Weekender’s Guide to Hanami with a Touch of Class

upscale-hanami

Ditch the blue tarp mats and plastic cups and celebrate the fleeting flowers in style.


By Vivian Morelli


Cherry Blossom Dining

While most tend to think of hanami as a do-it-yourself, BYOB affair, there are plenty of places where you can dine and drink with a view of the pink petals. These are three of our favorites:

Drop by the Palace Hotel Tokyo, and spend an elegant afternoon sipping on tea and feasting on a selection of sweets and bite-sized creations, just steps away from the gorgeous sea of pink surrounding the Imperial Palace. The afternoon tea menu at the recently revamped Palace Hotel features a Japanese twist on the usual “scones and sandwiches” concept, with wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) and matcha (green tea made from powdered leaves). www.palacehoteltokyo.com

From March 18 to April 17, take a stroll around the gardens surrounding the popular complex. A total of 150 cherry trees await you, and they look especially magical while illuminated at nighttime. Have a glass of bubbly or another sakura-themed cocktail at the Martini Blossom open-air lounge, along with a selection of seasonal food. www.tokyo-midtown.com

Nirvana New York, located in Tokyo Midtown, offers some of the best seats in the city to view the blooming buds. Not only is the modern fusion Indian food delectable and affordable, but the outdoor terrace is one of the highlights of the eatery, with plush sofas and a spectacular view of Hinoki Machi Park. nirvana-newyork-tokyo.com

Making Your Own Hanami Bento

A hanami session isn’t complete without a bento box, and while it’s easy to just pick up one at the nearby convenience store, you can add a touch of elegance by whipping up your own creation. For a true hanami taste, we suggest sticking to a classic version: chirashi sushi (rice topped with seafood), inari rolls (tofu pockets filled with rice), Japanese fried chicken, spinach and sesame salad, and fresh fruit and sweet red bean filled mochi. Have a browse on cookpad.com to find a selection of recipes, and arrange it all meticulously in a traditional lacquered box. Check out one of our favorite recipes below.

vegetable-maki-recipe
Vegetable Maki Cook some rice, then add a dash of vinegar, a pinch of salt and sugar and mix well. Simmer some carrots and cucumbers (or any vegetables you like) in a skillet with a bit of mirin (sweet rice wine) and soy sauce. Place one seaweed sheet on a bamboo rolling mat or wax paper. Spread rice evenly, leaving a few centimeters at the top edge. Arrange vegetables and add some daikon radish sprouts. Dampen the top edge of the seaweed with water and roll up from the bottom. Seal with the top edge, and then cut evenly into rolls. Enjoy!

Tea Ceremony at Imperial Hotel Tokyo

The Japanese tea ceremony involves a few more steps that go beyond the usual boiling, steeping and sipping. Every movement and gesture has a meaning, down to the placement of tea utensils and pairing of the bitter matcha with a sweet to achieve the perfect balance. The Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, which offers a gorgeous view of the Imperial Palace grounds and an assortment of cherry trees, regularly holds a tea ceremony experience for visitors. Make yourself comfortable, carefully watch every step, and enjoy this peaceful ritual with a gorgeous backdrop. www.imperialhotel.co.jp

Rent a Kimono

Gazing at the cherry blossoms while elegantly dressed in traditional wear: it doesn’t get more Japanese than this. Although the art of putting on a kimono requires a lot of time, several layers, about twenty different ties in total for it to stay put, and a professional to help you out, for a small fee you can get the full experience. You can even add hair, makeup, and a photo shoot, and strut around Meiji Shrine and the sakura trees of Yoyogi Park for a few hours. kimono-sakaeya.com

meguro-river-hanami

Along Meguro River

With approximately 800 cherry trees lining this river, it’s no surprise Meguro River attracts hordes of visitors during hanami season. Get ready to brave the crowds while you promenade along the three-kilometer stretch and delight in the sights. Daytime features endless waves of pale pink, but night time is equally beautiful with the lanterns and illuminations. Local vendors sell sakura-themed cocktails, glasses of wine and street food you can enjoy along the way, in addition to all the trendy boutiques on your path.
Nearest station: Nakameguro (Google Maps)

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