How to Hanami with a Twist: Unique Ways to Enjoy Cherry Blossom Season

Tiffany

While hanami literally means flower viewing, this term is almost always associated with cherry blossoms, and often involves admiring them in a garden or park, and/or having a picnic. If just heading over to a park or garden is too cliche for you, then perhaps these unusual but not-too-expensive hanami in Tokyo ideas might be your thing. We had to leave out the awesome but expensive options, like hanami from a helicopter, but these should still be fun! (Ed’s note: you could also head to Kyoto on a budget bullet train+hotel deal, to experience hanami in cherry-blossom central.)

1. Hanami in a cemetery

hanami in tokyo
Photo by DozoDomo used under CC

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 popular hanami spots), 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 ephemerality, after all.

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tokyo sakura
Photo by DozoDomo used under CC

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 amount of visitors, so it’s not as unsettling as you may think. It’s also not really considered as disrespectful to the dead, but don’t go overboard and get drunk or rowdy—you’re still in a cemetery, after all!

Aoyama Cemetery address: 2-32-2 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo | Access: Gaienmae or Nogizaka Station
Yanaka Cemetery address: 7-5-24 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo | Access: Nippori or Nishi-Nippori Station

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2. Hanami boat ride

tokyo cherry blossoms sumida
Photo by Yoshikazu TAKADA used under CC

Traditional boat rides at the O-Edo Fukagawa Sakura Festival

Tokyo may not be known for canals the way some European countries are, but cherry blossom season makes for scenic boat rides. The unassuming neighborhood of Monzen-Nakacho (access: Monzen-Nakacho Station) comes alive in early spring, thanks to the O-Edo Fukagawa Sakura Festival, which will take place from March 24 to April 11, 2018. This event features the usual festival attractions (food, booths, and performances)—plus boat rides down the nearby river.

Photo by frontriver used under CC

We recommend riding a wasen—a traditional Japanese boat—as it’s only ¥500 a ride. Wasen rides take place every 20 minutes from 10:00 am-4:00 pm during all weekends of the sakura festival, as well as April 4th and 11th. We recommend getting there early, as registrations start at 9:30 am and close at 2:30 pm. Depending on the number of visitors, the weather, and other factors, registration could close much earlier, though. (There’s no website or hotline for advanced reservations; also, note that children under the age of 3 and those under the influence of alcohol cannot board the wasen.)

The festival also has options for regular motorboat rides: a 35-minute daytime cruise for ¥2,300 (¥1,300 for children) or, if you want to see the blossoms all lit up, a 45-minute evening cruise for ¥3,200 (¥2,200 for children). The first daytime cruise departs at 10:00 am (11:00 am from April 9-11), while the last one is at 4:30 pm. Meanwhile, there are three evening cruises, the first one departing at 5:40 pm, and the last at 7:50 pm.

hanami cherry blossoms hanami tokyo
Photo by Vincent Van den Storme used under CC

Galleon cruise company (March 24–April 15 | Nihonbashi)

This festival isn’t the only chance for you to experience a hanami boat ride. Galleon, a cruise company, will operate three types of hanami cruises this year. From March 24-April 15, there will be a cruise (access: Nihonbashi Station; ¥2,900 for adults and ¥1,900 for children) that will take you through the Nihonbashi, Sumida, and Onagigawa Rivers. It will also have a 30-minute daytime hanami cruise (¥2,300 for adults and ¥1,300 for children) that starts and ends at Monzen-Nakacho, passing through the Oyoko and Sumida Rivers. There will also be a 45-minute nighttime version of this cruise (¥3,200 for adults and ¥2,200 for children).



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Photo by Yoshikazu Takada used under CC

Tokyo Cruise (March 17–April 8 | Asakusa, Hamarikyu Garderns or Hinode Pier)

Tokyo Cruise will offer several other hanami boat rides down the Sumida River from March 17 to April 8. First, there’s the special sakura line that departs from Asakusa, Hamarikyu Gardens (access: Shiodome Station), or Hinode Pier (access: Hinode Station). A one-way cruise is an hour long and costs ¥780 for adults (¥390 for children) for the Asakusa-Hinode route, and ¥740 for adults (¥370 for children) for the Asakusa-Hamarikyu route. The latter route will require a separate fee for admission to Hamarikyu Gardens. Round-trip options are unavailable.

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Their night cruise from March 21 to April 8 should be even more interesting, as passengers will not only see illuminated cherry blossoms, but also be treated to a traditional dance performance by furisode-san (geisha-like performers). It costs ¥2,800 (¥2,000 for children) for the ride, plus a light meal and a drink. However, groups of over 15 people can pay for only the ride, in which case it’ll cost ¥1,240 per head. As only a limited number of tickets will be sold on-site, it’s best to reserve online (reservation form in Japanese only).

Finally, this isn’t a cheapo option, but 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, but they still don’t come cheap.

3. Hanami while in a rickshaw

hanami rickshaw
Photo by Nemo's great uncle used under CC

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’re 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 ¥3,000 per head (but it goes down to ¥4,000 for 2 people) for a 12- or 13-minute ride. To complete the experience, rent a kimono from one of the kimono rental shops along Komachi-dori.

Access: Kamakura Station

4. Hanami bus ride

skybus tokyo
Photo by OiMax used under CC

Get close enough to touch some cherry blossoms by hopping on the 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. It’s ¥1,600 for a 50-minute ride, inclusive of a multilingual audio guide. You can book directly on the website (although the form’s only in Japanese).

In addition to the Imperial Palace course, Sky Bus usually offers a special springtime course devoted to viewing cherry blossoms at night; however, as of this writing, there has been no related announcement for 2018’s hanami season.



5. Hanami in an amusement park

tokyo sakura
Photo by Makoto Nakashima used under CC

For the young and young at heart, what better way to enjoy to enjoy cherry blossoms than to do so in an amusement park? Toshimaen in Nerima Ward (near Toshimaen Station), Hanayashiki in Asakusa, and Yomiuri Land near Keio-Yomiuriland Station all have plenty of cherry trees to further liven up the scenery, whether it’s daytime or nighttime (as these theme parks have light-up events, which you can read about here—and yes, you can ride most of their attractions even at night). 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 and lots of pink from above as you ride their sky gondola and Ferris wheel.

6. Hanami while bathing

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

There’s also Tokyo Somei Onsen Sakura—the name should already be a dead giveaway that it has something to do with cherry blossoms! An 8-minute walk from Sugamo Station, part of which was known as “Somei” in the Edo period, this natural onsen is proud to be located in the birthplace of the somei yoshino—the variant of cherry blossoms that many know and love. 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.

Oka No Yu address: 3302-8 Yanokuchi, Inagi, Tokyo | Business hours: 10:00 am-12:00 midnight | Access: Keio-Yomiuriland Station

Tokyo Somei Onsen Sakura address: 5-4-24 Komagome, Toshima-ku, Tokyo | Business hours: 10:00 am-11:00 pm (last entry: 10:30 pm) | Access: Sugamo Station (8-minute walk, free shuttle buses from the station also available) or Komagome Station (10-minute walk)

Note: This article is updated yearly. It was last updated on March 3, 2018.

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One Response to “How to Hanami with a Twist: Unique Ways to Enjoy Cherry Blossom Season”

  1. How far is O-Edo Fukagawa Sakura Festival from the Monzen Nakacho station?


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