April is a busy month in Japan. It is known for Hanami, New life ( Shinseikatsu ), the beginning of the fiscal year. Many companies take advantage of this time of the year by releasing campaigns related to Hanami, ( Cherry Blossom Viewing ) and New life ( Shinseikatsu ) to appeal to seasonal consumers' psychology around the season. Many companies also start counting their fiscal year starting from April in Japan, which also comes with certain implications; companies typically have more budgets to spend, companies also tend to hire new employees at this time. In this part 1 of the 'spring in Japan' blog post, we will focus on the Hanami season and look at how companies use this cultural and seasonal event.
Sakura or cherry blossom season is one of the most popular times of the year in Japan. Like in many countries, the flower blossoming marks the arrival of warmer weather and early spring. Hanami refers to people gathering to view full-bloomed cherry blossoms with their friends and families. People bring blue sheets to sit on under the full-bloomed cherry blossom trees and food and drinks to enjoy. Sakura season normally starts from the middle to late March and goes until early April.
Cities also take advantage of this season to promote their cities. For example, there is a famous cherry blossom festival called “Takato Sakura Matsuri” in Nagano.
“Takato Sakura Matsuri” is an annual spring festival held in Nagano Prefecture to which about 200 thousand tourists gather. Inashi Sightseeing Committee is now holding “SAKURA-genic Instagram Present Campaign” where the participants can win prizes like lodging tickets and local food items by following the festival’s official account or by sharing photos of cherry blossoms using your Instagram account.” - Moshi Moshi Nippon.
Culture of Sakura
When speaking of creating a subculture, there is no better way than for pop artists to create a song about the subject. Sakura is no exception.
Many J-pop artists sing about Sakura. One of the most popular hit was from Sakura (さくら) by Katsumeishi (ケツメイシ) and Sakura (桜) by Kobukuro (コブクロ).
Sakura (桜) by Kobukuro (コブクロ) also became the song used by a hit TV drama, N's(ナース)あおい which had hot popular idols in the show in 2006 broadcasted by one of the biggest TV stations Fuji TV.
Spring is also the time children go back to school which can be associated with a ‘new beginning’ and ‘innocent beginning.’
There is also a term in Japanese “ 春が来た” ( Spring Arrived ) which indicates a single person coming out of the cold and alone season to a warmer nice season by finding a “maybe-lead-to-dating” partner. And normally, this spring love is more associated with the feeling of freshness and innocence.
All the things described above create cultural nuances about spring that can be taken into account when companies plan spring marketing communication in Japan.
It is also common practice for brands to release the Sakura collection of their products to boost their brands along with the Sakura season.
Kose cosmetics Decorte
The company released Sakura season cosmetics and skincare products that imitated sakura color themes with sakura designs on the packages. This edition was only available for a limited time from February 16th, 2021 with an option to reserve the item in advance from January 13th, 2021.
Dotour Sakura Cafe Beverages and Snacks
Japanese coffee chain, Doutor Coffee, released a sakura menu including sakura beverages and sakura desserts.
The iced sakura au lait on the left has marshmallow petals and shiny edible pearls sprinkled on top of whipped cream, and sauce made from sakura petal paste. The drink also has warabi mochi in the mix, to add a squishy texture. This drink is also available only for a limited time along with the Sakura season.
Sakura and matcha flavored donuts were introduced by Mister Doughnut, one of Japan's largest donut chains, in March 2021.
The donuts were produced in collaboration with Gion Tusjiri, a reputable tea company founded 161 years ago in Uji, Kyoto, a location known for green tea. This is the third time the two have teamed up to create a donut including Gion Tusjiri's highly sought-after matcha, but it will be the first time they've combined powdered green tea with sakura cherry blossoms.
Just like how Starbucks is known for creating Pumpkin Spice Latte around the Fall season in the US, the Sakura season creates a similar opportunity for Japanese businesses. The association of sakura comes with the excitement of welcoming the warmer and nicer season: spring. It is the psychology people have about wanting to enjoy the new change of a season that invites consumers to choose sakura products over the others. Japanese companies understand this psychology and use this to boost their brands.