One of the most popular times to visit Tokyo is during the end of March to the beginning of April, during spring – also known as sakura season, or when the cherry blossoms bloom. All of Tokyo turns into a pale pink wonderland and there are a number of spots where you can enjoy seeing these amazing Japanese flowers in bloom. There is even a special Japanese word to describe enjoying the flowers – hanami, literally meaning ‘flower viewing’.
Flowering periods for the trees tend to follow a two-week timeline – from their initial showing of fresh petals to when the petals fall to the ground. In order to see the trees in all their glory, make stops at certain areas during peak bloom periods, which tend to occur a few days after flowering. People across Japan engage in hanami activities at the height of these vivid bursts of light pink. One of the more popular ways is an age-old springtime tradition of picnicking under the blooming trees.
There are several spots in Tokyo where you can enjoy the cherry blossom viewing and take iconic pictures.
Ueno Park is a popular place in Tokyo all year round, but during the cherry blossom season it becomes a MUST. It’s said that the trees here bloom a little earlier than other areas. It has been a popular sakura destination since the 16th century. In the park, there are about 800 cherry trees bloom with a total area of 538,000 square meters; most of them are in the center of the park. Expect Ueno Park to be crowded with a lot of food stalls and lantern lights in the evening!
A short walking distance from Ueno Park is the Yanaka Cemetery, another interesting spot for cherry blossoms in Tokyo. 170 sakura trees are amidst the 7,000 graves and the main road, Sakura-dori (Cherry Blossom Street), cuts through the cemetery and is where most of the sakura trees are.
Due to the nature of this place, visitors are much quieter than at other sakura viewing locations, which provides the right conditions for a more serene sakura experience. The graveyard as the backdrop also offers the right metaphor for the deeper meaning of sakura blossoms in Japanese culture – that blooming season is beautiful and short-lived similar to the Buddhist belief that life is transient and fleeting.
Easily one of the biggest parks in downtown Tokyo, Yoyogi is a one-stop destination for those looking for a traditional “hanami” experience. It is also located near other touristic places of interest – such as Meiji Jingu and Harajuku, so it’s easy to combine cherry blossom viewing while exploring the local areas.
You’ll see a mix of all sorts of people: from street performers to organized office hanami meetings, school groups and sports competitions, and troupes of lolita girls and college students. In addition, there are all sorts of festivals and markets, some offering seasonal sakura flavored food and drinks.
To really experience sakura season like a local, be sure to buy a drink and some snacks and find a space underneath the trees – enjoy the spring atmosphere underneath the beautiful cherry blossoms.
Located in the heart of the city, Shinjuku Gyoen is a large park where one can relax and take in the sights of the beautiful cherry blossoms. The park prides itself on having over 65 types and over 1,100 different cherry trees.
The entrance requires a fee and no alcohol is allowed but it’s one of the most beautiful places to enjoy cherry blossom in Tokyo, so be sure to not to miss it. Please note that the park gates generally close at 16:30PM but hours can differ during seasonal times. Be sure to check the website in advance for any changes. The park is also quite beautiful in the fall when the leaves change color, making Shinjuku Gyoen an oasis during each Tokyo season.
Asukayama Park is a hidden gem in Oji, one of the shitamachi areas of Tokyo, and holds around 300 years of history as a favorite sakura viewing spot for locals. Approximately 600 cherry trees bloom in spring at this expansive park, where there is also a free short monorail ride and three interesting museums; it’s an ideal destination for families. The Sakura Tram also stops nearby, so it’s a wonderful place to enjoy the local and quieter side of Tokyo.
The area around Chidorigafuchi on the northwest side of the Imperial Palace is often considered the best place for cherry blossoms in Tokyo. Around 1,000 cherry trees bloom here and you can take a picture of cherry trees with the stone walls of Imperial Palace in the background. It’s also possible to rent a boat, have a row in the moat and enjoy the cherry blossom from a different and extremely romantic prospective. Of course, the line for renting can be pretty long…
A 700m-long footpath which becomes something of a ‘sakura tunnel’ is particularly popular in the evening when the blossoms are illuminated from below with tinted lights.
A short distance away there is also the Yasukuni Shrine, which has some amazing cherry blossom trees throughout the shrine grounds.
Along Meguro River, about 800 cherry trees stretch for about 3.8 kilometers from the Ikejiri-Ohashi area to Kamenokobashi under the Tokyu Meguro Line. Every year this iconic area attracts tens of thousands of tourists and it’s a popular date spot at night when the blossoms are lit up.
In this area, there aren’t many spots where you can sit down, sprawl out and enjoy a picnic, but there are a number of food stands where you can pick up a glass of sakura-colored sparkling wine and assorted gourmet treats.
Although it’s not in Tokyo, the Chureito Pagoda needs a special mention as one of the best places for cherry blossom viewing. A favorite spot for photographers throughout the year, Chureito Pagoda offers magnificent views of the famous Mount Fuji. During the month of April, the pagoda rises above the “clouds” of cherry blossoms with Mt. Fuji towering behind – an iconic photo combining three of Japans most loved symbols.