Not only is it sakura season, it’s hanami season!

Literally, it’s flower-seeing (花見), but hanami is not only a matter of seeing flowers–it’s a matter of going somewhere special to have a picnic and appreciate nature with your friends. Pack your plastic tarp, get some beer, and get some food from the local vendors, it’s time to relax! Assuming you don’t have allergies, anyway.

My friends I went to the town of Unnan, specially the area known as Kisuki. It’s one rated as one of the top 100 cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan. Accordingly, it’s well prepared for flower-viewers with manju (sweet dumplings) of all kinds and street food vendors everywhere from the parking spot to the picnic spot. That being said, though, they don’t detract from the sight and atmosphere.

The main spot for the cherry blossom festival is along the Kuno River, a stream that runs along the Hii River. The rest of the town remains fairly quiet, at least from my observation as we were driving around later.

Tree tunnels!

This is where we sat, too.

There are cherry blossom good all year round in Unnan, including fancy scarves and other items dyed with different parts of the flowers and the tree. The last time I was there, my friend bought me a little jar of perserved buds. They’re used for making a brew to drink on very special occasions (such as weddings), but can also be eaten as is. They’re surprising salty! I thought they might be nice with crackers and cream cheese, so I brought all these things for our picnic.

I figured out later than they go well with Nutella, too.

And riceballs! I’ve also heard they make good additions to sugar cookies. Maybe next year.

The hot water makes them open. These are yae style blossoms, apparently!

Carbonation, however, does not make them open. It was worth a shot.

The biggest mistake we made with our hanami was bringing too many things for the picnic. By the time we got to the Okuizumo winery for lunch, none of us were hungry anymore!

Despite being so salty, they don’t have much fragrance. Always worth trying to find a scent anyway–the flowers are really soft, more so than many other kinds of blossoms!

More varieties of sakura here and here.