The cold of winter has lifted and our great city is slowly switching gears into spring. In other words, the 2020 Tokyo sakura season is just around the corner: the latest cherry blossom forecast sets the flowering date at March 16, with ‘peak bloom’ expected around March 23. Although these divinations tend to change frequently the further we get into March, there’s still no harm in planning ahead for your hanami.
You can find cherry blossoms in many places across Tokyo, from the city's best parks including Shinjuku Gyoen and Rikugien, to pretty suburban streets in Nakameguro, Kunitachi and the like. So with cameras at the ready, off you go to these top places in Tokyo for the most beautiful spring blooms.
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Top sakura spots
The Kanda River is a lesser-known sakura destination within central Tokyo that gets relatively little tourist traffic. Take the capital’s only remaining tramline, the Arakawa Tram (also known as the Sakura Tram), all the way up to Waseda Station and the river is just a short walk away. The scene here is similar to that at Meguro River but with far fewer crowds. The riversides and the bridges will be strung with festive pink lanterns, and since the cherry trees here are old, their sheer size and volume do make for a jaw-dropping impact when in full bloom.
Located in western Tokyo, Kunitachi is one train stop away from Tachikawa's Showa Kinnen Park, one of the city's top sakura spots. However, Kunitachi is worth a visit for its pink blossoms, too. The main road leading from Kunitachi Station towards Hitotsubashi University is lined with large cherry trees, which make for a scenic stroll while checking out the various shops, restaurants and cafés in the area. Walk up to some of the pedestrian overpasses for a breathtaking bird's-eye view of the street in full bloom.
If Tokyo’s Meguro River is your usual go-to sakura site, switch it up this year by heading out to Koedo in Saitama’s Kawagoe city, also known as ‘Little Edo’ for its historical streets and buildings. Behind the Hikawa Shrine you’ll find a gentle river flanked by grassy banks and cherry trees. Expect a gorgeous pink boulevard at peak bloom, but the river is especially photogenic near the end of the season when the water surface is completely covered in the fallen pink petals. You can even take a slow boat ride along the river.
Rikugien is often considered one of Tokyo’s most gorgeous landscape gardens, featuring a traditional Edo period (1603-1868) aesthetic. Its huge cherry trees, especially the majestic weeping variety, along with the rest of the Japanese garden will be lit up in the evening for this annual spring special, which also sees the park staying open later than usual.
Another long-running favourite, the banks of the Meguro River always get packed with hanami-goers around the end of March. If possible, avoid crowds by moving away from the area around Nakameguro Station. Although this year's festival and evening light-up along the river have been cancelled, you can still enjoy the blooms all-day long.
Chidorigafuchi is famous for its spectacular sakura, which include around 200 somei-yoshino and yamazakura cherry blossom trees. Renting a boat at this boathouse, located in the centre of Chidorigafuchi Park, and paddling under the flowering branches as they reach out over the moat, is one of Tokyo’s sakura-season must-dos.
You might not expect to find tranquility in bustling Shinjuku, but stump up the ¥500 entrance fee and step into the entirely different world of Shinjuku Gyoen, possibly Tokyo’s most beautiful green space. Come sakura season, the whole place erupts into so much riotous pink, you’ll never want to leave the peaceful grounds.
Take a stroll down Roppongi's Keyakizaka for a relaxing walk through the ritzy neighbourhood. Best seen during cherry blossom season in spring or in the winter when the trees are lit up with illuminations, it makes for an eye-opening tour of the Roppongi Hills area. The short street leads you from one end of the complex to the next, with cafés and restaurants lining your way to and from the mall.
Located just 15 minutes from the centre of Tokyo, this Kichijoji park has more than enough to occupy you for an afternoon, including a zoo, a pond with amusingly shaped rental boats, and playground facilities – plus some of the city's most spectacular cherry blossoms...
Along with Ueno Park, Asukayama Park is one of the oldest in Tokyo, and people from all over the city have been coming here to see the sakura in spring ever since shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune had the trees planted in the first half of the 18th century.
An undulating 6.7 hectare park, Arisugawanomiya Memorial Park has been landscaped to take advantage of nature. During the Edo period, the grounds were originally the suburban residence for the Daimyo of the Morioka Nanbu clan. After becoming part of the imperial house of Arisugawanomiya in 1896, the area later became part of the imperial house of Takamatsunomiya. In 1934, Prince Takamatsu gave the land to the people of Tokyo, and it is now maintained as a public park. Inside the park, on its elevated eastern side, is the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library.
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