Cherry blossoms, ikebana, peonies and chrysanthemums are all repeating images in Japanese art and crafts—so it is not hard to see that Japan loves its flowers. No matter the month you come to Tokyo, there will be flowers in bloom, even in the middle of winter.
In case you are wondering What’s that blossom? as you stroll through gardens and neighborhoods, we’ve got you covered. Here is a guide for what flowers bloom when, what they symbolize, and where to see them for a full dose of flower appreciation at any time of the year.
Spring flowers in Tokyo
Without a doubt, spring is the best season to see something beautiful in bloom. The most beloved of them all—cherry blossom—turns the whole capital cotton-candy pink. April brings fields of eye-popping yellow canola to offer before wisteria and colorful moss. And baby blue eyes close out spring on relaxing hues of blue.
Prepare yourself to be blown away by a storm of pink petals. The whole capital goes crazy over sakura come late March. Cherry blossoms represent springtime and symbolize fleeting beauty and the brevity of life. The spectacle lasts for about two weeks until early April. Mind you, it is peak travel season, so expect airfares to go up and crowds everywhere. It is best to visit cherry blossom spots on weekdays if possible.
Some of the most beautiful varieties can be viewed in Shinjuku Gyoen, a stunning royal Japanese garden with centuries of history. From weeping sakura, to large, deep-pink blossoms, you can set up your tarp on the vast lawn for a picnic and let the marveling begin. No alcohol is allowed inside though and bags will be checked!
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Chidorigafuchi Park, next to the Imperial Palace, lets you row a boat along the moat under cherry blossoms trees for a memory that will likely last a lifetime. Waiting times for boat rental on the weekend are brutal, so schedule this for a weekday. The trees are illuminated at night and their reflection on the water is truly magical.
Entrance to the park is free, but the boat rental is ¥800 for 30 minutes and ¥1,600 for an hour. Prices are per boat, which fits up to 3 people. During the cherry blossom festival (called Sakura Matsuri Light Up) the boathouse generally opens at 9:30 am until 8:30 pm so that you can also catch the illuminations from the water. Make sure to check the exact dates and opening times on their website.
Note: The boathouse is closed on rainy and bad weather days.
Best Value Flights To Tokyo
While the end of the cherry blossom season can carry a bit of sadness with it as the floating of the last petals to the ground is associated with impermanence, fret not. Yellow, one of the most cheerful colors, is the hue of canola flowers (also known as rapeseed)—and they bloom in abundance.
Hamarikyu Gardens in Shiodome has a large field of nanohana, the flower’s Japanese name, that makes for a great photo opp. The entrance fee is ¥300.
If you really wanna go for fields of gold, head over to Mother Farm in Chiba, Tokyo’s neighboring prefecture, where more than 3 million canola flowers bloom until mid-April. Entrance to all of the farm’s attractions is ¥1,500 for adults and ¥800 for children.
Purple and blue are the hues of May in Japan. As the weather gets warmer, more and more flowers pop their dainty heads out.
Wisteria, or fuji in Japanese, is associated with nobility. One of the most famous places to see it in Tokyo is Kameido Tenjin Shrine in East Tokyo from late April to early May. There, you can also pick up lucky charms adorned with the flower that are supposed to bring good fortune for studying and academics. Free entrance.
Kameido Tenjin Shrine
Shibazakura, which basically means “cherry blossom moss”, is a unique sight. Weekend excursions to see it are popular among the Japanese from mid-April to late May. The plant is called moss phlox in English and can be admired in Yamanashi Prefecture gainst a backdrop of Mt. Fuji at the Fuji Shibazakura Festival at Fuji Motosuko Resort. About 800,000 plants in shades ranging from sky blue to pink to purple cover the ground. It is an easy day trip from Tokyo and entrance is ¥600.
Fuji Motosuko Resort
Finally, how could you miss out on a flower called baby blue eyes? Also known as nemophila, it is a small dainty plant that symbolizes victory and success and is often used to give congratulations. It blooms from late April to early May.
One of the best places to see baby blue eyes, not only in Japan, but actually in the world, is Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki. Here, marvel at an incredible 4.5 million plants that turn the slopes blue. Hitachi Seaside Park is a two-hour train ride from Tokyo—a bit of trek to get to, but definitely worth it.
Hitachi Seaside Park
If you don’t want to travel too far, head over to Showa Memorial Park at the outskirts of Tokyo for a smaller field of nemophila in bloom.
Shōwa Memorial Park
Summer flowers in Tokyo
Tokyo’s sweltering summers are accompanied by water-loving flowers that thrive in the sub-tropical feel that the rainy season brings. June kicks off with fluffy balls of hydrangea. Stunning varieties can be seen anywhere from temples to the side of the train tracks. In July, the rain fades and the temperature rises, giving way to lotus blooms on Tokyo’s ponds. Finally, frolic in fields of sunflowers around the capital in the summer heat of August.
Hydrangeas, called ajisai in Japanese, ring in the beginning of summer. Their colors can range from white, blue, pink and purple. The flowers bloom in an astonishing variety of shapes. The flower is associated with both apologies and gratitude.
