If having a picnic in a park is too cliché for you, then viewing cherry blossoms in these unique spots might just be your thing.

While hanami literally means flower viewing, this term is almost always associated with sakura (cherry blossoms), and often involves admiring them in a boring old garden or park while having a picnic.

Here we’ve given you options you won’t find on many other lists while leaving out the more extravagant options — if you feel like having hanami from a helicopter, go for it, but our Cheapo hearts will hurt.

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For an idea of flowering dates, see our sakura forecast.

Pro tip: You can visit Kyoto with a special bullet train deal to experience hanami in cherry-blossom central.

Try a cemetery

Yanaka Cemetery
Yanaka Cemetery | Photo by Adrienne Mah

We often associate cemeteries with gloom, death, and decay, and think of them as solemn, spooky places. That’s not necessarily the case in Japan. In fact, in Tokyo, two cemeteries are known to be lovely during cherry blossom season: Aoyama Cemetery and Yanaka Cemetery. If you want to see beautiful cherry blossoms while enjoying some relative peace and quiet (compared to the more popular picks for hanami in Tokyo), then these cemeteries might be your thing. There’s something poetic about seeing cherry blossoms abloom in a cemetery; cherry blossoms have always been a symbol of the ephemeral, after all.

Cherry Blossoms Aoyama Cemetery
Aoyama Cemetery Cherry Blossoms | Photo by Gregory Lane

Both cemeteries have paths lined with so many trees that it’s almost as if they’re forming a tunnel of cherry blossoms. While having a picnic at Aoyama Cemetery isn’t allowed, it’s okay to do so at Yanaka Cemetery. It may sound creepy, but these cemeteries get a fair number of visitors, so it’s not as unsettling as you may think. It’s also not really considered to be disrespectful to the dead, but don’t go overboard and get drunk or rowdy—you’re still in a cemetery, after all!

Hanami boat rides in Tokyo

Sumida River is a popular spot to hop on a boat. | Photo by Getty Images

O-Edo Fukagawa Sakura Festival

Cherry blossom season makes for scenic boat rides in the city. The unassuming neighborhood of Monzen-Nakacho comes alive in early spring, thanks to the Edo Fukagawa Sakura Festival, which takes place in late March to early April. This event features the usual festival attractions — food, games, and performances — plus boat rides down the nearby river.

We recommend riding a wasen — a traditional Japanese boat — as it’s only about ¥500 a ride. Wasen rides usually take place during the day on all weekends and holidays. There are more details about this year’s festival in the event listing below.

Galleon Cruise Company

Galleon operates two types of hanami cruises: a daytime hanami cruise that starts and ends at Monzen-Nakacho, passing through the Oyoko and Sumida Rivers, as well as a nighttime version of the same trip. You can bring your own alcohol on board, but you are reminded to be respectful. To book and for more information, please check out their website (Japanese).

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Tokyo Cruise

Tokyo Cruise offers several hanami boat rides down the Sumida River in late March and early April. A special sakura line departs from Asakusa, Hamarikyu Gardens, or Hinode Pier (aka Sunrise Pier). Prices start from ¥800, but a full excursion will cost you ¥1,360 for a 45-minutes round trip. This year, you’ll need to reserve all tickets in advance.

Yakatabune boats in Tokyo

Finally, if you feel like splurging, you can rent out a yakatabune, a traditional Japanese boat that’s usually chartered for parties. Some yakatabune have dinner courses for individuals or small groups. The Harumiya Cruising Restaurant is fairly reasonable.

Hanami in a rickshaw

Rickshaws lined up in front of Sensoji Temple
Photo by iStock.com/Tuckraider

The historic town of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture is just a 60- to 90-minute train ride away from Tokyo, and makes for a good day trip. While its temples and shrines are already beautiful on their own, cherry blossoms provide an added touch to make them even lovelier. Why not feel like you’ve been transported back in time by seeing Kamakura’s famous spots while riding a rickshaw? You can find rickshaw drivers near Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine and Engakuji, among others. It usually costs roughly ¥3,000 per head (but it goes down to ¥4,500 for 2 people) for a ride. To complete the experience, rent a kimono from one of the kimono rental shops along Komachi-dori.

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Hanami bus rides in Tokyo

Get close enough to touch some cherry blossoms by hopping on the Tokyo Sky Bus, an open-air double-decker bus. It offers a number of courses all year long, but one in particular—the Imperial Palace course—happens to include several cherry trees along the way, so it ends up doubling as a hanami tour during March and April.

Hanami in a Tokyo amusement park

tokyo sakura
Photo by Makoto Nakashima used under CC

For the young and young at heart, what better way to enjoy cherry blossoms than at an amusement park? Toshimaen in Nerima Ward (near Toshimaen Station), Hanayashiki in Asakusa, and Yomiuri Land near Keio-Yomiuriland Station have plenty of cherry trees to further liven up the scenery, whether it’s daytime or nighttime. Toshimaen accepts reservations for hanami barbecue parties, while Hanayashiki has a beer garden. At Yomiuri Land, you can see cherry blossoms as you ride a roller coaster, or see lots of pink from above as you ride their sky gondola and Ferris wheel.

Hanami while bathing

Yes, hanami in an onsen (hot spring) or sento (bathhouse) is also possible!

Oka No Yu

While you’ll have to go beyond Tokyo for onsen with really scenic views, Tokyo’s got Oka No Yu, Yomiuri Land’s super sento. It has an outdoor bath from which you can see a few cherry trees. It may not be much, but an outdoor bath and cherry blossoms should make for a relaxing, uniquely Japanese experience. Entrance is ¥650 (¥400 for children) on weekdays, and ¥750 (¥450 for children) on weekends.

Address: 3302-8 Yanokuchi, Inagi, Tokyo | Business hours: 10:00 – 00:00 (last entry 23:30) | Access: Keio-Yomiuriland Station

Tokyo Somei Onsen Sakura

There’s also Tokyo Somei Onsen Sakura—the name should already be a dead giveaway that it has something to do with cherry blossoms! The Edo-era village of Somei formed part of what is now Sugamo, and this natural onsen is proud to be located in the birthplace of the classic Somei Yoshino cherry. There are several cherry trees around the premise, which make for a relaxing, beautiful sight as you pamper yourself. Classy as this onsen is, it’s not that expensive at ¥1,296 for adults and ¥756 for children.

Address: 5-4-24 Komagome, Toshima-ku, Tokyo | Business hours: 10:00 – 23:00 (last entry: 22:30) | Access: Sugamo Station (8-minute walk, free shuttle buses from the station also available) or Komagome Station (10-minute walk)

This article was originally published in March 2015 and is updated regularly. Last updated on January 28, 2019. Information is subject to change. Check official event sites before making plans.

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