The blooming of the cherry blossom (or Sakura, as they’re known in the native language) is one of the most anticipated and famous events in Japan, especially in the capital city. Those who venture to Tokyo in early spring are rewarded with the gentle beauty of this natural phenomenon, as the plants bud and burst into life and colour. The custom of attributing importance to these trees started with “hanami”, or drinking under the blooming trees to bring good luck, and has now exploded into a national trend which vast swathes of the population indulge in.
There are dozens of great spots to experience this gorgeous sight in the city, although there’s no doubt some are better than others, whether that be because of the scenery around the trees, the sheer number of flowers blossoming, or associated festivals around the areas that celebrate the coming of Spring. If you want to experience this happening in the best way possible, then read ahead; we’ve collected the best spots to see the Tokyo cherry blossom in all its glory.
This iconic park is worth a visit at any time of the year, as it’s home to the Tokyo National museum, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and Ueno Zoo, as well as plenty of other important cultural spaces such as Kaneji temple, one of the largest and formerly wealthiest temples in the country.
However, from late March through to early April, the space is dominated by the most famous and popular cherry blossom festival in Japan. There are several long walkways throughout the park where the blossoms are planted, with the two most famous being through the heart of the green space and along a walkway that goes through the main lake in the park. Like most festivals that take place to commemorate the blooming, they light up the cherry blossoms throughout the duration of the celebrations, making wandering through at night a truly ethereal experience.
Combining the traditional architecture of Japan with the Tokyo cherry blossom bloom is a guaranteed winner, and there’s nowhere this stunning mix marries up better than at Yasukuni Shrine.
There’s a festival to mark this occasion in early April, during which the trees are lit up at night to really showcase their beauty, but usually the flowers start to show in late March so it’s not too big an issue if you’re a little early. There are numerous trees scattered around the grounds, and you can combine a trip to see them with a visit to the adjoining Yushukan museum, where there are several interesting artefacts and pieces of art on show. After all, why wouldn’t you try and get the best of Japanese culture and nature all in one visit?
Hibiya park is great to visit at any time of the year, with vast green spaces, serene lakes, and flower beds making it a real oasis in the modern jungle of the Japanese capital, but from late March until early April it becomes even more dreamlike as the cherry blossoms flower throughout the park.
The park is sixteen hectares and there are trees dotted all over, but the best spot to see them bloom is probably Kamome square, where there are plenty of benches to relax and take it all in. From there, you can wander to the nearby Imperial Palace, or even just sit in the park and dream the hours away. It’s a truly remarkable spot, and if you’re there at the right time, an unforgettable experience.
Chidorigafuchi Green Road/ Chidorigafuchi Park
Taking a stroll down Chidorigafuchi Green Road almost makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The 700m walking route is next to a moat that surrounds a park of the same name, and is covered by trees on the other side, which has the bonus effect of blocking out a lot of the noise of modern-day Tokyo.
If you are willing, you can also rent a boat and row around, taking it all in at a leisurely pace. There’s a festival to mark the occasion, usually taking place from the end of March through to the beginning of April, and the trees are lit up at night during this period, making it one of the most scenic spots to take in the Tokyo cherry blossom blooms. Picturesque, tranquil, and awe inspiring, there’s a reason many consider this to be the best spot to see cherry blossoms in Japan.
With a history spanning over a millennium, Kanda Myojin shrine is a slice of history in the heart of the most modern area of Tokyo.
Two of the seven Gods of fortune are enshrined here, including Daikokuten, the God of bountiful harvests. It seems this connection to the spirit of the natural world has some effect, as the cherry blossom bloom here is absolutely unmissable. The plants tend to burst into life at the temple throughout March, so that’s the best time to have a look around if you’re keen to see the resplendent nature in all its glory. When this is combined with the tranquil nature of the space, the shrine goes from a must visit to a necessity.
This relatively short river winds seven kilometres through central Tokyo, passing through three wards on its way. Almost the entire length of the waterway has been landscaped, so it has plenty of manmade aesthetic charm to go alongside the natural beauty of the spot.
There are rows of Cherry blossoms at various points along the river, and they tend to bloom from late March until early April, drawing thousands of locals and tourists alike to the riverbanks. The fact this spot is so central makes it a busy place, but the crowds are still quite reasonable and, as far as viewing spots go, it’s one of the best in Tokyo for seeing cherry blossoms. The Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival takes place around the river and the surrounding area in early April, and during this time the trees are lit up at night in an almost magical way. The juxtaposition of the natural beauty of the trees with the towering skyscrapers that surround them is breath-taking and will leave memories to last a lifetime.
If you’re looking to photograph more than just Japan’s cherry blossom season, take a look at our guide to best photography spots in Tokyo for holiday snaps to be proud of.
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