Soft sakura petals
Wafting through the hushed courtyard
Stillness before change
Just a little haiku to start us off– as I remember how important springtime is in Japan.
Spring is embraced as a season in Japan the same way Christmas is embraced in the West. The stores will suddenly be decked in pink and white; special flavors will arrive in grocery stores and Starbucks; new clothes and festivals are rolled out.
But it’s more than just commercialism and moving heavy blankets back to the closet. Because the winter is gone, with its coldness and darkness that force people to hide away in their homes, and the days start to warm and elongate. The trees begin to grow green and to flower, especially the sakura, or Japanese cherry trees. In the space of a day or two, entire fields of trees, park-wide orchards, the lines of the highways and roadside, all of them burst into cloud-like pinky whiteness of sakura blossoms. And throughout the following weeks, the petals drop like snow in the soft breeze.
It’s no wonder that “hanami” is such an important event. Literally “flower viewing,” the hanami is, in essence, a picnic under a sakura tree. However, the celebration of hanami has reached epic proportions, as the picnics can last hours and can require a cast of dozens– your family might have a hanami, your classmates/best friends, your office, any “in-group” might have its own hanami. What can be better than lounging on blankets in the parks, fields, or, yes, even cemeteries, with snack foods, small cakes, and, of course, beer, with your friends and/or family? (So it’s also no wonder that hanami have often a reputation of getting pleasantly drunk with such friends and/or family!) We’re not used to drinking alcohol in the park in the U.S., so you may have to enjoy this hanami-inspired cocktail in the comfort of your own yard.
Sakura Shandy (Hanami-inspired BeerCocktail)
1 bottle / 12 oz. C.C. Lemon (or carbonated lemonade)
30 ml / 2 tablespoons rose syrup
2 can (12 oz. each) Kirin beer (or other pale ale)
Make sure you have chilled ingredients! Pour the beer in a small pitcher, then add the lemonade soda and rose syrup. Mix well, and pour into tall glasses (“over ice” is optional, but may be necessary on a humid spring day!)
A more stronger lemonade could be used, of course, or add some fresh juice and lemon slices to the pitcher. The tastes are balanced here for C.C. Lemon brand carbonated lemonade and Kirin beer, so I’m not presenting them here for any “halleluia!” moment of discovery or anything. I just really wanted to use only the Japanese ingredients, out of my nostalgia for sharing hanami times during my time in Tokyo.