How to Celebrate Sakura Season (Hanami) in the U.S.

Each year in Japan, the cherry blossom, or sakura, trees bloom between late March and early April. It’s customary to celebrate sakura season, or Hanami, with an outdoor festival or a party beneath the sakura trees.

It’s a dream of mine to one day visit Japan during sakura season (and get my hands on some of those limited-edition Starbucks goodies). But since that isn’t possible during the pandemic, I will be celebrating Hanami here in the U.S.

Cherry blossom season is fleeting, and comes just once a year. As the Japanese say, mono no aware (nothing lasts forever)! Make sure to make the most of it with these tips for celebrating from the comfort of your home.

Snacks & Drinks

In Japan, a lot of people celebrate Hanami with signature sweets and drinks that evoke the colors and flavors of the sakura tree.

Traditionally, sake, or rice wine, is the drink of choice during Hanami. In the modern era, however, some of the most famous Hanami drinks come from Starbucks, which releases a cherry blossom latte each year that comes in a beautiful pink color — just like a sakura flower!

You can make your own cherry blossom latte with ingredients you can easily find in the regular grocery store. This recipe from Food.com uses espresso, cherry syrup, vanilla syrup, and your favorite milk to make a sweet and steamy sakura drink.

Food is another way to ring in Hanami. The Japanese often make sakura versions of their favorite sweet treats, while other goodies only pop up during this special season. One such treat is dango, sweet rice dumplings served on a kabob stick. The dumplings are colored in shades of pink, green, and white to evoke the colors of the sakura tree.

You can make your own dango with this recipe from Japan Centre. The recipe does call for some specialty ingredients, like glutinous and non-glutinous rice flour, which can be found at an Asian grocery store. You probably have one in your area, so run a quick Google search to find the Asian grocery store nearest you!

Alternatively, if you’re not much of a chef, many sakura-flavored treats from Japan are available to be purchased here in the U.S. For example, look no further than Blippo to get the limited-edition Sakura Almond flavor of everyone’s favorite Pocky biscuit sticks.

Stationery

If you’re a Japanese stationery guru like I am, then you probably already know that one of the best parts of Hanami season is the limited-edition Japanese stationery that gets released every year. Brands like BGM and MT Tape release limited-edition washi tape; special pens are released that write in bright pink ink; and shelves fill with sheets upon sheets of sakura flower stickers.

So, where can you stock up on these limited-edition sakura goods in the United States? Here are some of my favorite picks for this year’s Hanami stationery.

Spring Limited Cherry Blossom Stickers - Shiba

Cute Things From Japan has many limited-edition sakura goods from Mind Wave, including this sheet of sweet shiba stickers. ($3.50)

Washi Tape - Cherry Blossom

They also have limited-edition BGM washi tape in three different sakura prints. This one, called Morning Cherry Blossom, is my favorite! ($2.90)

You can find this pretty Rilakkuma letter set from San-X at Blippo. The set comes with 4 envelopes and 8 blank and lined sheets with different sakura-inspired designs. ($9.90)

Delde Slide Pen Case - 2021 Sunny Spring Series

This Spring 2021 Delde pencil case from KawaiiPenShop comes in four designs, one of which is a pastel pink sakura theme. The unique shape collapses to form a standing pencil cup for all your writing utensils. ($24.99)

Character Goods

One of the most exciting parts of sakura season for kawaii fans is that all your favorite kawaii characters jump in on the trend! From Rilakkuma to Hello Kitty, you can keep an eye out for special limited-edition character goods this spring that are unique to Hanami in Japan.

Here are some of my picks for sakura-themed character goods that are available for order in the United States:

Rilakkuma Cherry Blossom 15

I was so excited to see this sakura Rilakkuma plushie at my local Barnes & Noble! Dressed in pink with sakura accents, Rilakkuma is celebrating Hanami with a stick of squishy, sweet dango. ($24.99)

Hello Kitty Pink Sakura Kimono 10" Plush

For fans of Hello Kitty, you can find this Sanrio sakura stuffed animal at Japan LA. Pale pink Hello Kitty is dressed in a Hanami-themed kimono with a matching obi, bow, and sandals. ($36.00)

More of a My Melody fan? Not to worry! This adorable limited-edition Sanrio sakura mochi plushie is available on Japan Haul. It’s called a “mochi” plushie because it’s extra-squishy, just like the sweet treat. ($19.10)

Or, if you stan Cinnamoroll, Japan Haul has also got you covered. This limited-edition Sanrio sakura plushie features Cinnamoroll with pink accents, a sakura flower on its ear, and a pretty blue and pink sakura-themed outfit. ($37.32)

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