Tokyo 2020: Make the Most of a Spring like No Other

At a time when Tokyo residents would normally be poised to flood the city’s parks for grand hanami parties, the government of Japan has asked potential revelers to subdue their plans in order to limit the spread of Covid-19.

This may be a disappointment for those looking for a reprieve from the headline-dominating gloom that is currently gripping the world. However, social distancing is one of the only ways Tokyoites can work toward the greater good of keeping this pandemic at bay.

Thankfully, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy cherry blossoms and the dawn of spring—activities that don’t involve large crowds and communal dining and drinking.

Go for a ride

Cyclists enjoying a break at Lake Okutama, which straddles Tokyo and Yamanashi Prefectures.

If you’re residing near a large park or river in Tokyo, you’re likely to find some excellent cycling routes. Yoyogi Park has a scenic cycling course perfect for a ride under the pink blossoms of spring.

If you want to work up a sweat while taking in some verdant spring scenery, the Arakawa (river) is home to the city’s longest uninterrupted bike path. Ride as long as you like—from Tokyo Bay all the way into neighboring Saitama Prefecture.

Or, venture out to the edges of Tokyo Prefecture and you’ll discover beautiful bodies of water such as Lake Tama and Lake Okutama. Each one is surrounded by roads perfect for cycling.

Before you hit the road, be sure to check out our roundtable discussion for some tips on cycling safely in Tokyo and beyond.

Go for a run

A runner’s-eye view of a cherry-blossom-filled jog near Yotsuya Station.

Spring is perhaps the most exciting time for Tokyo runners. Barren trees are replaced by budding blossoms and the freezing temperatures of winter are quickly forgotten. The beauty of running in Tokyo is its simplicity. Just step out of your house or hotel and you’re on your way. The city’s unrivaled safety and dense network of train stations, convenience stores, and vending machines make Tokyo a place where you can jog without a care in the world. And of course, several popular routes are lined with cherry blossoms. No worries if you’ aren’t a runner. Tokyo is an incredibly walkable city as well.

Enjoy a bento in the park when you’re done

After your run, ride, or walk, take a breather and relax in the nearest park. Just because you should avoid the crowds of the major parks this hanami season doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the experience on a much smaller scale. Tokyo is filled with parks of all shapes and sizes, and you’ll find that small neighborhood parks can be the perfect place to get some fresh air, soak in some scenery, and enjoy a delicious bento lunch under the cherry trees.

A time for appreciation

Exercise and nature excursions are proven to improve physical and mental health, so it’s important to figure out safe, responsible ways to get a taste of spring, even during these uncertain times. Yes, it’s unfortunate that we might not be able to ring in the season as we always have: reuniting with friends and family while enjoying libations under the cherry trees. For many, hanami this year will be a one of reflection and solitude. Hopefully, however, this experience will teach us a greater level of appreciation for spring gatherings. Reminisce on good times of the past, and anticipate even greater times to come.

For the latest English-language updates on the coronavirus pandemic in Japan visit the Cabinet Public Relations Office website. For information on travel and tourism, visit the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) website.

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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.