At last—hanami season is here! Grab your camera, pack a picnic and prepare for your anime moment under the falling petals. We’ve put together a list of some of the best Tokyo sakura (cherry blossoms) viewing spots to get you in the mood for spring. If you’d like to see sakura in their spiritual home, you can take a budget bullet train+hotel tour down to Kyoto. But Tokyo is pretty, well, pretty, too.
Hanami, which literally means, “flower viewing”, is our favorite Japanese tradition (and it’s a very cheapo-friendly one too). You haven’t experienced Japan until you’ve had a party under the sakura.
8 of the best Tokyo sakura viewing spots
Here are our recommendations for daytime sakura venues. And if you’re still not content, check out our post on yozakura (nighttime blossom viewing)!
1. Ueno Park
One of the most popular (and crowded) hanami spots in Tokyo, where the trees famously bloom a bit earlier. An estimated 800 cherry trees line the central path, and people picnic on both sides, using blankets or tarps to claim whatever space they can. If you time it right, you might be able to boat around the pond-lake thing too. Whatever you decide to do, our advice is to get there early, especially for picnics! Lanterns are strung up, so you can party on into the evening.
Access: Ueno Station
2. Shinjuku Gyoen
If you’re keen on somewhere a little more peaceful, this is a good place. There are around 1,300 cherry trees—a whole bunch of different varieties—which bloom at different stages. The park is spacious, with nice big lawns and plenty of walking paths, so even when it’s crowded, you can still enjoy a chilled stroll under the blossoms. There’s an English garden, French garden and Japanese garden—head to the English one for the best picnic spots. The atmosphere here is much less rowdy compared to Ueno Park, so you can enjoy your picnic in peace. Entrance to Shinjuku Gyoen is 200 yen.
Access: Shinjukugyoenmae Station or Sendagaya Station
3. Koukyo – Imperial Palace
In spring 2014, to celebrate Emperor Akihito’s 80th birthday (which was actually in December), the cherry tree-lined Inui-Dori was open to the public for five days of cherry blossom viewing, and, unsurprisingly, people flocked there to get a rare glimpse of another part of the Imperial Palace. Unfortunately, that’s not happening this year, but go check out the palace’s east gardens, which are open to public viewing for free. Some people have picnics there, but it doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being a picnic spot. Instead, the gardens’ size make them suitable for a nice stroll. The sakura are a welcome touch of ancient Tokyo standing in contrast to all the concrete in Marunouchi, Tokyo’s business district.
Access: The palace being huge, there are several nearby stations: 5 minutes from Exit C13A of Otemachi Station | Exit 1A of Takebashi Station | 10 minutes from Exit 6 of Nijubashimae Station | the Marunouchi North Exit of Tokyo Station.
4. Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park
Chidorigafuchi may be difficult to pronounce, but it’s one of the city’s most scenic hanami spots—and also a place where you can hop in a boat and row your date (or lazy friends) around an Edo-era moat (which comprises the northeastern part of the Imperial Palace). If you’re wobbly on the water, you can mosey along the 700m-long path, ooh-ing and ah-ing your way through the tunnel of cherry blossoms. The park next to it is called Kitanomaru Park, and, like the Imperial Palace’s east gardens, is a place for quiet viewing. The controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which also has loads of cherry blossoms, is also nearby—despite its politically loaded status, it still draws in a lot of tourists during cherry blossom season. Every year, there’s a cherry blossom festival around the Chidorigafuchi and Yasukuni area that goes on until nighttime.
Access: Kudanshita Station
5. Sumida Park
The area stretching from Azumabashi Bridge to Sakurabashi Bridge on the Sumida River is a super famous hanami spot, and has been for centuries. More than 1,000 cherry trees line the river, making for great photo ops and picnics. You can also see Tokyo Skytree from here. The area can get crowded—if you feel frazzled, you can duck out and take a mini-cruise on a yakatabune boat.
