After three straight years of cancellation the Meguro River Cherry Blossom Festival is back! The Meguro-gawa, which stretches for several kilometers, is one of Tokyo’s most popular hanami spots. Sakura trees on either side form a tunnel of pink over the canal. In typical years, huge crowds gather, especially after dark, when the cherry blossoms are lit by lanterns.

Meguro River hanami 2023

The last year the Meguro River Cherry Blossom Festival took place was 2019. Since then, local officials have been asking hanami-goers to stay away to avoid spreading infection. It’s not uncommon for hundreds of thousands of people to visit in the span of a week or so — so you can imagine how crowded it can get!

This year, however, the event is making a tentative comeback, under the typically awkward slogan of “Meguro cherry blossoms with corona keep good manner” (めぐろの桜withコロナkeepグッドマナー).

And this means there will be some rules:

  • No sitting or stopping, with pedestrian traffic moving in one direction only
  • No eating or drinking or being loud
  • No tarps
  • No food or drink stalls

So, in other words, all they want you to do is just go and appreciate the cherry blossoms. Just without all the other things people come to the Meguro River for, like photo ops and the good food and drink vendors.

Where to see the Meguro River cherry blossoms

Cherry trees with big puffs of blossoms hang over the Meguro River in Tokyo
View looking back towards Nakameguro, from further down the Meguro River. | Photo by Getty Images

When most people think of the Meguro-gawa, they think of Nakameguro. And to be sure, the part of the river around Nakameguro is always the most crowded. But the whole sakura-lined stretch is about 5 km-long, from Gotanda to Meguro Sky Garden, almost to Ikejiri-Ohashi Station. You can actually walk it in an hour (crowds not withstanding).

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If you just want the highlights, start at Meguro Station and walk to Nakameguro.

When to go

In 2023, the Meguro River Cherry Blossom Festival will be held from March 18 to April 8. This lines up pretty well with the Tokyo cherry blossom forecast, which predicts the sakura to start blooming on March 16 and to peak on March 24. This is a whole week early than typical years! That would make the first weekend likely the peak time to visit. (Note that peak time also means the most crowded time).

We definitely recommend visiting on a weekday if you can, as it should be less crowded. At least with no tarps this year, there won’t be competition for spot staking. This also means there will be more space to move.

Not in town then? Check out these late-blooming cherry blossom spots in Tokyo instead.

Daytime strolls

Nearly white cherry blossoms, dark boughs, and bright pink lanterns along the Meguro River in Tokyo
Even a gloomy day can be photogenic along the Meguro River. | Photo by Getty Images

During the day, the pale pink flowers and (ideally) bright blue skies make for an almost dazzling contrast. By midday the crowds might be thick enough to slow your roll. So if you’re looking for a little serenity, arriving super early means you’ll only have to contend with a few riverside joggers.

Nighttime lights

For a totally different experience, visit the river after dark. Aside from the crowds (and there will be crowds), there are thousands of bright pink lanterns strung from the trees; when illuminated at night, they reflect on the surface of the water below. The blossoms on the drooping branches catch the light in a way that’s genuinely hard to comprehend — it almost looks too good to be real.

Pink cherry blossoms illuminated by lanterns at dusk over the Meguro River in Tokyo
See what we mean about the light? Anyway, twilight is nice, too. | Photo by Getty Images

Farther along the river (past Nakameguro), some areas are lit by color-changing lights. So if you can make it past the sea of selfie sticks, it shouldn’t be hard to get a shot in your color.

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Eating and drinking

Unfortunately, there will be no food stalls for the 2023 festival. But if you’re looking for a sit-down meal or drink to break up your walk, Nakameguro is renowned for its hip bars and foodie hangouts. Word of caution though, you’ll want to book ahead!

Meguro River boat cruises

Avoid the crowds by jumping on a boat. | Photo by Getty Images

For a different angle on the river’s many cherry blossoms, you can take a small boat cruise. A 70-minute daytime cruise costs ¥4,500 per person and can easily be booked online. You can also charter a boat, but that will cost you significantly more. Boats depart from Tennōzu Yamatsu Pier — where the Meguro River meets Tokyo Bay.

Want to get outside and really stretch you legs? Check out these hanami hikes near Tokyo.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Last updated March 2023.

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Filed under: Things to do
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