Viewing parties, aka “hanami,” for the country’s famous flowers attract millions of tourists every year, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put a dampener on festivities over the last two years. And it seems like we’re not out of the woods yet. Read on to find out how you can still make the most of the 2022 sakura season.

Japan Cherry Blossom Festival Canceled
Cherry blossoms in Nakameguro during normal times | Photo by David Ishikawa

Sadly, most evening illuminations are canceled again this year

This includes yozakura (night-time cherry blossom viewing) hotspots Ueno Park, the Meguro River, and Chidorigafuchi — all canceled this year.

The best place to see the blossoms all lit up in central Tokyo this year is in and around Roppongi. Roppongi Hills’ Mohri Garden will have evening illuminations, as will nearby Sakura-zaka, from March 22nd to early April, 5:30pm–11pm (Sakura-zaka until 10:30pm). Tokyo Midtown’s Midtown Blossom event is also going ahead, and there will be more illuminations on Spain-zaka near Akasaka Ark Hills.

Elsewhere, the Edo Fukugawa Sakura Festival is still happening but is significantly scaled back. There will be illuminations from 5pm to 8pm but no vendors.

Gardens are open but some require reservations

Shinjuku Gyoen is operating on a reservations-based system; there are details (in English!) on the garden’s website. As is Rikugien, which is limiting admission to 500 people at a time during cherry blossom season (March 21st to April 4th); details on the website here. Note that this year Rikugien does NOT have extended opening hours, so there will be no evening illumination of the garden’s famous weeping cherry tree.

The city’s other metropolitan gardens, which include Hamarikyu, Koishikawa Korakuen, and Kiyosumi Teien will not require reservations but say they plan to limit admission if it gets too crowded. The gardens also ask that visitors continue to take precautions — interpret that as you like. Shinjuku Gyoen has the clearest guidelines: no groups larger than four people (unless everyone is from the same household) and masks should be worn.

But they can’t cancel the cherry blossoms, right?

Of course, it’s impossible to cancel spring itself or stop blossoms from blooming. It appears that, as of the time of writing, parks themselves will remain open to the public and popular cherry blossom thoroughfares will not be closed off. They may, however, not set up the additional garbage bins and public toilets they usually provide, so make a mental note of the nearest restroom if you decide to go.

For park suggestions major and minor see our freshly updated complete guide to hanami in Tokyo.

hanami under pink cherry blossoms - Japan Cherry Blossom Festival Canceled
Photo by iStock.com/Sean_Kuma

So no one can stop me going?

Correct. However, if you do decide to go ahead with a cherry blossom picnic, heed the advice of specialists and put public health first. According to Professor Futaki from Showa University School of Medicine, the safest way to enjoy a picnic is for each person to bring their own food and drink. If you share food as a group, he offers this advice to lower the risk of spreading infection:

  • Don’t touch food you’re not going to eat or eat food that others have touched.
  • Bring chopsticks/tongs for serving shared food—don’t grab food with chopsticks that have touched your mouth.
  • Don’t share the same bottle of drink. Instead, have a can/bottle for each person.
  • Instead of putting your hands in a bag and passing it around, open bags of snacks all the way and take from the top.
  • Sit 1–2 meters away from each other, or at least from other groups.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. This post was last updated by Rebecca Milner on March 21st, 2022.

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