Sakura storm into Muji’s sweets section, and we are powerless to resist this delicious dozen.

In Japan, there’s a phenomenon called sakura fubuki, which translates to “cherry blossom blizzard.” Sakura fubuki occur in spring when strong gusts of wind blow through the boughs of cherry blossom trees, creating a swirl of pink petals that surrounds anyone lucky enough to be caught in the middle.

There’s something similar happening at Mujirushi these days, except rather than cherry blossoms it’s cherry blossom sweets everywhere you look. The lifestyle brand has rolled out a whole slew of sakura-flavor sweets, snacks, and even drinks, and we were determined to try each and every one.

As the eventual winner of the no-holds-barred bare-knuckle battle royale by which we determined who would handle this coveted assignment, our Japanese-language reporter Tasuku Egawa hit up our local Mujirushi to assemble a complete set of sakura sweets (as of February 15), which ended up being a total of 12 items.

● Sakura Baumkuchen
● Sakura-Flavored Pao De Lo
● Sakura Roll Cake
● Sakura-Flavored Daifuku Mochi
● Sakura and Sugar Rice Crackers
● Sakura Marshmallows
● Sakura Cream Sandwich Cookie
● Sakura Karinto
● Sakura Steamed Buns
● Sakura Rice Jelly Pancakes
● Sakura Green Tea
● Instant Sakura Latte

Before we get to the taste-testing, we should cover what makes something sakura flavor. Basically, both the petals of the flowers and the leaves of cherry blossom trees are edible, and since they’re often preserved in salt, sakura flavor tends to be a gentle sweetness followed by a crisp, salty finish, with some very subtle floral/herbal touches, and even a bit of bitterness if a larger quantity of leaves or a smaller amount of salt is used.

With that out of the way, let’s get to Tasuku’s notes.

● Sakura Baumkuchen (150 yen [US$1.30])

Baumkuchen, which translates as “tree cake” because of its resemblance in shape to tree rings, is a staple of the Japanese sweets scene, and something Mujirushi is especially well-known for (as our 23-flavor taste test attests to). Mujirushi’s baumkuchen are actually personal-size cake sticks, and while Tasuku didn’t get a sakura sensation the moment this hit his lips, as he chewed the flavor started to resemble sakura mochi sweets, and the fact that the cake isn’t overly sugary let the sakura flavor leave a lasting impression despite its late arrival.

● Sakura-Flavored Pao De Lo (490 yen)

Pao De Lo is a kind of Portuguese sponge cake, sort of a cousin to the castella cakes you can find in Japanese cafes and bakeries. There’s no frosting or glaze, and the white stuff in the above photo is a paper wrapping that has to be removed before eating. With the paper out of the way, Tasuku noticed a stronger sakura scent than with the Baumkuchen, and it also has a sweeter flavor and airier consistency.

● Sakura Roll Cake (390 yen)

Our last stop on the sakura cake circuit, the sakura roll cake (which gives you four slices in the pack) has the strongest sakura flavor of the trio, and the ribbon of cream that spiral to the center makes it the moistest too.

Sakura-Flavored Daifuku Mochi (250 yen)

With the cherry blossom being Japan’s representative flower, naturally there are plenty of Japanese desserts in Mujirushi’s sakura sweets lineup. Daifuku are chewy mochi dumplings, and these ones are compact enough to be eaten in a single bite. Sweet and delicious, with a stylish dusting of rice flour, these would be a very crowd-pleasing choice, especially since the bag gives you enough daifuku to share.

Sakura and Sugar Rice Crackers (190 yen)

Here’s a unique one. Senbei (Japanese rice crackers) often tend to have a notably bitter aftertaste that they acquire as the rice flour cooks to a crisp. These ones are sweetened with sugar, though, and also seasoned with powdered sakura tree leaves. Ultimately, though, the underlying toasted rice flavor is what’s strongest here, albeit with a little bit of extra salty sweetness, making the sakura aspect a little hard for your taste buds to lock on to. Still some really tasty senbei, though.

