Celebrating spring with cherry blossoms isn’t just about the flowers—it’s also what you’re drinking

March 10, 2018 Updated: October 8, 2018    

Enjoying the transient beauty of cherry blossoms during the spring time has become a long tradition of the Japanese people. People go picnicking under cherry trees not only in famous sightseeing spots, but also parks and river banks. Wherever there is boisterous cherry blossoming, there is laughter and fun.

Cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. (Joseph O. Holmes, courtesy Brooklyn Botanic Garden)

Hanami, 花見, flower viewing, is not just an activity of enjoying the beauty of the cherry blossoms. The Japanese people believe that blooming cherry is the symbol of stable climate and abundant harvest. Going picnicking under blossoming cherry trees, drinking sakes, Japanese alcoholic beverage, and appreciating the flowers has become a custom that the Japanese people enjoy in the spring time since ancient times.

One of the most special and essential part in hanami is drinking sake.

Sake, also spelled saké, is a Japanese rice alcoholic beverage, made by fermenting rice. It is a fermented food product like soy sauce, miso, and katsuobushi (dried bonito), seasoning typically in Japanese recipes.

Unlike wine, most produced by fruit, typically grapes, sake is made by brewing, in which starch is converted into sugars to be fermented into alcohol.Sake, also spelled saké, is a Japanese rice alcoholic beverage, made by fermenting rice.

It is a fermented food product like soy sauce, miso, and katsuobushi (dried bonito), seasoning typically in Japanese recipes. Unlike wine, most produced by fruit, typically grapes, sake is made by brewing, in which starch is converted into sugars to be fermented into alcohol.

There are basically two types of sakes: Futsū-shu, ordinary sake, and Tokutei meishō-shu, special-designation sake.

Futsū-shu, as table wine, is the majority of sake which is produced.

Tokutei meishō-shu is premium sakes which is differentiated by the degree the rice has been polished and the added percentage of brewer’s alcohol.

For the tastes of different sakes, you can read the labels on the bottles of sakes, basically including nihonshu-do, san-do, and aminosan-do.

Nihonshu-do is calculated from the specific gravity of the sakes; it indicates the sugar and alcohol content of the sakes on an arbitrary scale.

San-do indicates the concentration of acid, and Aminosan-do indicates a taste of umami or savoriness.

There are various kinds of sakes with different taste and flavor. To know what you really like, you can visit Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center near Ginza in Tokyo.

It is one of the must-visit spots for experiencing Japanese culture. The center is not only a small museum but also a cozy bar, where you can learn sake making and try 80 kinds of sake and shochu from all over Japan.

For the sakes brought to picnics, choose the sakes that taste good under room temperature or the ones with slightly acid flavor to match fried snacks.

In addition to sakes, here are things suggested to take with you for Hanami: picnic sheet, waterproof cushions, blankets, warm packs, paper towels, wet wipes, plastic bags, vacuum flasks, cards, edamame, chicken nuggets, sushi, and rice balls, etc.

Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center
Address: 1-6-15 Nishishinbasi, Minatoku, Tokyo 105-0003 Japan
Business days and business time: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Closed on weekends and holidays
Please call before visiting
TEL:
+81-3-3519-2091
Fax: +81-3-3519-2094
Website: www.japansake.or.jp/sake/english