi sweets on offer. Even if this is your first time tasting traditional Japanese sweets, don’t wor-ry—you can buy them individually to try under the trees.
Of course, there are plenty of contemporary classics to enjoy, too. One of the most popular stores in Ecute Ueno is Siretoco Factory. Their adorable, hand-decorated do-nuts are a hit in store and online, where they always go down well on social media. The handwritten messages and limited illustrations drawn by hand make for a donut that’s as unique as you.
Their ultra-cute panda designs are also a perfect souvenir of your trip to Ueno and taste as good as they look.
As it happens, no matter where you look in Ecute Ueno, you are sure to spot count-less panda dessert designs, many of which are exclusive to the Ueno store. Make sure you don’t miss out!
A Toast to Hanami
For those who want to indulge in the tradition of enjoying a glass of Japanese sake rice wine in the balmy weather, Ecute Ueno has just the selection for you. They offer many options in soft sakura pink and flavored with the blossom that span crisp Japa-nese liquors, as well as Japanese wineries take on Western rosé, you will feel the sa-kura with all of your senses. Look a little closer and you will even spot real sakura flowers floating gently in the wine.
And That’s Not All - Other Gourmet Items Perfect for Hanami!
At Ecute Ueno you will find a range of food sure to add a bit of spice to your flower viewing. Whether you are looking for Japanese tastes with delicious inari sushi in the pinks of the season, or photogenic sweets packed with pink sakura motifs, you are guaranteed to find what you are looking for!
Bring Your Ueno Hanami Experience Home With You
Finally, if you are looking for a souvenir of your special day spent among the blos-soms, then Ecute Ueno has a range of exclusive items to mark the season. Whether an adorable panda pouch from Lowry’s Farm that screams Ueno or accessories and adornments with a sakura motif that will have you reminiscing for the season long after it is gone.
During hanami season, there are also plenty of events going on within Ecute Ueno itself. Don’t miss the Tokyo Spring Music Festival of traditional Japanese music that takes place on the DATE, which is sure to get you in the mood for an authentic han-ami experience.
And that’s not all. At Ecute Ueno, you will also find a host of other shopping and en-tertainment that includes fashion, tax-free counter, and massage services all within the comfort of the station.
Start Your Ecute Ueno Shopping With a Special Discount
We also have an exclusive offer for all readers of LIVE Japan! Just show the above coupon on your smartphone or portable device to staff at Ecute Ueno while you shop to get a ¥500 discount in store. Take this chance to enjoy all that shopping at Ecute Ueno has to offer.
(* Please note that you can only use this coupon once with cash purchases, and only at Ecute Ueno. It cannot be exchanged for cash or gift cards, nor can you receive change on purchases less than ¥500. Additionally, there are a small number of stores where the coupon cannot be used (NewDays, NewDays KIOSK, Ticket Shop, and the Ticket Vending Machines). This coupon is valid until March 31, 2019.)
*The coupon may only appear for a limited time.
Note that once the coupon disappears, the 500 yen coupon can no longer be used, even if the expiry date has not yet lapsed.
Get a flavor for the latest at Ecute Ueno via their Instagram page [https://www.instagram.com/ecute_ueno/] and start planning your Ueno hamani party today!
You will also find Ecute stores inside the JR Tokyo, Shinagawa, and Nippori Stations, among others, so be sure to look out for them on your trip.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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