Tokyo’s sakura season is watched like an incoming storm. The news and everyday conversations fill with predictions, planning, and excitement. The frenzy picks up as the blooms follow the warm weather north. These little pink flowers herald the arrival of spring.
"Sakura" is Japanese for a flowering cherry tree.
Even before the sakura bloom, across the country everything turns a shade of pink. It starts with the food and drinks. For the season, every label is adorned with little pink flowers. Everything than can be is flavored cherry-blossomed. Even the beers are more festive.
Once the sakura petals fall, like soft pink snow blowing through the streets, the frenzy calms and the world turns green. This all happens in less than three weeks. These beautiful flowers bud, bloom, and fall like a poem in the spring breeze, reminding us that the most wonderful things in life are not meant to last forever. And thus, they should be cherished.
Cheese is a wonderful mirror of the sakura blooms. Each demands an appreciation for the passing of time. With age, cheese grows and develops. But it also sours and degrades. The sole guarantee is that the cheese will change.
Japanese cheese is one part of this seasonal consciousness. In tribute, Japanese cheesemakers celebrate spring with their own unique touch. Check out a three of our favorites below.
This cheese exudes all the beauty of a cherry blossom. Besides the elegant flower bud placed in the middle of the round, the cheese is covered in a soft, pillowy white mold. Inside it is pure and white, with a thin cream line under the rind. On the tongue, it melts in your mouth with a faint acidity and light saltiness. This is not a pungent cheese, but one made for the Japanese palate. Its flavors are more refined and nuanced.
Sakura Affiné, Kyodogakusha
Originally just an aging experiment by the cheesemaker, Sakura Affine is a beautiful example of how aging can produce an entirely new array of flavors and textures in a cheese. Sakura Affine is the evolution of the original Sakura round after 1 month of aging. Given the time, the hues of the stark white paste get warmer and more mellow. The cream line takes over and softens the whole round, creating a cheese that is melty, rich, and creamy at room temperature.
Natchi, Yafuin Cheese Factory
Wrapped in shiso leaves and bathed in plum vinegar, Natchi is a cheese of color contrasts. The strong whites of the cheese contrast with the dark shiso leaves and the pink-hued vinegar. The cheese itself is firm and milky, with vibrant flavors from the leaves and vinegar. A salad is the perfect platform for this unique mix of Japanese ingredients.