Japan’s cherry blossoms are expected to bloom almost a week earlier than usual this year. Although spring is the most popular time to see these flowers, you can still catch beautiful sakura during winter in several parks, gardens and shrines around Tokyo.
You’ll most commonly come across kawazu-zakura, a pastel pink cherry blossom native to Shizuoka prefecture which usually peaks between February and March depending on the location. Unlike the spring cherry blossoms, which only last about a week, these have a longer lifespan of around a month. The other winter sakura are the kanhi-zakura, which are more of a vivid pink colour, growing on bigger trees that get roughly 10 metres tall.
Here are the best locations around the city where you can enjoy cherry blossoms early, before the bustling hanami season arrives.
Inokashira Park boasts two kinds of winter cherry blossoms – vivid pink kanhi-zakura and the more common pastel pink kawazu-zakura. You can catch this colourful scenery next to the pond in the south-west of the park, located right behind the Ghibli Museum.
This local shrine in Shinmachi certainly lives up to its name. It boasts two kawazu-zakura cherry blossom trees standing behind its massive torii gate. You’ll find pink ribbons tied onto the branches with handwritten wishes from visitors, adding even more pink to the scene. To leave your own wish for the year, you can purchase a ribbon for ¥500.
One of Tokyo’s most popular picnic spots, Yoyogi Park’s expansive lawn is a welcome oasis of greenery in the busier part of the city. The park is usually packed during hanami season in spring, but the winter-blooming kawazu-zakura cherry blossoms in the central plaza are not to be missed – they’re just as pretty as the springtime sakura.
This gigantic park located between Musashi-Koyama and Fudomae stations has several kawazu-zakura cherry blossom trees planted on its spacious lawn. The pink petals stand out from the towering green trees surrounding them and are expected to be in bloom until the beginning of March.
The scenic walk along the Kyunaka River features a total of 26 kawazu-zakura trees that start to bloom as early as the last week of January. Get off at Hirai Station and follow the JR Sobu Railway line towards the river, where you’ll find plenty of space to sit on the grass and admire the cherry blossoms.
Hotel Chinzanso is known for its historic Japanese garden beautifully decked out with 120 sakura trees and a three-tiered pagoda. Despite being located in central Tokyo, it’s one of the least crowded places to enjoy the cherry blossoms. In winter, we adore the blooms on the impressive kawazu-zakura tree, which stands right next to the pagoda, as well as the Osaka-fuyuzakura tree at the entrance of the Sky Terrace.
Kawazu-zakura trees are planted just outside Kiba Park’s Fureai Hiroba entrance along the Oyoko River. The cherry blossoms here start to bloom in mid-January. Each tree here seems to be on its own schedule, but don’t worry – these flowers are known for their long lifespan.
Shiba Park makes a great picnic spot, especially with the kawazu-zakura and kanhi-zakura cherry blossom trees planted around the park. If you’re lucky, you can snap a photo of the pink blossoms with Tokyo Tower in the background.