After cherry blossoms, this is probably the most popular flower that the locals swarm to see in bloom from early June to mid-July. Expect viewing spots to be crowded, especially on weekends. One of our favorites is Hakusan Shrine in Bunkyo Ward, which boasts many varieties and colors within a relatively small area. There is an annual Ajisai Festival held every June with food stalls and the like. Entrance is free.
Another spot is Hasedera Temple in neighboring Kamakura. Besides beautiful hydrangea, you also get a magnificent view of the ocean at the same time. The entrance fee is ¥300.
The lotus flower, ren in Japanese, is rich in meaning in Japanese culture. It is the symbol of the Lotus Sutra, which contains the most important teachings of Nichiren Buddhism (the main school of the religion in Japan). As the beautiful flower grows out of mud, it is associated with patience, purity, mysticism, enlightenment and rising out of suffering.
The best place to see them in Tokyo is Shinobazu Pond in Ueno Park. They are in bloom from late July to mid-August. No entrance fee.
Although not native to Japan, sunflowers were introduced from the Americas centuries ago and are associated with radiance in Japanese culture. Fields of sunflowers brighten up the Japanese countryside in August across the country. But you don’t even have to venture out of Tokyo to see the most cheerful of all flowers. The town of Kiyose on the border of Saitama Prefecture, about an hour from central Tokyo, holds an annual sunflower festival in mid-August were you can stroll through fields of more than 100,000 of the flowers. Free entrance. (Note: The sunflower festival has been canceled for 2020.)
Autumn flowers in Tokyo
Autumn is often claimed to be the best and favorite season of Japan. In addition to its culinary highlights, this season is blessed with sophisticated and intriguing varieties of flowers springing up. In September, dainty cosmos are in bloom, and contrasted by dramatic spider lilies. Chrysanthemum exhibitions are held in October at many prominent gardens and temples in October. Finally, in November, there are of course leaves changing to fiery, golden hues. And don’t miss the big, round blossoms of the peony, one of the quintessential Japanese flowers.
Cosmos are sometimes also called “autumn sakura”; as such, they symbolize the beginning of fall. You can see an impressive 5.5 million of the flowers swaying in the cool autumn breeze at Showa Memorial Park across over 22,000 square meters of cosmos fields. They start blooming in early September, sometimes already late August, and fade in October. Check the park’s website for the exact dates for each year. Note that there is a ¥400 entrance fee, but it is well worth it.
Another impressive flower making its appearance during this season is the bright-red spider lily. It looks much better than its name sounds, but the flower is associated with final goodbyes and is said to grow where people part ways forever. The absolutely best place to see them are the Kinchakuda fields in Hidaka, Saitama, a day trip from central Tokyo. They bloom from mid- to late September.
Chrysanthemum is the flower of the Japanese Imperial Family and is hence unsurprisingly associated with nobility and purity. Kiku, as they are called in Japanese, bloom in November in an astonishing variety of colors, sizes and shapes. One of the best places to see them is the annual Chrysanthemum exhibition in Shinjuku Gyoen that has been held for 90 consecutive years. The flowers are arranged in incredible displays in little huts that are erected throughout the park to protect them from the autumn weather for the duration of the event.
Winter peonies bloom from late November up to January in some places. The large, colorful blossoms signify honor, prosperity and good fortune. Hamarikyu Gardens and Toshogu Shrine in Ueno Park are good places to see them.
Winter flowers in Tokyo
Winter is cold. It gets dark early, the leaves have fallen, and it all looks a bit lifeless. But keep your eyes peeled for camellia blossoms. Coming in stark red or other warm hues, these flowers can brighten your day if you spot them during your daily travels.
If you really need a full-on flower fix, there are even daffodil fields to prove to you that not everything has died.
Camellia japonica, or tsubaki in Japanese, is a flower of rich meaning in Japanese culture. To samurai and warriors, the red camellia symbolized a noble death. Other meanings include humility as well as pure and perfect love. In English, it is also known as the rose of winter, as it is often the only bloom you can see in the coldest month.
While there is no garden or park holding a special celebration for them, both the Imperial Palace Gardens and Shinjuku Gyoen are good spots to see them bloom in December, January and often until mid-February. Also, keep your eyes open when walking through the streets of Tokyo, you will see them adorn many private gardens.
Imperial Palace Gardens
January is the coldest time of year in Tokyo. However, Kasai Rinkai Park tries to brighten the short winter days with over 200,000 daffodils flowers planted in the park. They start blooming from late January and usually in early February, a daffodil festival is held. Free entrance.
Kasai Rinkai Park
Japanese plum blossom, the cherry blossom’s sophisticated and more modest sibling, is actually a closer relative to the apricot tree. Known as ume in Japanese, these flowers bloom from mid-February to mid-March. It is associated with elegance and loyalty. Hamarikyu Gardens in Shiodome has a variety of different plum trees.
Hanegi Park in Umegaoka (which means “plum blossom hill”) is one of the most popular spots for plum blossoms in Tokyo. The entrance fee is ¥300.
If you are willing to travel a bit farther out, the Plum Blossom Festival in Odawara is really worth a trip to see a grove of more than 30,000 plum trees against a backdrop of Mt. Fuji. It doesn’t get any more Japanese than that!
Check out this article for a list of spots to see plum blossoms in Tokyo.