As a company with multiple links to Japan, it was apt that we joined in celebrating a delightful and much-loved holiday like the hanami (“the picnic to celebrate the beauty of the cherry blossoms”). Luckily, there is a Japanese cherry tree orchard in the gardens of Budapest’s Technology University with two types of Japanese cherry trees in various sizes. One type is white, with simple petals and the other is pink with multi-layered petals. The white ones (in principle they are pale pink in Japan, but here, sadly, they are merely white) are the first to bloom, coming out much sooner than the pink ones.
We planned our commemoration based on the prediction of the Botanical Gardens, where most of their trees are the pink ones that flower later. However, on the date thus picked, we found that most of the white blossoms were wilting while the pink ones had barely begun to open.
No worries! The important things were the lovely weather, the chirping birds, the green grass (interspersed with flowering daisies) the picnic mood, and good things to eat and drink. It was also a good chance to test the wares of a Japanese bento (boxed meal) restaurant that recently opened. We tried two kinds – one with chicken and one with seafood. Both were delicious (the photo shows the seafood).
Dessert followed our main course. Our Japanese colleague brought us authentic Japanese sweets: azuki beans piled over vanilla ice cream, with a smattering of green tea powder on top. It was fantastic! And I think it is a perfect fit with Hungarian tastes.
And for a toast, the only proper choice was Japanese rice wine (nihonshu, not sake as it is mistakenly called abroad!).
One of the ladies on our team accepted the ultimate challenge, to prepare a traditional hanami sweet, a dumpling-like dish. (Hanami dangos are sweet balls made with rice flour and are pink, white, and green). Since she didn’t have all the necessary ingredients, she ended up with tiny muffins with all sorts of delicious fillings, which we all loved.
As stories go, not only did we eat and drink, we also talked among ourselves. Even though this was a staff picnic, we managed to move beyond shop-talk and have wonderful informal conversations.
We ended up staying out longer than planned, and were all in a great mood when heading back to the office. Same time, same place next year!