Japan just can’t get enough of its iconic sakura (cherry blossoms)—they don’t just view them during the daytime, but also at night! They even have a term for cherry blossoms at night: yozakura. The lanterns or lights may be simple, just enough for the flowers to be seen in the dark, or fancy enough for the blossoms to give off an ethereal glow. Some places even have enough space for picnics, and may have food stalls for a festival-like atmosphere. So why don’t you bring your camera and head to these places—listed in no particular order—in Tokyo from late March to mid-April?
1. Meguro and Naka-Meguro
- Naka-Meguro light-up: April 1-10, 2017, 6:00-9:00 pm
- Rest of Meguro: March 25-April 10, 2017
Access: Ikejiri-Ohashi, Meguro, or Naka-Meguro Station
Over 800 cherry trees grow on a stretch of the Meguro River, spanning almost 4 km out of its 7.82 km length and transforming an otherwise ordinary river into a beautiful sight. From the neighborhood of Ohashi near Ikejiri-Ohashi Station going downstream to Taikobashi near Meguro Station, paper lanterns will light up the area. The most famous area, though, are the riverbanks near Naka-Meguro, where the cherry trees are lit up from April 1-10 each year. The narrow parts of the canal make for a lovely, even romantic, stroll down the area. For a different experience, try joining a nighttime cruise (you can even rent your own boat if your group is big enough!) down the Meguro River.
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2. Chidorigafuchi Park and Yasukuni Shrine
Dates: March 28-April 6, 2017, 6:00 pm-10:00 pm
Address: Chidorigafuchi – Kudanminami, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo | Yasukuni Shrine – 3-1-1 Kudankita, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Access: Kudanshita Station
The sakura-associated events at these two locations, which are quite close to each other, make up the Chiyoda Sakura Festival. Chidorigafuchi has about 260 cherry trees and a boating area. This is one of the popular yozakura spots, so be warned that it can get quite crowded. Meanwhile, Yasukuni Shrine, although controversial from a political perspective, is also known for beautiful cherry blossoms. Check out the food stalls set up around the vicinity as well!
Dates: March 16-April 2, 2017, sundown-9:00 pm (last entry 8:30 pm)
Address: 6-16-3 Hon-
Access: Komagome Station
Rikugien is best known for its shidare-zakura, or weeping cherry trees. Described as magical and mystical, the illumination makes the cherry trees look like they’re floating in the dark. Of course, the park is also open in the daytime—as early as 9:00 am—so visit before sunset if you want to admire the cherry trees during both daytime and nighttime. Park admission is 300 yen.
4. Asakusa: Sumida Park and Hanayashiki Beer Garden
Access: Asakusa Station
Sumida Park dates: March 19-April 9, 2017, 6:00 pm-9:30 pm
Hanayashiki dates: March 25-April 2, 2017 (except March 31)
Address: 2-28-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Visit historical Asakusa to see this park by the river, where you can have a picnic underneath illuminated cherry blossoms and see the Tokyo Sky Tree. Booze lovers should head to nearby Hanayashiki, Japan’s oldest amusement park, to enjoy some beer, food, and lit-up flowers. Admission to the beer garden is 1,000 yen, which also includes unlimited access to rides. At Hanayashiki, on Saturdays and Sundays, furisode-san—professional entertainers who dress up like maiko (apprentice geisha) and are trained in the arts, albeit under a shorter time frame than geisha—will perform traditional dances from 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm.
5. Yomiuri Land
Dates: March 18-April 10, 2017, sundown-8:00 pm
Address: 4015-1 Yanokuchi, Inagi, Tokyo
Access: Keio-Yomiuriland Station
Located in suburban Tokyo, this theme park isn’t as well known to foreign tourists, but its annual sakura event could be your chance to get acquainted with it. During its sakura illumination nights, a 180-meter stretch of cherry trees gets lit up in several colors. It’s 1,800 yen for admission (1,500 yen for middle-schoolers, 1,000 yen for children aged 3 to elementary school age, and 800 yen for children), and it’s 300-900 yen per ride.
