The delicate and transient beauty of a cherry blossom
The arrival of spring, particularly the blooming period of the “sakura” or cherry blossom is probably one of the most recommended seasons to visit Tokyo, Japan. In fact, every year, the Japanese themselves keenly anticipate the coming of cherry blossoms after what seemed like a long, cold winter.
The celebration of the cherry blossom season is well rooted in the Japanese culture. The Japanese love to party and have picnic under the sakura, enjoying food, drinks and music. Not only is the cherry blossom one of the most celebrated flowers of Japan, but it also has rich symbolism in their lives. The blooming period is very brief. The flowers usually last for only about one to two weeks, and then the petals will start falling off the trees and be blown away by the wind looking like pink snow. It’s such a beautiful and romantic sight!!! This delicate and brief life of the flower serves as an important reminder of how our life and everything around us is temporary, so we should make the most out of it.
Best time to see the cherry blossom
For a first time traveler to see the cherry blossoms, timing is everything, but scheduling your trip to fall within the blooming period can be quite tricky. Based on my experience, the safe period would be from late March to 2nd week of April (preferably 1st week). It’s also helpful to checkout the cherry blossom forecasts from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) or through the Japan Guide.
While I mentioned that the blooming period can be very brief, the good thing about it though is that they don’t bloom all at the same time. Meaning, there are various popular parks and locations to see the cherry blossoms and they have different “best viewing time”. So, if you happen to arrive in Tokyo in mid-April, and missed the full bloom in late March or early April, there may be chance that you can still catch the cherry blossom in specific parks where the cherry blossoms appear at a later time. To further aid you in planning your trip, you can check out various news reports providing early predictions and updates on when and where to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom.
My top picks for cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo
Having lived in Tokyo for more than two years, I‘ve visited quite a few of the popular spots for cherry blossom viewing. So, here are my top picks (in no particular order… hehe) including the typical full bloom period:
This park was declared by the Tokyo Metropolitan Park Association as the second largest park in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Based on my experience, the cherry blossoms in this park appear at a later time, perhaps after a week or so compared to the other parks in central Tokyo (1st to 2nd week of April). The park holds an annual cherry blossom festival typically in early April (1st week).
Besides the abundant sakura in its spacious grass area, the park has many other attractions such as an architectural museum, children’s playground, archery, steam locomotive display, etc. It’s really one of my favorite parks in Tokyo especially since I used to live near Koganei , plus the park has no entrance fee.
Showa Kinen Park
This is also a huge park located in Tachikawa City, Tokyo (suburbs of Tokyo). The blooming period is typically around 1st to 2nd week of April. What’s lovely about the cherry blossoms here is that they can be seen beautifully contrasting the yellow flowers called “rape blossoms”. The park offers many outdoor activities such as cycling, and other outdoor sports. Entrance fee is 410 yen.
The park is among the most popular and largest in Tokyo especially as it is located in Shinjuku, which is one of Tokyo’s busiest commercial districts and transport (train) hubs.
Inside the park are beautiful landscapes and spacious lawns and a large variety of cherry blossoms to enjoy. Typical best viewing time (based on my experience) would be late March to 1st week of April. The park is about a 10-min walk from the Shinjuku train station; entrance fee is 200 yen (which is reasonable price for me considering the cost of living in Tokyo).
This park offers a different viewing experience of the cherry blossoms with the blooming trees lining up the Inokashira pond, particularly during early April (typically 1st week). The light pink blossoms against the surface of water and the blue sky make such beautiful scenery. Couples can be seen paddling boats in the pond while admiring the cherry blossoms. The park also features several fountains and bridges. This is also a public park and no entrance fee.
Ueno Park and Shinobazu Pond
This is probably one of most crowded and popular parks during cherry blossom season. It’s usually jam-packed especially during weekends of sakura viewing and so you usually just pass by the lane of sakura as you will notice that most trees have already been reserved. Haha! Also nearby the park are the Ueno Zoo and the Ueno shopping district. Typical full bloom period is late March to very early of April. There is also no entrance fee.
Just a few walks from the sakura lane of the Ueno park is the Shinobazu pond. It has a beautiful walkway where you can enjoy cherry blossom scenery in water, hence, popular for boat rides.
Naka-meguro Sakura Illumination
Have you ever tried sakura viewing at night? This is called “yozakura” or cherry blossoms night illumination. The Sakura festival at Naka-meguro is one of the famous spots for yozakura in Tokyo. Typical viewing and illumination time is early of April, where lanterns are lit up alongside the cherry blossoms of the Meguro river. Of course if you want to try less crowded viewing, the cherry blossoms here are also as beautiful during day time.
Hundreds of sakura trees line up the Chidorigafuchi moat and this walkway is one of the famous spots for cherry blossom viewing, which is located near the Imperial Palace. There is not much place in here for a sit-down picnic set up but a lot of people also come here to enjoy hanami while rowing boats. Typical viewing time is late March to early April.
Zojoji Temple / Shiba Park
A visit to this place during early spring offers a unique combination of culture/religion (temples), architecture (Tokyo Tower) and the cherry blossoms adorning the temple grounds. It’s a must see for any body who happens to be in Tokyo during the sakura season. Typical viewing time is late March to very early of April.
So, there… hope you also get to experience spring and sakura hanami in Tokyo! 🙂
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