【 CONTENTS 】
- Cherry Blossoms are almost in full bloom!
- The History of observing Cherry Blossoms
- The Sumida Riverside Area (near Asakusa and the Tokyo Sky Tree) 【Map No.1】
- The Yanaka Area 【Map No.’s 2 & 3】
- More Cherry trees in Eastern Tokyo
- What to eat during Hanami.
Cherry Blossoms are almost in full bloom!
The full bloom of cherry blossom trees in Tokyo has been forecasted for March 29th, 2016. As Japanese people look forward to this time, the Japan Meteorological Agency announces their forecast in early March. We have a term called Sakura Zensen, or “cherry blossom front”, which is a geographical line that connects areas of Japan that all have the same date when the trees are in first bloom. This line usually extends from the south to the north.
Following the forecast, groups of Japanese people begin to plan their parties. For example, business people will often enjoy parties during the evening after work. They’ll want to have a prime observation point, so you may see some of them sitting on picnic blankets/sheets in the morning, in order to hold the space for their after work parties.
The History of observing Cherry Blossoms
The love of cherry blossoms and the custom of observing them (Hanami 花見) dates back to ancient times (see and find more about cherry blossom viewing in this article ). At the end of the 16th century, the top samurai of the period gathered 1300 people and had a large cherry blossom observation party (Daigo-no-Hanami).
Even though observing cherry blossoms might have been entertainment for all social classes, the party was mainly held for the aristocracy and high ranking Samurai before the Edo period. It is said that the 8th Tokugawa shogun started planting Cherry trees and encouraged all people to attend these parties. Visiting the famous Cherry blossom areas was not very easy for Edo period people, because of long distance travel by foot. However, it was a great social occasion for women and children who had few opportunities to leave their towns during everyday life. Young women dressed in their best kimonos and enjoyed meeting people.
The Sumida Riverside Area (near Asakusa and the Tokyo Sky Tree) 【Map No.1】
One Hanami spot designed during the Edo period is Sumida Park alongside the Sumida river bank. This park is easily accessible from both, the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa（浅草）, and the Tokyo sky tree tower. A 1 kilometer street, lined with cherry blossom trees from the Azuma bridge to the Sakura bridge will welcome you. Observing the Sakura trees and Yakata-boats floating on the river is a typical Japanese scene that you might have seen, or imagined.
The Sakura festival will be held in the park until the 10th of April. Lighting of the cherry blossom trees at night and performances are always very entertaining. If you go to the Mukojima(向島) area of the park, you can meet Geisha girls wearing beautiful Kimonos. (Geisha are entertainment specialists who perform for guests in private rooms at restaurants.)
The Yanaka Area 【Map No.’s 2 & 3】
The Yanaka(谷中) Cemetery has a beautiful cherry blossom street. The tree branches transform the street into a beautiful tunnel of blooming cherry blossoms. You’ll also find a cemetery with over 7000 graves in this area, and the grave of the last shogun, Yoshinobu Tokugawa, is located here.
Unfortunately, having Hanami parties under the trees in this cemetery is not allowed, but the Nishi-Nippori Park near the cemetery is highly recommended and usually sees smaller numbers of people.
More Cherry trees in Eastern Tokyo
❀Sarue-Onshi (猿江恩賜) Park 【Map No.5】
Sarue-Onshi Park (a 30 to 40-minute walk from the Tokyo sky tree) has a nice and cozy lawn with Cherry blossom trees. It spreads out around the clock tower in the middle of the park and Cherry trees are planted in the both sides. This is a great place to relax and have a quiet picnic. This park was the stock yard for timbers during the Edo period.
❀Arakawa (荒川) Park 【Map No.4】
Arakawa park is located in front of the Arakawa ward council. More than 70 cherry blossom and weeping cherry trees are available to see. You can rest on benches surrounding fountain in the center of the park. During Hanami season, the lawn is open to the public, and several stores are located nearby where you can get a food for your Hanami party.
❀Mizumoto(水元) Park 【Map No.6】
Mizumoto Park is located in the northeast end of the Tokyo suburbs. This is one of the largest parks owned and operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. A river flows through the center of the park and many trees and plants, including many Cherry blossom trees, are able to be seen. The area also has historical heritage, Shibamata-Taishakuten (柴又帝釈天), is a famous Japanese film location. You can rent bicycles at . The rental center open only on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. (Japanese Only). There’s also a great bicycle path from Shibamata to Mizumoto park.
To see how to get to the each spot, click the number on this map.
What to eat during Hanami.
The well-known cherry blossom observation areas such as Sumida Park, have a lot of food vendors during the season. Enjoying their foods while walking and observing the flowers is great fun. It’s also fun to sit under the trees and have a picnic with bento (packed meals) on a picnic blanket/sheet. The traditional style bento (a 2 or 3 layered box meal) is available at most department stores on their basement ‘food court’ floor (Depachika).
The small, tri-colored portions of rice cakes on bamboo sticks are a popular dessert during the cherry blossom season. The color pink stands for spring, white represents snow from winter, and green represents the coming of summer.
Popular Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spots prepare garbage cans for this season, but smaller parks are not equipped with them. Please take your garbage with you and properly dispose of it in order to help keep the area clean.
I hope you have wonderful memories of Japanese cherry blossoms during your travels!
Please find our previous articles about cherry blossom observation spots outside Tokyo below:
❀Iwate’s old “Rock-breaking cherry tree” that blooms out of a cracked rock
❀1200 beautiful cherry blossom trees lined up along the clear stream of the Shiroishigawa River
❀ “Takizakura,” in Miharu city