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Starbucks and McDonald's Celebrate Cherry Blossom Season

Starbucks and McDonald's Celebrate Cherry Blossom Season

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It's pink season in Japan where most everything--including Mcdonald's burgers and Starbuvks drinks--are pink and cherry-flavored.

In Japan, restaurant chains are “thinking pink” during this time of year. It’s early spring and that means it’s time for Sakura Matsuri, or the cherry blossom festival, around the world and most notably in Japan and Washington, D.C., where cherry blossom trees are around every corner. Starbucks and McDonald’s have kicked it up a notch by offering exclusive, limited-offer pink, cherry-flavored products for their franchises in Japan, including the Sakura white chocolate Frappuccino and Sakura white hot chocolate from Starbucks, and the Sakura burger (complete with pink bun), cherry frappé and mocha drinks from McDonald’s.

The Starbucks drinks are dyed light pink, and feature a white chocolate flavoring; they are topped with white chocolate shavings designed to look like cherry petals, and strawberry powder. Starbucks Japan is also offering cherry chiffon cake and cherry macarons for the occasion.

McDonald’s has jumped on the pink blossom bandwagon this year as well, offering their usual spring Teriyaki burger with an egg and pink mayo on top, and now featuring a pink-dyed hamburger bun. Plus McCafé will be offering Sakura frappés and mocha drinks throughout the season.

Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaFantozzi.

This year, the sakura cherry blossoms are scheduled to start appearing in Japan as early as March 20 and will slowly move their way north as the country begins to thaw after a particularly snowy winter. Just one day after the appearance of the actual blossoms, McDonald’s will release a spring-inspired burger that takes a cue from the very sakura that Japan is so famous for. But with a pink-colored bun and sakura mayonnaise sauce, it’s unclear if the odd combination will be as well received as cherry blossoms and beer.

Officially called “Sakura Teritama,” the burger is filled with a fried egg, ginger teriyaki pork patty, lettuce and sakura daikon radish mayonnaise sauce. Oh, and don’t forget the pink bun!

McDonald’s Japan will also be selling a Sakura Cherry soda or float and will decorate each store with cherry blossom decorations.

So if winter in Japan has got you down, turn to your local McDonald’s for a bit of a spring pick-me-up!

Starbucks Cherry Blossom Food, Drinks, & Merchandise in Japan

Spring in Japan means sakura season, and while we’re still a few weeks away from the first cherry blossoms, Starbucks has released its line of sakura drinks, food, and merchandise designs. We stopped into the Starbucks near Kyoto Station yesterday to try a few items, along with photos of the merchandise.

Worth noting is that this is hardly unique to Starbucks. The store shelves have become a veritable sea of pink, as Japan gears up to celebrate this change in seasons as winter is starting to give way (it was 70 degrees over the weekend!) to warmer weather and more vibrant scenery.

In Kyoto especially, the changing of the seasons is significant. Each season is clearly delineated, and further broken down into sub-seasons. In March, bright floral kimonos begin appearing, as do pastel-colored kanzashi (hair ornaments). The city is quiet now, but Kyoto’s historic Higashiyama District is preparing for Spring Hanatoro next week, which will usher in the peak of cherry blossom season.

Back to Starbucks, there’s a range of new food items on the seasonal menu. In addition to Matcha items that are not available in the United States, there are now a slew of seasonal foods and beverages. Let’s take a look at what we’ve tried…

First up is the Sakura Strawberry Pink Milk Latte, which is a richly sweet drink with the most pronounced flavor being those of strawberry. There is a definite floral tone to the drink thanks to the sakura leaf base and finely-chopped pieces of sakura leaf and sake lees, too.

This also gives the drink a rich flavor so it’s more than just unconstrained sweetness. I liked this a lot, but between its sweet flavor and richness, it’s not something I could do daily. Part of that’s probably my own “fault” as I can’t help but order everything in venti sizes.

