It's springtime! And in Japan that means Sakura season – so cherry blossom on the trees, picnics in the park, celebrating the beginning of summer. And it also means big brands putting out limited-edition Sakura-themed goodies, which are exciting to spot, collect and taste.
So here's the Leave London Behind rundown on 13 of the most interesting Sakura-themed goodies for sale in Japan in spring 2018. Get them while stocks last!
The soft drink of choice has gone all aluminium with this year's Sakura-themed design; the bottle is metal and the pretty pink petals are all over the place. The flavour is the same old Coke you know and love – but this new bottle looks ace.
A first-time foray into the world of Sakura for the cinnamon-themed roll shop. As you can see, the pink Sakura-flavour frosting and 'crunch' was a bit squashed on our roll, but it tasted nice enough (it was so sweet, it made our teeth hurt). They look pretty on the Cinnabon website though.
The McDonald's Sakura menu is an odd one – the strawberry-flavoured float is pink and delicious, with plenty of cream on top. The burger seems to be the chain's standard spring offering: a 'teritama' burger with pork patty, egg, and Sakura sauce. It tasted... interesting. Not bad, just different: a mix of bacon, sugar and egg. Hmmm.
Starbucks: in store
Starbucks are a bit good at this Sakura lark. Their in-store offerings are very cute: plenty of mugs, flasks, plastic cups and bottles with some nice cherry-themed packaging. And their drink and food for Sakura season is excellent too; so good, it had sold out of the Frappuccino and Strawberry Tea when we were there in early March. The Pink Milk Latte was nice though, as was the Sakura chiffon cake we had to accompany it – yummy frosting on the sponge, with a cute little edible blossom, too.
Starbucks: out of store
Away from Starbucks, the company offers cold beverages in convenience stores like Seven and Lawson with a Sakura theme. We tried the Sakura Strawberry Latte, which was ok (but the globs of strawberry slithering up the straw were a bit off-putting).
Royal Milk Tea
This is basically cold tea with milk. In a bottle. Drunk by the gallon in Japan and now it comes with added cherry flavour for spring. Took about three sips of this before deciding enough was enough. Nice-looking packaging, though.
Basically prawn cocktail crisps with a cherry tang. I say cherry; it was more of a sweet aftertaste once the prawn flavour had gone. I ate quite a few of these on a station waiting for a train, so they obviously passed the taste test.
Luxe packaging! Pocky gives a premium look to their Sakura-themed chocolate sticks. And the taste is pretty good too; sweet pink choc with a Sakura 'crunch' and a good thick Pocky stick. Excellent effort!
Ooh, a little cake in cherry-flavoured ice cream! Häagen-Dazs' Mochi Sakura An flavour ice cream is yummy, with a bit of texture and a hint of savoury from the bean paste on top. The mochi cake is sticky, but this was a real treat on a warm spring day.
Kirin's Sakura-themed beer is cherry flavoured, which sounds wrong... but is actually very right. The beer is sweet and fruity and goes down well cold. Probably our favourite from all the Sakura products we tried.
Great packaging by Asahi means the can produced for Sakura season looked the nuts. The beer is the same – only the design has changed – but it looks good so... a winner!
Seven convenience stores
Seven convenience stores are our lifelines in Japan and they don't disappoint with their Sakura bakery selection. There's several different cakes and buns to try; we sampled a 'pan' with a cream and cherry jam filling (bit dry, to be honest), and a beautiful pink cake with an edible blossom and tasty cream centre. The latter lasted about three bites, so definitely a LLB fave.
KitKat (Sakura Matcha flavour)
No good Sakura product list would be complete without an exotic KitKat flavour or two. This year, KitKat have produced 3 different flavours of their choc biscuit, plus a special Sakura 'scroll' with lucky charm for those looking for something even more memorable. We found the Sakura matcha flavour KK at the airport and quite enjoyed the green tea-flavoured choc. The box is rather good-looking, too.