The arrival of Spring in Japan is unmistakable, as it corresponds to the arrival of the sakura (cherry blossoms)! The season is absolutely infectious, as everywhere you look there are sakura themed snacks, decorations, toys, and clothing. Parks are full of people enjoying the blossoms, and having hanami under the pink canopies. “Hanami” is a traditional sakura viewing party (think picnic) in which people relax, have a few drinks, and enjoy each others company – all while celebrating the arrival of spring. In addition to their beauty, the sakura serve as a yearly reminder to live life to the fullest. The Japanese see the blossoms as a metaphor for life, as their beauty is short lived before they inevitably fall to the ground. Sakura are EVERYWHERE in the spring, but below are our favorite spots to have our own family hanami! Cherry blossom season truly is one of the most magical times of the year.

***UPDATE: With COVID restrictions, Hanami may be a bit different for 2021, but the Sakura will be blooming all the same. If you are lucky enough to be in Japan during spring, we implore you to take a few minutes to soak it all in. This is special. According to livejapan.com the Sakura in Tokyo will start around March 15th. While our top 5 may not have changed, we continue to add to the honorable mention” section below as we remember more of our favorites. 

Top 5 Sakura Spots Close to Tokyo

5. Sumida River (Tokyo)

Looking to enjoy sakura during the evening hours? Sumida River is the perfect spot for a stroll with 600 – 1,000 sakura trees lining the tranquil waters. The area between Azumabashi Bridge and Sakurabashi Bridge is the perfect spot to sit back and marvel at the gorgeous blooms all while enjoying a fabulous view of Tokyo Skytree under illuminated lanterns. Combine the Sumida Park Cherry Blossom Festival with a couple of the ideas listed below and you have a full day in Tokyo exploring the Asakusa/Sumida area! Just a five-minute walk from Asakusa Station (Ginza Line).

Sumida River:

  • Hours: Trees will be illuminated from 1700 – 2130 from March 21 – April 10.
  • Admission: Free
  • What else is there to explore in this area?
    • Sensoji (Tokyo’s oldest temple)
    • Asakusa’s Nakamise-dori
    • Edo Tokyo Museum
    • Kappabashi (Kitchen Town)
    • Asakusa Wanariya Indigo Dyeing Studio
    • Tokyo Skytree

4. Ookagawa River (Yokohama)

With over 200 cherry blossom trees this is one of the best spots in Yokohama to enjoy sakura season! Either walk along the river between Sakuragicho Station (JR Negishi Line) and Gumyoji Station (Keikyu Line) or take an “Ohanami Cruise” down the waterway to experience the beauty! Lanterns, however, will begin to illuminate the river’s waters a bit before the festival from late-March until mid-April from around 1700 – 2400. Although this area is beautiful during the day we highly recommend going just a bit before dusk to get both daytime and nighttime views.  Complete the evening with local food and beverages from one of the many street vendors!

Ookagawa River:

  • Hours: Lanterns are usually lit from 1700 – 2400.
  • Admission: Free
  • What else is there to explore in this area?
    • Landmark Tower
    • Cup Noodles Museum
    • Cosmo World
    • Red Brick Warehouse Area
    • Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum
    • Nippon Maru

3. Shinjuku Gyoen Garden (Tokyo)

Completed in 1906 as an imperial garden and then later opened to the public as a national garden post-World War II (1949), these gardens are the perfect spot to spend an afternoon when the majority of sakura are in full bloom. What makes this spot exceptional, however, is that it is also home to plenty of late-blooming blossoms as well because let’s face it, as a visitor, it’s hard to time your visit to Japan with the exact blooming dates as they vary from year to year largely based on weather. So, this park gives those that are arriving to Japan during the tail end of the sakura season an opportunity to enjoy! With ~145 acres of space, large lawns, a variety of gardens (English landscape,  Japanese traditional, and French formal) and walking paths this spot is more than able to absorb large crowds without leaving you feeling cramped. Bring a mat, pack a bento or pick up some food/drinks at a convenience store along the way and set up for a picture perfect lunch under the blooms. Shinjuku is one of our favorite areas of Tokyo – there’s a ton to see and do!