Dates: March 24-April 5, 2017, sunset to 8:00 pm (discounted entrance starts at 3:00 pm)
Address: 3-25-1 Koyama, Nerima, Tokyo
Access: Toshimaen Station
Toshimaen, another old-school amusement park, has over 500 cherry trees, which get lit up after the sun goes down. Regular entrance is 1,000 yen (500 yen for children), but during their Sakura Nights, entrance past 3:00 pm is only 500 yen, and the grounds are open until 8:30 pm. That’s just for entrance, though—if you want to ride the attractions, there are special ride-all-you-can Sakura Night passes costing 1,600 yen for adults and 1,300 yen for children, inclusive of admission. For kids and their guardians, there’s also a kids’ Sakura Night pass for 1,100 yen (for kids, and companions aged 20 and above)—the difference is that the ride-all-you-can privilege is only limited to the kiddie attractions (those without height requirements). They’re also currently taking reservations for barbecue buffet parties underneath the cherry blossoms. Dinner barbecues cost 5,500 yen for adults and 3,200 yen for children.
7. Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown
Access: Roppongi Station
Roppongi Hills address: Roppongi 6-11-1, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Tokyo Midtown dates: March 17-April 16, 2017, 5:00 pm-11:00 pm
Tokyo Midtown address: Akasaka 9-7-1, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Next to Roppongi Hills is a slope filled with cherry trees, aptly called Sakurazaka (zaka meaning “slope”), which comes aglow in spring. Typically, instead of giving specific dates for the light-up, Roppongi Hills follows the cherry blossom forecast, which means that as soon as the cherry blossoms start blooming, the illuminations should also begin. Also within the vicinity is the equally swanky lifestyle complex Tokyo Midtown, which has an event called Midtown Blossom. Aside from the light-up, outside the Ritz-Carlton is the Martini Blossom Lounge, where you can drink wine and eat sakura-themed food in style while admiring the flowers.
8. Ueno Park
Dates: March 18-April 9, 2017
Address: Ikenohata 3-Chome, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Access: Ueno Station
Ueno Park is already famous enough for cherry blossoms during the day! While its light-up is nothing too spectacular, its space and reputation as a picnic spot make it an optimal place for a nighttime picnic. If it’s too hard to stake a picnic spot during the day, you might have slightly more luck at night. Emphasis on slightly.
9. Fukagawa / Monzen-Nakacho
Dates: March 25-April 9, 2017, sundown-9:00 pm
Access: Monzen-Nakacho Station
This quiet neighborhood in the Koto Ward has a downtown, low-key vibe, but it’s a great place to check out during cherry blossom season because of the Oedo-Fukagawa Sakura Festival. Aside from its illuminations and food stalls, what sets it apart is that you can take a cruise down a wasen, or traditional Japanese boat, just to admire the cherry blossoms.
And lastly, a special mention goes to…
10. Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo
Dates: February 11-April 9, 2017, sundown-11:00 pm
Address: Sekiguchi 2-10-8, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Access: Edogawabashi Station
This is a special mention because it’s not exactly cheap. This luxury hotel has a beautiful garden that boasts of a spectacular view no matter what the season. Of course, it has cherry trees as well, which are lit up in spring. Their light-up starts quite early compared to other events because their garden has kawazu sakura, which are early-blooming variants. Since this is private property, if you want to see Hotel Chinzanso’s illumination, you’ll have to be a paying customer, which means booking a room and/or ordering something from their restaurants, lounge, or bar. This being an upscale hotel, food and beverages don’t come cheap, but given Chinzanso’s reputation for quality, they’re most likely as delicious as they are exquisite-looking. Besides, one advantage of viewing illuminations here is that it won’t be crowded.
2016 update: Sadly, we took Toneri Park off the list. This park in Adachi Ward may not be as well known, but in previous years its Senbonzakura (thousand cherry trees) Festival would end with fireworks (a rarity, since summer is the season for fireworks in Japan) and illuminations, but they aren’t doing that this year. This year’s Senbonzakura Festival is still a go, though, so if you want a less touristy viewing spot, head over to this park right next to Toneri-Koen Station from April 2-3.
This post was last updated on March 5, 2017.
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