Next, we move on to the foods. Of the two things available at the Starbucks we visited, by far our favorite was the Sakura Chiffon Cake.

This light and airy cake was perfect for a sakura flavor. It was sweet but mild, and not as over-the-top as the latte. We’ve learned that sakura flavors are really all over the place, but the subtle floral taste of this was more what I expect when it comes to sakura. We’ll definitely get this again.

Above is the Sakura Doughnut. This didn’t really taste like anything in particular. It had hints of berries and flowers, I guess, but if you told me it was boysenberry instead of sakura, I would’ve found that equally plausible. Not something we’ll get again.

The ‘flagship’ drink in the Starbucks Sakura lineup is the Sakura Strawberry Pink Mochi Frappuccino. Unfortunately, every Starbucks we’ve visited has been sold out of this drink.

This being Starbucks, there’s also a wide range of merchandise available for sakura season. I don’t ever buy any merchandise from Starbucks, so I have no context of pricing, but I had serious sticker shock when looking at pricing. The cheapest item was just over $10 (USD) with the most expensive products costing over $40!

Anyway, here’s a look at what they had–several items were already out of stock, so apparently the prices aren’t too unreasonable for Starbucks loyalists!

Since I doubt I’ll do another post on this topic, here’s a look at the products in the “Japan Geography Series – Our Daily Story” for Kyoto:

What we probably will do another post on is the topic of sakura foods in Japan, if only because I need an excuse to justify eating all those sweet treats. So, stay tuned for that.

Overall, we think it’s pretty cool that Starbucks gets into the spirit of each season with special drinks, foods, and merchandise throughout Japan. Obviously, this appeals to Starbucks enthusiasts traveling abroad and wanting to try different things, but it also appeals very much to Japanese locals. Western brands like Starbucks, McDonald’s, and KFC are incredibly popular in Japan, and have been localized in ways that offer interesting twists. While we wouldn’t necessary recommend allocating your limited vacation ‘stomach space’ for a full meal at any of these fast food chains, we do advocate popping into them to see regional differences, and maybe trying a snack or two.

If you’re planning a visit to the Japan that includes Kyoto, please check out my other posts about Japan. I also highly recommend the Lonely Planet Kyoto Guide to determine everything you should see and do while there.

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But let’s stop talking about it and check out what this cherry blossom spring beauty looks like.

McDonalds in Japan tho.

A post shared by Tara Milk Tea (@taramilktea) on Mar 14, 2017 at 8:57am PDT

The color goes from a dark pink to a lovely light pink to white. With the matching cup, it screams SPRINGTIME. And if ice cream isn’t your thing — or you have some sort of intolerance to lactose — McDonald’s locations in Japan have also released the dairy-free McFloat Sakuranbo.

Starbucks had its own version of a cherry blossom drink in 2016 (made with strawberries) that was released in the U.S. and looked absolutely scrumptious.

10 Popular Cherry Trees You’ll See in Japan

There are over 600 different varieties of cherry trees that grow in Japan, a few of which are native to the country, with many more having been cultivated for decorative use throughout the centuries. From the color of the blossoms to the shape and form of the tree, each variety of cherry tree is as beautiful as the next.

The 10 most popular types of trees you are likely to see during hanami include:


This is the most common variety of cherry tree to be found all across Japan, and one that can be found growing wildly in some parts of the country. The very light pink blossoms have delicate petals and the leaves that develop at the same time as the flowers give the tree a fresh, floral feel. Yamazakura trees tend to last for a long time, with trunks that can grow as large as 1 meter in diameter when aged.

Somei Yoshino

Cultivated many centuries ago, the Somie Yohsino is one of the most commonly found cherry trees in Japan. With delicate petals that are light pink in color (almost white) and pretty 5-petal blossoms, the Somei Yoshino, create a blanket of color during the hanami season.


As one of the most iconic cherry trees in all Japan, these weeping trees have branches that arch and curve to create some of the most stunning sakura during the hanami season. The delicate white flowers bloom about a week ahead of the cherry blossoms, and there are 2 different types of Shidarezakura – those with 5 petal blossoms and those that have more than 5 petals.