Shinjuku Gyoen Garden:

  • Hours: 0900 -1600 (gates close at 1630)
  • Admission: 200yen
  • What else is there to explore in this area?
    • Godzilla Head (located on the top of Gracery Hotel)
    • Fire Museum
    • Tokyo Toy Museum
    • Golden Gai
    • Memory Lane
    • Robot Restaurant (not a restaurant, but rather a touristy show – super fun!)

2. Chidorigafuchi Moat (Tokyo)

Chiyoda City is also another fabulous stop with sakura blooms (Somei-yoshino and Oshima varieties) from ~260 cherry trees. The sakura lining the waters of a moat surrounding the Imperial Palace is something right out of a fairytale. This area of Tokyo is rich in both beauty and history and we really dig it. Either wander the ~700m path along the water or hop in a boat and row around to soak it all in. We’re gonna be brutally honest though, this place is popular! So, if you have your heart set on rowing on the water your best bet is to show up early in the morning before the pier opens for business to get in line (Maybe an hour or so before? Nope, not joking.) As the day continues on the line will get progressively longer and thus so will the glorious wait time. The boat rentals usually wrap up ~2000, but most of the time the staff caps the line ~1800. Plan on visiting in the evening? You’ll enjoy the cherry trees illuminated as well as a pretty rad view of Tokyo Tower.

Even if you’re arriving later in the season we would still recommend popping by and visiting as the moat may very well be covered in sakura petals. True it isn’t exactly the same experience, but it’s very beautiful. Sakura season is just too short!

Chidorigafuchi Moat:

  • Hours:
    • Boat Pier: 0900 – 2030 (boarding tickets sold until 2000)
    • Trees are illuminated from 1800 – 2200 during the festival
  • Admission: Free. Boat rental price is 800 yen/30 minutes, 1,600 yen/60minutes (yup, no discount)
  • What else is there to explore in this area?
    • Tokyo Ramen Street (set of 8 ramen restaurants)
    • Hibiya Park
    • Tokyo Imperial Palace
    • Edo Castle (located on the same grounds as the Imperial Palace)
    • Yushukan War Memorial Museum
    • Yasukuni Jinja (shrine by War Memorial)

1. Shomyoji (Yokohama)

Initially built in the 13th century, Shomyoji is a quiet Buddhist temple that features an incredibly peaceful garden as well as a small private museum and library. There are normally only a few people strolling the grounds, but during the springtime the place comes alive with tourists and local Japanese alike, both attracted by the beautiful pink blossoms. It’s particularly beautiful during the evening/dusk once the lanterns are illuminated. To our family, this place was the most magical of all. Bike-able from the house, not too crowded, and enough space to have to hanami without feeling crowded in…yup, this is what sakura dreams are made of.

Shomyoji:

  • Admission: Free
  • What else is there to explore in this area?
    • Hakkeijima Sea Paradise
    • Kanazawa Natural Park & Zoo

Honorable Mentions

1. Miurakaigan (Miura)

If you’re looking for the first signs of spring, you’ll find them at Miurakaigan! This little festival is simply wonderful and our family adores it for its ~1km walk that leads you past beautiful Kawazu-zakura cherry blossoms. Named for Kawazu, a city on the Izu Peninsula, these early bloomers are the perfect shade of pink if you ask us. Certainly not as abundant as some of the other types, but their blooms are a precursor to the very popular Somei-Yoshino cherry blossoms, meaning that their presence is a clue that more beauty is forecasted in the near future! A few vendors surround the small pond, so if the weather is good pick up something to munch on while you enjoy the season! Overall, we think visiting in the late afternoon/early evening is best, so that you can cash in on both daytime and nighttime views because the beautiful blooms will be illuminated which is known as “Yozakura!”

