Nothing makes me think more of spring than cherry blossoms. Seeing all of the cherry trees in full bloom reminds me of spring time in Japan, a truly magical time. There are hundreds of cherry trees dotting the landscape all across Japan with thousands of blossoms cascading down like snow. It seriously is not an exaggeration to say that it seems like it is snowing with petals. During this time of year the Japanese people gather together under the cherry trees to enjoy traditional food and sake. These celebrations are a really big deal and each town celebrates it differently, often times ending with fireworks. Really it's just a good reason to get together with family and eat, drink and be merry under the backdrop of these lovely trees.
While living in Japan, I had the most amazing opportunity to study Chado ("the way of tea") with a renowned tea ceremony instructor in Kanazawa City. Chado is a true Japanese artform. Its well choreographed movements are like a refined ballet, like the Pas de Deux. Chado is the ceremonious presentation of matcha, a vibrant green powder made from green tea leaves ground into a fine powder. The powder is scooped out into a chawan (tea bowl) with a bamboo tea scoop called a chashaku. Hot water is then added and a chasen (bamboo tea whisk) is used to mix the water and the tea togehter, resulting in a thick layer of froth on the top, almost like a bright green cappuccino. Matcha is often served with wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets). In this instance, I thought it very appropriate to serve it with Sakura Mochi. These pink-tinted rice cakes are filled with sweet bean paste and wrapped in preserved cherry leaves, which have the most unique flavor and aroma. These sweet little treats go perfectly with the bitter taste of matcha. Close your eyes and you can imagine yourself under a cherry tree somewhere in Japan watching Japanese ladies in their yukata (cotton kimono) and old men drinking sake, stretched out on large mats under the cover of the trees. It is something I would recommend for everyone to go to Japan to see for themselves one day. I'll be back there myself the next opportunity I get!
*Truly, my heart goes out to the Japanese people during this difficult time they are facing and my thoughts and prayers are with them. Japan holds a very special place in my heart. I met so many amazing people during the two years I lived there and I will never forget their kindness toward me.