Planning for Cherry Blossoms: Tips for 3 of Tokyo’s Hanami Hot Spots

It’s never too early to start planning hanami parties (or planning a trip to Japan to experience them). Cherry blossom forecasts start popping up as early as January, with various organizations doing their best to help revelers plan festivities under canopies of fleeting, pink flowers. For travelers from abroad, even Japan Railways (JR) is getting in on the action.

2019-04-17   Travel Tips, Visit: Parks & Nature, Tokyo,


Planning your trip: timing is everything

The start of the cherry blossom season can differ by a matter of weeks each year. Generally speaking, to catch the blossoms at their fullest in Tokyo, plan a trip that includes the last week in March and the first week in April.

Pro tip: throughout the spring, cherry blossoms emerge across Japan from south to north, so if you miss the fully bloomed blossoms in Tokyo, you can chase them to other parts of the country. One of my favorite pastimes is enjoying the blossoms in Tokyo and then heading north to Miyagi and Aomori prefectures during the Golden Week holidays in late April for a second round of hanami bliss.

For this article, however, let’s focus on Tokyo and the pros, cons, and unique aspects of some of the city’s most famous hanami locations.

Yoyogi Park

Photo credit: Karl Baron via Flickr

The pros

Conveniently located between two major districts of Tokyo (Shibuya and Shinjuku) as well as popular tourist attractions (Meiji Jingu and Harajuku), a visit to Yoyogi Park is the perfect way to integrate cherry blossom reveling into your sightseeing itinerary. It’s a public greenspace, so you are free to lay down a tarp and relax (or party) under the pink trees. This makes it an excellent place to meet new people from Japan and all over the world. Just make sure to get there early because…

The cons

Yoyogi Park gets incredibly crowded when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Expect to wait in long lines to buy refreshments and use the restrooms. In fact, the park can get so jammed with people that the cellular network overloads, making it difficult to contact friends and family after you’ve finally found a corner of the park to call your own. If you are into social media, you may have to curb your ambitions of live streaming the hanami festivities.

Chidorigafuchi

The pros

Located right along the moat of the Imperial Palace Chidorigafuchi is a beautiful, historic place to enjoy the splendor of cherry blossoms. You can even rent boats and appreciate a unique perspective from the body of water that surrounds what used to be Edo Castle.

The cons

Although Chidorigafuchi is often referred to as a park, in reality, it’s a long footpath through a tunnel of cherry trees alongside the Imperial Palace moat. This means you’ll be walking and standing for most of your cherry blossom viewing. As with most of the popular spots, you may find yourself battling crowds for the perfect photo op or waiting in long lines to rent a boat. 

Shinjuku Gyoen

The good

Shinjuku Gyoen is easily one of the most beautiful places in Tokyo to enjoy Japan’s most famous pastime. The park requires a small entry fee (200 yen) and has a few rules (e.g. no tree climbing) that make for a slightly more relaxing and orderly hanami experience. Unfortunately for many, one of these rules is…

The bad

No alcohol is allowed. For many Tokyoites, enjoying an alcoholic beverage (or 10) is central to the hanami experience. So, this single rule can be a deal breaker for those who are eager to ring in the spring with a bang.

Under-the-radar hanami spots

By now, I’m sure you’ve noticed a common theme throughout this article: popular hanami spots can be crowded. There’s no need to fret, though. You can see cherry blossoms all over the city, and if you are willing to explore, you’ll be able to discover countless locations that are off the beaten path, such as smaller neighborhood parks.

The Kanda River, just north of Nishi-shinjuku. One of my favorite under-the-radar hanami spots. Follow the river to Higashi-nakano sation, and you’ll find picnic spots that aren’t too crowded.

The Kanda River, just north of Nishi-shinjuku. One of my favorite under-the-radar hanami spots. Follow the river to Higashi-nakano sation, and you’ll find picnic spots that aren’t too crowded.

How do you know if it’s OK to throw down your blue tarp for an impromptu picnic? Just watch the locals. If you see other groups of people camping out for the day, then it should be fine for you to do the same.

Start planning today

Whether you are planning to party with the crowds or relax in a local park, keep your eye on the cherry blossom forecasts and start adjusting your travel itinerary accordingly. The following links are a great place to start:

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AUTHOR

Anthony

Anthony

Writer / Translator

Originally from Riverside, California, I've been living, working, and writing in Japan since 2009. Japan has become my second home, and I'm especially fond of Shinjuku, Tokyo. That being said, I also love getting out into the countryside and exploring the entire country. Through Tadaima Japan, I hope to share the wonders of Japan with a wider, international audience. Check out my articles if you enjoy exploring on foot, convenient cafes, and affordable dining.