Tokyo’s Top Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots
The temperatures are steadily rising, the winter coats are being traded for lighter jackets, and the buds on cherry trees have started opening, meaning it's time for one of our favorite Japanese traditions: hanami. Literally translated as "flower viewing," this cultural ritual is so much more. It’s an experience; a spiritual metaphor for the beautiful but fleeting nature of life; and above all, a chance to get outside and eat, drink and be merry under the cover of beautiful pink and white blossoms.
In the past we told you about some of the top family-friendly hanami spots in Tokyo, but pretty much wherever you do it, hanami is an activity that appeals to people of all ages, which is one of the things that makes in so great. Here are seven of the best places to get your sakura fix this spring:
This river’s location in a hip residential neighborhood, coupled with the way the trees drape over the water, makes for a stunning walk. Get there from dusk onward to experience the yozakura (night time sakura viewing) lit up by pink and orange lanterns. With 800 trees spread along four kilometers of the river, there are plenty of beautiful blossoms to enjoy viewing under the stars. This is also where the Naka Meguro Sakura Festival (April 3) and the Spring Festival (April 2-3) are held. For more information on what you’ll see walking along the river, click here.
Where: Naka Meguro station, main exit
Just steps from Ueno station, this park is filled with some 800 sakura trees, and when the blossoms reach full bloom it’s like walking under a canopy of sakura-filled clouds and cherry blossom snow. This spot rightfully draws a huge crowd of revelers and has many yatai, or food stalls, in the area, so bring your appetite. Stay into the evening as the flowers are lit up by the soft glow of lanterns.
Where: Ueno station, park exit
Close to Asakusa station and the area’s famous temple, the Sumida River cuts a swath through Tokyo’s historic shitamachi (old downtown) neighborhoods. A walk along the banks is a perfect way to see the sakura trees lining the riverside. Taking the water bus along the river is a popular viewing activity. On the other side of the river, at Sumida Park, you can find yakatabune, or traditional floating restaurants. Enjoy the spectacular view of more than 960 cherry trees blooming along the Sumida River, with Tokyo Skytree in the background.
Where: Asakusa station
A quintessential, traditional Edo period Japanese garden, Rikugien is also a splendid sakura viewing spot each spring. Its symbol, a 15-meter-high and 20-meter-wide weeping cherry tree, greets visitors to the park as soon as they enter through the main gate. Though this garden doesn’t allow wild hanami parties, the evening light-up starting from late March creates a magical and romantic sakura viewing experience. Admission costs ¥300 per person.
Where: Komagome or Sengoku station
Showa Kinen Park
One of the largest parks in western Tokyo, Showa Kinen Park turns into an endless carpet of various flowers in the spring—in addition to its 1,500 flowering cherry trees that make the park look as if it is covered by a pink sky. Showa Kinen Park also hosts its splendid annual flower festival from March 19 through May 22. A beautiful venue whether you’re visiting as a family, a couple, or even on your own. Admission costs ¥410 per person.
Where: Nishi Tachikawa station
Sakura in the heart of the city is a dream come true for the area’s tireless cadre of office workers. During the cherry blossom season, Tokyo Midtown holds a wide range of hanami events with food, drinks, sweets and crafts. Take yourself out for a drink and some nibbles under Midtown’s 150 trees, which are lit up until 11 p.m., making it the perfect venue for an after-work or late-night yozakura rendezvous.
Where: Roppongi station, exit 8
Hanami doesn’t always have to be peaceful or romantic. If you’re after something a little more energetic, head to Yoyogi Park in Shibuya. At this time of year, the park is filled with friends, college students and colleagues revelling in food and drink as they sit on ubiquitous blue tarps. The crowd is bustling and boisterous, invigorated by people playing silly and outlandish drinking games. A great spot to let loose with friends under the blooming sakura.
Where: Yoyogi Koen or Harajuku station
Meguro River photo by Alfie Goodrich; Ueno Park photo by Usodesita; Sumida River photo by Yoshikazu Takada; Showa Kinen Park photo by Ajari.