The good news first: cherry blossom season is just around the corner, with some cold-weathered winter sakura already in full bloom in Setagaya and Shinjuku Gyoen. The bad news is, Tokyo has to forego two of its most popular hanami (cherry blossom viewing) gatherings this year – yes, because of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.
One of the capital’s most Instagrammable hanami locations is along the Meguro River, close to Nakameguro Station. Lined with 1,200 cherry trees, the picturesque spot attracts over three million visitors every year during sakura season. However, the trees won’t be lit up this year and the picture-perfect pink-coloured lanterns that usually line the river won’t be set up either, to discourage crowds from gathering. It’s the first time since the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 that the light show has been cancelled. But don’t worry – even without the festive decorations, you can still admire the beautiful blossoms on their own during the day.
Another famous spot to admire cherry blossoms is Ueno Park, which saw a whopping four million visitors flock to the grounds during cherry blossom season last year. Even though the park remains open until 11pm, you won’t find the usual food trucks selling hanami-appropriate snacks, or the extra trash bins. Once again, it’s all to avoid larger gatherings of people and curb virus transmission. However, you’re still welcome to lay down your picnic mat under the cherry blossoms to secure the best spot for your hanami.