One important thing to know about cherry blossoms is that there are several kinds, and they come in different shades of pink (or even white). The most common and iconic type is the five-petaled Somei Yoshino, which has white or pale pink blossoms. When meteorologists make cherry blossom forecasts, they’re referring to the Somei Yoshino variety. They say that cherry blossom season is quite short—from late March to mid-April—but, again, that’s the Somei Yoshino we’re talking about. Hanami forecasts usually don’t take into account the early (such as the dark pink Kawazu sakura) or late-blooming cherry trees, which are also beautiful and worth seeing. So if you visit Japan in mid- or late April, don’t despair—there should still be cherry blossoms for you to see in Tokyo, and that’s where the yaezakura comes in.
Yaezakura, which means multi-layered cherry blossom, is a catch-all term for cherry blossoms with more than 5 petals. Starting to bloom in mid- or late April, yaezakura has petals that range from light to dark pink. Because of the double layers of petals, they’re known as a symbol of strength, as compared to the delicate Somei Yoshino. (This also probably explains why they’re the type of cherry blossoms that are picked for preservation and processing.) They sometimes resemble peonies, so some people also call them botanzakura, botan being the Japanese word for peony. Some examples of yaezakura varieties are:
- Kanzan, a common type of yaezakura, which has dark pink petals from 30-50 in number
- Ichiyo, another common yaezakura, with about 20 light pink petals per blossom
- Fugenzo, the oldest variety, with petal colors ranging from white to dark pink
- Shogetsu, which typically has 20-30 white petals
- Kikuzakura, which literally means “chrysanthemum cherry blossom” and can have up to 100 petals. Its petals are light pink, and not yellow like a chrysanthemum’s.
Where to see late-blooming cherry trees in Tokyo
Here are some places in Tokyo where you can see yaezakura. Since the blooming of yaezakura isn’t as celebrated as that of the Somei Yoshino, don’t expect anything like festivals. Hanami parties for yaezakura aren’t all too common, either. But hey, they’re still cherry blossoms. They may not look like the cherry blossoms you see in anime, movies, and dramas, but are they any less beautiful? We don’t think so!
1. Imperial Palace East Gardens
Aside from having Somei Yoshino trees, the vast Imperial Palace East Gardens are known to have the kanzan variety of yaezakura. Over here, they start blooming as early as mid-April.
Access: 5 minutes from Exit C13A of Otemachi Station | Exit 1A of Takebashi Station | 10 minutes from Exit 6 of Nijubashimae Station | Marunouchi North Exit of Tokyo Station.
2. Shinjuku Gyoen
With about 65 kinds of cherry blossoms and about 1100 cherry trees, Shinjuku Gyoen, one of Tokyo’s most famous hanami spots, has yaezakura as well. For starters, they’ve got about 190 trees with ichiyo blossoms.
Access: Shinjuku Station
3. Asukayama Park
One of Tokyo’s oldest hanami spots, Asukayama Park may be known more for Somei Yoshino trees, but look out for their yaezakura as well, which start blooming about a week after the cherry blossoms reach full bloom. They’ve got about 180 yaezakura trees.
Access: Oji Station
4. Hamarikyu Gardens
This quiet garden in Shiodome is a breath of fresh air in Shiodome, primarily a business district. Its greenery is a pleasant sight amidst the tall buildings surrounding it, and it’s known for its yaezakura. In previous years, they even lit up the yaezakura trees at night, but it’s unclear if they’ll do it again this year. Hamarikyu also has a tea house overlooking its pond, where you can appreciate nature in peace.
Access: Tsukijishijo or Shiodome Station
5. Chidorigafuchi Park
While its cherry blossom festival will have been over when the yaezakura bloom, Chidorigafuchi has a few of the late-blooming cherry trees among its 170 trees. This park gets extremely crowded at the peak of cherry blossom season, what with the many picnicking groups and people renting boats to ride down the moat, so if you want a quiet, peaceful stroll, go to Chidorigafuchi for some yaezakura.
Access: Kudanshita Station
6. Ueno Park
Count on Ueno Park to have different kinds of cherry trees—it’s not one of Tokyo’s most popular hanami spots for nothing! Ichiyo and kanzan are just some of the yaezakura varieties that you can see here.
Access: Ueno Station
As the name implies, this shotengai (shopping street) in the Setagaya Ward is lined with cherry trees. There are about 200 mom-and-pop shops there, so if you want to support local businesses, this is one of the places to go—and then you can admire the cherry blossoms while taking a break from shopping. They’ve also got a cherry blossom festival which usually takes place later than usual. For 2017, it’ll be on April 16, a Sunday, from 11:30 am-5:00 pm, and will feature parades, music, and performances.
Access: Sakura-shinmachi Station
8. Kinuta Park
If Sakura-shinmachi appeals to you, you might as well combine it with a visit to the relatively nearby Kinuta Park. Kinuta Park doesn’t really do public transport so it’s either a 19-minute walk to the northwest of Yoga Station or a 30-minute walk to the west of Sakura-Shinmachi. Despite the dearth of public transport, it is a popular hanami spot which is particularly famed for its late-blooming yaezakura.
Access: Yoga Station
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