Miurakaigan:

  • Admission: Free
  • What else is there to explore in this area?
    • Keikyu Aburatsubo Marine Park
    • Jogashima Island
    • Tsukuihama Tourist Farm (strawberry picking!)

2. Otonashi Bridge/Asukayama Park (Tokyo)

Looking for a peaceful sakura getaway in the middle of Toyko? Asukayama Park is a fantastic choice! Not nearly as crowded as Ueno Park, Asukayama Park features a small stream and the wooden Otonashi Bridge crossing an underlying cobbled area covered with interlacing sakura branches which is perfect for a semi-secluded hanami right in the middle of Toyko. We went late in the season last year, and watching the sakura pedals fall like snow in the breeze is still one of our favorite Tokyo memories.

Otonashi Bridge/Asukayama Park:

  • Admission: Free
  • What else is there to explore in this area?
    • Paper Museum
    • Banknote and Stamp Museum
    • Kita City Asukayama Museum

3. Ueno Park (Tokyo)

This park is popular and although beautiful maybe a little too popular for our liking during sakura season. As much as we have become accustom to crowds, Ueno Park during sakura season takes it to a whole new level. When we visited it seemed like unless you grabbed a spot early in the day you were swept up in a sea of people along the main drag of ~800 – 1,200 cherry trees. So although gorgeous, if you opt to head up to Ueno to see the many blooms maybe tag it onto a trip of one of the many famous museums or the zoo! Just a mere two-minute walk from Ueno Station (Metro Ginza).

Ueno Park:

  • Hours: Trees will be illuminated from 1730 – 2000 from March 21 – April 8.
  • Admission: Free
  • What else is there to explore in this area?
    • National Museum of Science and Nature
      • Compass Playground
    • Tokyo National Museum
    • Ueno Zoo

4. Tokyo Midtown (Tokyo)

Tokyo Midtown is the catch all term for the city’s huge commercial district located in Roppongi. We’ve written a lot about Roppongi in other Tokyo posts, as its one of our favorite sections of the city (really, nearly every part of the city has something to love). Besides the shopping and entertainment options, during Sakura season 150+ sakura trees line the streets around the main buildings. While it is beautiful to visit during the day, it really comes alive at night, with pink lights emphasizing the blossoms.

Tokyo Midtown:

  • Hours: Trees illuminated from 1700-2300 from late March to early April
  • Admission: Free
  • What else is there to explore in this area?
    • More shops, restaurants, and cafes

5. Naka Meguro Station (Tokyo)

There are a few other “river” based Sakura spots on this list, but our favorite ever picture of an urban sakura river comes from the Meguro River near Naka Meguro Station. The sakura trees (over 800!!) line the banks of the river, and the area does an amazing job of transforming the entire river into a sakura paradise. Like many spots, it is incredible during the day, but will absolutely takes your breath away at night. Grab a coffee at the crazy nearby Starbucks Reserve Roastery while you are there, or simply have a Chu-hi and walk the river to take it all in. When we think about Sakura season in Tokyo, this is definitely one of the best places that comes to mind.

Naka Meguro Station:

  • Hours: Trees will be illuminated from sunset to around 2300. Take your time!
  • Admission: Free
  • What else is there to explore in this area?

6. Koishikawa Park (Tokyo)

In our book any cherry blossom spot in Japan is a good one. It’s hard to compare them, as the country and it’s people do an incredible job of highlighting the tree’s beauty and making you think about how the fleeting blossoms are a metaphor for how short and beautiful our lives on earth are. Frankly, we visited Koishikawa Park on a less than ideal day, but even with overcast sky’s it was a beautiful spot to enjoy the blossoms.

Koishikawa Park:

  • Hours: 0900 – 1700
  • Admission: 300 yen

Cheers,

Full disclosure we act as an affiliate for several sites, so clicking through and purchasing products via our links does make us a little money and allows us to continue to put out (hopefully) useful content.

Leave a Reply