Every year, for just over a week, Meguro’s usually sleepy river banks become a hive of activity, as one of Tokyo’s most magical spots to see the annual cherry blossoms. For several kilometers, the sweeping cherry trees provide an arched canvas of blossoms uplit by lanterns, making this a perfect place to admire the scenery, take a walk or grab a bite to eat.
Meguro River cherry blossoms: Where to go
If you want to take in everything, your best bet is to start at Gotanda and walk to Meguro Sky Garden. It’s about 5 km, usually an hour’s walk, though with so many people around Nakameguro it’s likely to take a good while longer! If you just want the highlights, starting at Meguro Station and walking to Nakameguro should be enough.
When to visit
Surprisingly, one of the most crucial factors in your experience will be the time of day you arrive. Some Japanese folks take hanami (literally, blossom viewing) very seriously, so it’s not uncommon to see groups staking out one of the very few sitting spots early in the day.
During the day, the pale pink flowers and bright blue skies make for an almost dazzling contrast if the weather is right. By midday the crowds will be so thick you’ll have a hard time moving, so if you’re looking for a little serenity, arriving super early means you’ll only have a few riverside joggers to contend with.
Celebrating by lamplight
For a totally different effect, visit the river at night. Aside from the music and crowds (and there will be crowds), you’ll first notice thousands of bright pink lanterns which line the river, each reflected on the surface of the water.
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. Farther along the river (past Nakameguro), some areas are uplit 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.
Eating and drinking
During the week-or-so of full bloom, hundreds of stalls congregate along the river, starting closer to Meguro station, intensifying near Nakameguro and finishing by around Ikejiri Ohashi Station (near Meguro Sky Garden). Festival foods like okonomiyaki, takoyaki, skewered meats and Turkish kebabs seem to be most popular, and are by far the cheapest way to eat under the canvas of blossoms, at between ¥300 and ¥1,000 per dish.
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!
Public drinking along the river is part of the experience for many revelers, so you’ll also find plenty of opportunities to grab a beverage as you walk. Beers and sparkling wines laced with sweet, cherry blossom–flavored syrup (and sometimes real petals) are the big sellers. You can also get normal drinks if you’re worried about looking like you’re having a good time.
There are very few trash cans along the route, so expect to carry your finished cup with you for some time. Most stall owners will dispose of your used cup if you buy a fresh one—a rare case in which drinking more alcohol actually does seem to be the solution to a problem.
Pushing the boat out
For a different angle on the river’s many cherry blossoms, a few companies (like this one) offer small boat cruises starting from Tennozu Yamatsu Pier. As best we can tell, you can either turn up at the pier on the day, or book in advance to save yourself a spot at peak times. Naturally, cherry blossoms are a fickle thing, so there’s no way to guarantee exactly when they’ll blossom (or how long they’ll stick around). For our best idea though, check out our full hanami forecast.
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