This late-blooming blossom doesn’t usually make an appearance until sometime between late April and early May, making it one of the last to visit during the hanami season. It is also one of the most densely covered trees, with over 100 petals per bloom, giving the Kikuzakura a look and feel of a cloud of soft pink petals.


With unique looking, bell-shaped petals, the Kanhizakura is one of the most beloved cherry blossoms the world over. Early blooming and stunning to look at, the pretty pink petals have an intense color that sets them apart from the other varieties of cherry trees in Japan.


Another late bloomer, the Ichiyo tree, doesn’t even start to flower until mid-April when it starts to produce fresh green leaves and soft pink petals. Quite common-place throughout Japan, this tree has a dense and attractive look, making it a popular choice for gardens and formal displays both in Japan and the world over.


This hybrid type of cherry blossom is one of the earliest bloomers every spring, and the pale-pink petals can be seen from early April onwards. The densely clustered petals are so pale in color that they appear to be almost white, and the name itself comes from the spring equinox, or “higan,” which represents the time when they bloom.


Presenting a break from the traditional pink blossoms in Japan, the Ukon tree starts to bloom in mid-April and captures the attention of viewers with its unique coloring. The copper-colored leaves and creamy-yellow petals create a cloud-like scenery that really does stand out from the rest.


Another unusually colored tree, the Fuganzo has light pink petals that turn darker over time. These contrast against the pretty copper-brown leaves and make for a stunning combination that sakura enthusiasts and first-time visitors alike will fall in love with.


One of the prettiest of all the cherry trees, the Shogetsu tree looks very traditional with pretty pale pink flowers and fresh green leaves. The tree itself spreads gracefully to create a sea of color, and the semi-double flowers hang in clusters to give the appearance of depth and density.

Bottom Line: With over 600 different types of cherry trees in Japan, you may want to learn more about the many varieties here.

While everyone loves the sakura, you shouldn’t overlook the sakuranbo.

Cherry blossom season is just around the corner, and already you can feel Japan gradually getting more and more excited about the sakura opening up their beautiful petals and turning the country into a pink-hued wonderland. But in all the excitement over the flowers, you might find yourself wondering why you don’t see more cherry-flavored food and drink at this time of year, what with Japan’s live of seasonally-themed fare.

In actuality, the trees which produce the country’s breathtaking sakura are non-fruit-bearing species. That’s not to say Japan doesn’t grow any cherries, though. The variety of the fruit called Satonishiki, grown in the northeastern Tohoku region’s Yamagata Prefecture, is particularly prized, with fans calling it “the king of cherries.”

Since they’re good enough to have such a regal-sounding nickname, Satonishiki cherries are good enough to be part of McDonald’s Japan’s newest beverages, the company figures. Starting this week, the chain will be selling two new drinks, the McFizz Sakuranbo and the McFloat Sakuranbo (sakuranbo being the Japanese word for the cherry fruit), both of which are made with a modest (one-percent) measure of Satonishiki juice.

A reworking of last year’s Sakura Cherry McFizz, the carbonated drinks promise to be slightly fruitier than their strongly floral predecessor. The chain is trumpeting their refreshing sweetness, with the McFizz Sakuranbo priced at 250 yen (US$2.20) and the McFloat Sakuranbo, which is fortified with a swirl of soft serve vanilla ice cream, only slightly pricier at 310 yen.

Both will be served in special seasonal packaging, which along with the beverages’ pastel color should be a perfect match for the warming weather of spring. The new drinks go on sale March 8, and will ne available until early April, coinciding with the peak sakura season in the Tokyo area.

Source: Entabe, file, McDonald’s Japan press release via Digital PR Platform
Top image: McDonald’s Japan press release

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he really can’t overemphasize how happy he is that spring is here.

As well as the many festivals that formally celebrate the start of sakura season in Japan, cherry blossom products also contribute to the festivities.

