It is hard to think of spring time in Japan without the scene of pink cherry trees in full bloom going in your mind. Like many people, travelling to Japan to witness this spectacular phenomenon has long been on my bucket list, and this year it finally happened! And it was so much more beautiful than what I have imagined!
In the following post, I’ll be sharing with you a few fun facts about cherry blossoms in Japan; useful cherry blossom forecast links and my recommendations for cherry blossom viewing spots in Tokyo to help you maximise your viewing experience.
Did you know…
The first cherry blossoms start blooming as early as January in Okinawa, the most southern tip of Japan. It then slowly moves its way up to central Japan (including Tokyo and Kyoto) in late March and early April before progressing further north in May.
The act of appreciating cherry blossoms is called hanami; hana means ‘flower’ and mi means ‘watching or viewing’. However, if you are viewing plum (ume) tree blossom, it is called umemi!
Cherry blossom viewing during the day is called ‘hanami’, cherry blossom viewing at night is called ‘yozakura’
What is even more enchanting than viewing cherry blossoms in full bloom is hanafubuki, which literally means ‘flower snow storm’, when lots of falling petals collectively make it look like a pink snow storm! Apparently, it is good luck to catch a falling petal!
Cherry blossom forecast…
The peak cherry blossom season is short, only lasting about a week or two; so you would want to align your itinerary as much as possible with the forecasted peak cherry blossom period for the parts of Japan that you are planning in visiting. Two of the most popular forecast websites are:
Sakura Weather Map
Japan Rail Pass
My ‘hanami’ recommendations…
1. Shinjuku Gyoen for Hanami for a picnic
This is a lovely and peaceful option for those seeking more space and a family-friendly environment. It is home to a great variety of cherry tree species; inside the park there are lakes, giant cherry tree canopies, a great city back-drop and other amenities (e.g. toilets, resting areas with shade). It is also surrounded by several train stations which makes it very convenient to get to other places, especially if you are only planning to spend a few hours in the park.
Alcohol is not allowed into the park on the weekend, if you really want to ‘smuggle’ some in then be super creative as the guards check every single bag!
Just like all things popular, if you want a good viewing spot you have to be there early.
If you suffer from hay fever, take your hay fever pills before you step out of your hotel otherwise you will really suffer from the amount of pollen in the air!
2. Chidorigafush Park for Hamani on boat
If you are seeking a more ‘active’ alternative form of cherry blossom viewing, head to Chidorigafuchi Park (west of the Imperial Palace) where you can enjoy boating while admiring the beautiful sakura trees that line the water.
All the paths of Chidorigafuchi are lit up after dark, so if you go around sunset you can enjoy the view transition from day to night!
As it is very close to the Imperial Palace, why not hit two birds with one stone and visit the palace before heading for the boating.
3.Tokyo Midtown for Hamani with Chandon
Midtown Garden Terrace is another scenic spot for a leisurely afternoon of retail therapy and some hanami! The garden is an extension of the Midtown Shopping Centre, and is surrounded by tunnels of cherry trees and a reasonable sized park area for picnic. This year the Ritz-Calton and Chandon helped to take the hanami experience to the next level by setting up a fancy area with clear plastic bubble igloos, outdoor lighting and seating furniture.
Other ‘hanami’ recommendations from friends…
Ueno Park has over 800 cherry trees growing along the central path. This is an immensely popular destination for locals to picnic along both sides of this beautiful trail. After picnicking, visitors can even boat around the pond.
The Imperial Palace East Gardens are a great place for visitors who want to both take in the sakura flowers and tour one of Tokyo’s most iconic landmarks. Its vast size makes it the ideal place for a romantic stroll.
Along the length of the majestic Meguro River are thousands of cherry trees. This unique sight is even more magical at night when the trees are lit up and transformed into an even more picturesque and romantic spot for couples.
The experience of having hanami under giant cherry blossom canopies, watching ‘pink snow flakes’ falling off the tree branches was breath taking and truly extraordinary, the kind of experience that will make you appreciate the nature and longing to witness the beauty again next year!
I hope this post has been helpful in helping you to choose a few hanami spots to suit your itinerary for your next trip to Tokyo. Please feel free to drop me a comment if you have any questions!
Thank you for reading!