Access: Asakusa Station
6. Inokashira Park
This park in Kichijoji, a suburban Tokyo neighborhood, is renowned for its beauty in spring. Approximately 500 trees surround a central pond, and when the blossoms start falling, the petals spread out over the pond to carpet it in pink. You can go boating around the pond while appreciating the scenery. The swan-shaped boats, in particular, are a favorite among couples, but be warned—a superstition goes that couples who go boating in the park are doomed to break up. This is because Benzaiten, despite being the goddess of love, has a jealous streak, and hates seeing couples being all lovey-dovey in a park dedicated to her. If boating’s not your thing, you can have a picnic or see the blossoms from the park’s bridges.
Access: Kichijoji Station
7. Meguro River
4 km out of the 7.82 km length of the Meguro River is home to more than 800 cherry trees, which make for a unique sight (in Tokyo, at least—go to Kyoto if you want to see canals surrounded by cherry blossoms). This area is even more beautiful at night when the trees are lit up, making this a favorite spot for couples. Even if you don’t have a date, go and marvel at the blossoms anyway. See our yozakura post for more information on the nighttime illumination at Naka-Meguro.
A “Sakura Drive By” along Meguro River.
Access: Ikejiri-Ohashi, Meguro, or Naka-Meguro Station
8. Koishikawa Korakuen
One of Tokyo’s oldest parks, this well-preserved park is famous for weeping cherry trees, which aren’t exactly a common type of cherry tree. This park is suited for scenic appreciation, not picnics (which aren’t allowed in the first place), but they have a tea house where you can enjoy some matcha while leisurely checking out the flowers in bloom.
Access: Korakuen or Iidabashi Station
Slightly off the beaten path
These locations are not as well known, at least for foreign tourists, so if you want a less crowded cherry blossom experience, check these out.
1. Showa Kinen Park
If you’re keen on getting out of Tokyo central, or miss the main hanami season by a few days, you can always check out this park in Tachikawa (about 40 minutes from Shinjuku). It’s huge, and has 1,500 cherry blossom trees—you might even see some daffodils, tulips and lavender too!
Access: Tachikawa Station
2. Asukayama Park
This park goes back a long way; it’s been a favorite hanami spot since the Edo Period (in the 18th century). Its sakura festival features food and beverage booths, performances, contests and tea ceremonies.
Access: Oji Station
3. Yanaka Cemetery
Flower viewing in a cemetery? Sounds unusual, doesn’t it? But that’s totally possible in this large cemetery near Ueno. This cemetery has been relatively popular among locals for quite some time now, as its main path is lined with cherry trees, leading it to be called Cherry Blossom Avenue. If you’ve grown used to the image of cemeteries as places of gloom and solemnity, you’ll be surprised to see people having picnics here. If you think about the symbolism behind the cherry blossom, it doesn’t seem too unusual anymore—the short-lived sakura is a reminder of the transience of life.
Access: Nippori Station
4. Kasai Rinkai Park
Tokyo’s largest central park, Kasai Rinkai Park is just a station away from Tokyo Disneyland. Its vast space and other attractions (a Ferris wheel, an aquarium, observatory, and a bird sanctuary) make it an ideal location for family hanami picnics.
Access: Kasai-Rinkai-Koen Station
5. Mt. Takao
Why don’t you go on a hiking day trip to the closest mountain to Tokyo, which is just less than an hour away from Shinjuku? Mt. Takao provides great views of the Kanto region and Mt. Fuji, and in spring, those views can get even more picturesque with cherry blossoms framing the sights!
Access: Takao Station / Takaosanguchi Station
While this is not one of the top hanami spots in Tokyo, as this very urban park is usually known more for gatherings and bazaars than its flora, it has about 600 cherry trees. It even has an early blooming variety that’s a darker shade of pink than the Somei Yoshino, which is the most common kind of cherry blossom you see. Last year, it bloomed a week earlier than the forecast date. Yoyogi Park‘s also famous for picnics, but this park gets extremely crowded, and the blossoms pale in comparison to other popular hanami picnic spots.
Access: Harajuku or Yoyogi Station
For a video overview of sakura-mania in Tokyo, take a look at Only in Japan’s video.
Filed under: Lifestyle, Outdoors
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