Japan’s most famous snack food steps into spring with this limited-time seasonal flavor.

Just about every year since I moved to Japan, I’ve gotten lulled into a false sense of security once we get past the midpoint of January. “Winter is now more than half-way over!” I tell myself, as I start to think I can just make out the light at the end of the tunnel of my least favorite season.

Then something like this happens.

Yep, it’s still incredibly cold in Japan, even though I’d be perfectly OK with spring starting right now. So if the weather isn’t going to cooperate, my only choice for an early reprieve from winter is to eat as many spring-themed snacks as I can, which this week meant Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Pocky.

Manufacturer Glico’s newest flavor for its perennially popular line of chocolate-covered pretzel sticks is available only at Seven & i group stores, which include 7-Eleven convenience stores and supermarkets York Mart and Ito Yokado. Knowing that sakura have become an internationally recognized symbol of Japan, the signs at my closest Ito Yokado wre tri-lingual, with Japanese, English, and Chinese text.

▼ Being at home with Pocky is always better than being out in the snow.

The fancy-looking box underscores the Sakura Pocky’s membership in the brand’s “Luxury Chocolatier” sub-group, which also commands a slight premium, with this four-bag, 24-stick box costing 365 yen (US$3.25), making it a little more expensive than more plebeian Pocky flavors.

▼ Popping the top reveals a burst of color, almost like a branch of blooming cherry blossoms.

▼ Sakura illustrations adorn each of the wrappers.

Each stick has a chocolate coating of a shade that mimics sakura petals, and is favored with sakura leaf extract, then dusted with large-grain sugar and salt, in keeping with the characteristic saltiness of many sakura sweets.

However, when you bite into one, the first sensation isn’t sakura, but butter.

That’s because in addition to seeming a little thicker than ordinary Pocky, the sakura flavor sticks’ cores are made seared butter for an almost Danish-like richness. As a matter of fact, if you had you eyes closed and took a sniff of an open packet, it’d be hard to detect the marque ingredient of sakura extract by scent alone.

As you chew, though, the sakura flavors make their presence known, and eventually the rich butter, sweet chocolate, and salty finish create a moment of pure pleasure for the palate as they combine for a glorious aftertaste with a surprisingly clear, non-oily finish for something that’s initially so buttery.

If you’re a hard-core sakura supporter, instead of biting through the stick, your cravings will be better served by sucking on it first, so that you can enjoy the sakura flavors with no interference from the buttery core. Even if you do just eat them normally, though, the Sakura Pocky are delicious and unique, and their pretty-in-pink appearance only add to their appeal at a home party or cherry blossom-viewing excursion. The larger-than-normal quantity also makes them an easy pick for social snacking with friends, as the box top even encourages you to “share happiness.”

But should you decide you want to eat the whole box yourself, I totally understand.

Photos ©SoraNews24

Follow Casey on Twitter, where the chance that’s he’s neither cold nor eating something sakura-related at any given moment is pretty negligible.