Sakura Marshmallows (250 yen)

There’s a similar situation going on with the Sakura Marshmallows. Their pale pink color immediately brings to mind cherry blossoms, but their sakura flavoring is pretty subtle. However, as marshmallows, it’s no shock that they taste great…

…and their anko (sweet red bean paste) cores also help them feel just a little more special than ordinary varieties.

Sakura Cream Sandwich Cookie (120 yen)

No, we don’t know why Tasuku bought two of these, since they’re exactly the same. Maybe he’d had a premonition, though, about how great the cookie was going to taste and used this foreknowledge to conclude that he should pick up another to enjoy when he inevitably started craving an encore. The salted cherry blossom on top gives this some visual pizzazz, and the cream inside has sakura leaf mixed in, giving this a fantastic blend of sweet and salty flavors.

Sakura Karinto (190 yen)

Karinto are a sweet deep-fried flour snack. These ones have had salted sakura leaf mixed in before cooking, and their flavor comes through in a pretty strong way. They’re so good that, if Tasuku hadn’t had 11 other treats he needed to save space for, he might have eaten the whole bag right then and there.

Sakura Steamed Buns (390 yen)

To clarify, these are manju, small, sweet dumplings cooked by steaming, and not the palm-sized steamed buns they sell at Japanese convenience stores. Right away, Tasuku could tell these were going to have a strong sakura flavor, as the flecks of sakura leaf in the dough are immediately noticeable. That dough is wrapped around smooth anko, and the red bean paste’s sweetness and sakura leaf’s saltiness complement each other perfectly, so Tasuku was glad that you get eight to a pack, since these are too good to eat just one.

Sakura Rice Jelly Pancakes (190 yen)

For our final food item, we’ve got another slightly confusing name. The Japanese text on the label calls these the Mini Dorayaki with Sakura Mochi, and that’s a clearer picture of what’s waiting inside this three-piece pack. Granted, dorayaki do resemble pancakes, even if dorayaki are sweeter. But “rice jelly” is a misleading way to describe sakura mochi, a sakura and sticky mochi dessert. The English product name also doesn’t mention the anko filling,

Linguistic/package design quibbles aside, though, there’s nothing to complain about here, with strong sakura flavor, a satisfying mix of textures, and beautiful aesthetics with the colored marbling of the dough.

Sakura Green Tea (390 yen)

Mujirushi offers two sakura-style ways to wash all those snacks down, and Tasuku started with a cup of Sakura Green Tea (made with one of the 10 tea bags inside the pouch). Sakura leaves are mixed in with the tea leaves, giving this one an ever so slight sweetness to Tasuku’s taste buds. Personally, though, he’d have preferred deeper bitter notes, and since this is a case of adding one type of leaves to another to make the drink, this is the least “SAKURA!”-ish item on our list so far, even if it’s a perfectly passable green tea.

Instant Sakura Latte (390 yen)

When Tasuku opened the pouch of Sakura Latte powder, he thought there must be some sort of mistake. Cherry blossoms are pink, right? Maybe not an eye-searing hot pink, but at least a soft pastel. The Sakura Latte powder, though, is gray.

▼ Did they give him a bag of ashes?

With the rest of our staff still unconscious, though (remember, bare-knuckle battle royale), Tasuku had no one to foist the final taste test off on. So he spooned some of the powder into a cup, poured in the hot water, and…

…it immediately turned pink!

Tasuku wasn’t sure what manner of sakura sorcery this was, but with his faith restored he took a sip, and sure enough, the sakura flavor was there. If you’ve never had a sakura latte, it’s sort of like a white chocolate hot chocolate, but not as sweet and with a salty finish. That makes it a very relaxing drink, and Tasuku was glad to have it, because with his stomach filled with so many desserts, he wasn’t going to be going anywhere for quite a while.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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