Such is the dedication in Japan to the fleeting cherry blossoms, that every neighborhood in the land can boast a number of spots to admire the soft pink petals of late March and early April—including the central city Tokyo district of Akasaka.
Built on the site of a military barracks (and before that the mansion of an Edo-era daimyo), the roads through Tokyo Midtown are lined with mature somei-yoshino cherry trees. For dramatic effect, the trees are up-lit with pink accented lighting at night. The foot bridges over the road are insanely popular spots to snap pics. Be prepared to fight off the selfie sticks.
Located on the border of Akasaka and Roppongi between the Ark Hills complex and Roppongi-itchome Station, Spain-zaka (so called because it is located behind the Embassy of Spain) is a lesser known spot, but one of the most spectacular in the capital—especially in the evening. There’s not really anywhere to put down a picnic, but you can easily stroll around here for 30 minutes or so. Spain-zaka isn’t a commonly known place name, so if asking for directions, head for Ark Hills.
Not to be confused with Hie Shrine, Hikawa Shrine is located in the Akasaka backstreets, just behind the distinct shipping container-like buildings of the American Embassy Housing Compound. While there aren’t a huge number of trees, there is a wide variety and it’s a nice spot to sit down with a bento and a tall boy from the local 7-Eleven.
Top tip: See the neighboring cherry blossoms in Roppongi too.
At the southern end of Akasaka Dori Avenue, just before it ducks into the tunnel next to Nogizaka Station, Nogi Shrine is dedicated to the memory of Nogi Maresuke, a late 19th century Japanese general and father to the scouting movement in Japan. Next to the imposing entrance torii is a much-photographed weeping cherry with deep pink blossoms.
Right next to Akasaka Station on the Chiyoda Line, Akasaka Sacas has some beautiful weeping cherries on the main street side and a long row of conventional cherry trees on the backside. The property managers are strict on food consumption on the main street side, but there are no restrictions out the back. There are only a very small number of stone benches to sit down on though, so this is best considered a strolling spot.
Komatsu Building Rooftop Cherry Blossom Garden
Managed by the Flower Association of Japan, the garden contains mature cherry trees on the 10th floor rooftop of the Komatsu Building. It’s open to the public for only a 2-hour window from 2 pm to 4 pm on Fridays. The garden features both early-blooming and late-blooming cherry trees.
Komatsu Building Rooftop Garden
Hikawa Park is a small square on top of an underground parking lot with boxed rose gardens, trickling water channels and often a few rough sleepers. It also has a few fine cherry trees that transform the street end of the park.
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Just outside Akasaka
If you’re already here to see the flowers, you needn’t be penned in by some arbitrary lines on the map. Just beyond the boundaries of Akasaka are some notable spots.
Shimizudani Park, Kioicho
A five-minute walk from Akasaka-mitsuke Station, Shimizudani Park features mature cherry blossom trees around a small pond. It’s opposite the Hotel New Otani (also with gardens worth a look) and next to Garden Place Kioicho, so there are plenty of places to pick up a bento and refreshments to enjoy under the petals.
Sofia Dori Avenue, Yotsuya
A five minutes’ walk farther on from Shimizudani Park, this spot overlooks the former outer moat of Edo Castle which is long filled in and now used as sports fields. Sofia Dori Avenue is a very popular spot for both strolling and laying down a picnic. Although, the path looks narrow, locals and visitors still manage to squeeze in their blue sheets under the best trees.
National Art Center Tokyo
Just to the south of Tokyo Midtown, both the street approaching the National Art Center and the neighboring Graduate Institute of Policy Studies are bursting with cherry blossom trees.
The National Art Center Tokyo
Check out our mega-guide to cherry blossom spots in Tokyo.