Japan has four distinguished seasons in the average year. March brings about the beginning of spring, and people start looking forward to the cherry blossom festivities. Cherry blossoms are the most recognized and loved flower in Japan. People adore and enjoy these delicate pink flowers, and they tend to naturally make all locals very happy.
A description of cherry blossoms appears in Japan’s oldest written history document, the Nihonshoki. In the 7th century, cherry trees were first imported from China. However, they did not become the symbols of Japan until the 10th century, when a great artistic and cultural movement swept through Japan.
Okazuke, a traditional Japanese condiment, is a byproduct of this movement. About 80% of its production comes through Odawara city in Kanagawa prefecture. This cherry flavored side dish appeared around the 19th century, at a time when Japanese people wanted to appreciate everything about the fruit, be it its tree flowers, leaves or its taste. Okazuke are made of the flower of Yae-cherry, salt, vinegar from the traditional plum pickling. They are used for decorating Japanese sweets or mixing with rice (cherry blossom rice). As the cherry blossom is equated with spring and the beginning of a new life cycle in Japan, Okazuke and hot water are served as beverage for many happy occasions. In weddings, cherry flower tea replaces green tea as a blessing of Okhappiness.
These charming Okazuke have received some attention from overseas as an important yet overlooked item in Japanese cuisine. After soaking Okazuke in the water to remove excess salt, they can be put in the batter of pound cake, cookies, muffins or jelly. No matter what you add them to, they’re sure to bring a feeling of spring to your cooking!
Market of Hakone Tozan specialty store Hakone
707 Hakonechoyumoto Ashigarashimo-gun Kanagawa-ken
Odawara City hall
300 Ogikubo Odawara-shi Kanagawa-ken