Watching for the appearance of cherry blossoms in Japan is a tradition that’s been upheld for centuries and it’s a particularly meaningful one too. Aside from the possibilities for new life and regrowth that spring actually brings, the sakura trees blossom around the end of the Japanese school year, symbolic of the fresh, new beginning students will get for the next year. One Japanese product that interprets this freshness quite literally is pink petal-shaped cherry blossom soap.

Although cherry blossom-inspired products are not always this poetic, after what’s been a very long winter this year, big name brands like McDonald’s, Starbucks and Häagen-Dazs introduced burgers, beverages, cups and ice creams to celebrate the arrival of spring.

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Those with a creative eye know firsthand that inspiration is all around us. Whether you're energized by the earth tones of nature, a color-filled walk through a local farmer's market, or even by a quick scroll through Instagram, you never know what might spark a new creative project.

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The Creatively You Design Competition launches Friday, May 21, 2021 and will be accepting submissions through Monday, June 7, 2021.


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It’s Cherry blossom season!

Cherry Blossoms in the USA

Washington DC was gifted 3020 cherry trees in 1912 and the city now has thousands more, which means their National Cherry Blossom festival in March/April attracts millions of visitors from all around the world. To see them in all their glory, just walk along the Tidal Basin or visit the East Potomac Park.

Another destination in the USA is Georgia, which hosts a massive International Cherry Blossom Festival in late March. Here you can enjoy the blossoms from over 300 000 Yoshino cherry trees, outdoor movie screenings, live music and more! The best blossom viewing spots are Wesleyan Woods, Fickling Farm and downtown Marcon.

A third destination to view cherry blossoms in the USA (no wonder they are famous for their cherry pie) is New York City’s Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The blossoms are in bloom in April and a two-day festival is held every year to celebrate the blossoms.

Cherry blossoms in France

The Parc de Sceaux, which is situated on the outskirts of Paris has hundreds of cherry blossom trees. Enjoy them with a picnic right under the cherry blossom trees themselves!

Cherry blossoms in Sweden

To see cherry blossoms in Sweden head to the heart of Stockholm and visit the Kungsträdgården. Here you will discover an annual Cherry Blossom festival in late April, which attracts thousands of visitors.

Cherry blossoms in Spain

For two weeks in late March and early April, the Jerte Valley in Spain transforms into a white cherry wonderland as over a million trees come into bloom! This is one of the most magnificent cherry blossom viewings in the whole of Europe and the local towns have plenty of festivities on at the same time to celebrate the blossoms.

Cherry blossoms in Canada

If you want to see cherry blossoms in Canada, head to Vancouver, which hosts the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival in April. Visit Queen Elizabeth Park, Stanley Bark or the VanDusen Botanical Garden for a magnificent display of blossoms.

Cherry blossoms in Germany

Hamburg is Osaka’s sister city and since 1968, Hamburg has honoured this relationship with Kirschblütenfest in May – a visually beautiful Cherry Blossom Festival packed full of culture, fireworks and of course the cherry trees themselves – which you can find at Altonaer Balkon Park or the banks of Alster Lake.

Cherry blossoms in South Africa

Closer to home, you can also enjoy the cherry blossoms in bloom – although this happens later in the year in September. To celebrate Springtime with these beautiful blossoms, head to the Calitzdorp Blossom Festival at De Krans Wines, where you can see a beautiful display of peach and apricot blossoms.

The Ceres Valley is another destination to celebrate cherry blossoms. Make sure Klondyke Cherry Farm is on your list, where you can enjoy a great day out with your family.

Ficksburg is another top cherry blossom destination – especially as this small Eastern Free State town claims to be the Cherry Capital of the World and hosts an annual Cherry Festival that draws visitors from all over South Africa and the world. To see the cherry trees in bloom, visit Ficksburg in August/September and then plan to be back for the famous cherry festival, which will be held from 21-23 November 2019.

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