Japanese cherry blossoms, or sakura as they’re called in Japanese, are known around the world for their beauty. Typically only lasting a few weeks in March or April, they can be tricky to view if you’re traveling from overseas and need to pin down travel plans. But, with the help of weather forecasts, you can typically expect to see at least some cherry blossoms no matter how early you have to plan your trips.
While there are locations all over Japan for cherry blossom viewing, in this post I wanted to focus on Tokyo. Because Tokyo is the largest city in Japan and the point of entry for the majority of travelers, this might be the only opportunity you have to view cherry blossoms. So, I’m giving you a few of my favorite locations, and some of the most popular sakura viewing locations in Tokyo.
See the 2022 Japan Cherry Blossom Forecast
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- When is cherry blossom season in Japan?
- Why is cherry blossom season so important in Japan?
- Best Ways to Enjoy the Blossoms
- Differences between cherry, plum, and peach blossoms.
- Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
- Traveling to Japan in Spring
When is cherry blossom season in Japan?
Sakura season is typically from late March to mid-April. It varies each year depending on weather conditions so it’s important to check the forecasts that come from the Japanese Meteorological Agency like ours Here. It also depends on the location in Japan. The blooms typically open first in the southern region, and the blooming progresses northward. So it’s possible to catch peak bloom in a few different regions of Japan if you’re willing to travel.
Why is cherry blossom season so important in Japan?
Viewing cherry blossoms has been a national pastime since the 8th century. There are many species of cherry, some of which have been cultivated through cross-breeding. These efforts took off in the 14th century when they became cultivated as ornamental flowers.
But why is Japan so fascinated with the sakura phenomenon since centuries ago? Cherry blossom trees have many meanings to the Japanese. A lot has to do with the very brief life of the flowers, blooming only for about a week to ten days.
Their fleeting beauty illustrates all too perfectly that nothing in this world is permanent, everything passes away at some point. A sad but beautiful admiration for this impermanence has been an important part of the Japanese mindset since ancient times. In Japanese, it’s called “mono no aware.” This mindset can be found in the smallest things of Japanese daily life.
Best Ways to Enjoy the Blossoms
While you can definitely stroll through a park to enjoy the cherry blossoms, there are other ways you can get into the spirit of spring. Here are some typical things you can do to enjoy the cherry blossoms in Japan:
Hanami: This means “flower viewing” and is a great Japanese tradition of having a picnic under the sakura and enjoying the blossoms. Bring a tarp to sit on, snacks and drinks. But make sure you check that the park allows hanami or you’ll be disappointed.
Sakura Festivals: These cherry blossom festivals provide food stalls, pretty lanterns, and even entertainment. They are held around peak blossom season and they are a perfect way to view the blossoms and enjoy the spring weather. See our list of Cherry Blossom Festivals.
Yozakura: This refers to cherry blossoms that are illuminated at night. They offer a different take on the cherry blossom-viewing experience.
Hikes: The best chance of seeing some quiet cherry blossoms in their natural habitat is to head out into the mountains for a spring walk. Pack a picnic and it’s the best way to welcome spring.
Differences between cherry, plum, and peach blossoms.
The cherry blossom (sakura) may at times be confused with the plum blossoms (ume) or peach blossoms (momo). Plum blossom spots in Japan tend to bloom earlier in the season – from mid-February to mid-March – while the cherry blossom season peaks in April. Peach blossoms bloom around the same time as cherry blossoms but have a very sweet smell. All trees produce flowers ranging in color from white to pink, to red but can be easily identified in the following steps:
Petals and Growing pattern
- Cherry flowers have a small split or notch in each petal; plums and peaches do not.
- Plum flowers have round tips, peach has pointed petals.
- Cherry blossoms produce multiple flowers per bud, while plums produce only one and peaches have only 2.
- New cherry leaves are green in color, while plum tree leaves emerge with a purple or red hue.
Colors and Scents
Plum: Flower colors can be broadly divided into white and crimson, though complex color differences can occur between them. For example, some buds turn pink when they bloom, and some buds turn white. Some buds have a pale pistil, and only the petals are red. They have a sweet, gentle scent similar to jasmine.
Peach: Flowers can be white, pink, or red. The color varies by type and individual plant. Different colored flowers might even grow on one tree! The scent is sweet and mild, which you can smell from both the flowers and the leaves.
Cherry Blossom: Can be white, light pink, or dark pink, depending on the type and individual plant. The cherry blossom scent is usually very mild, and Yoshino cherry trees are particularly faint, barely noticeable even if you bring your nose close. While there are more fragrant varieties with stronger scents, you won’t usually see them around town.
Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
Shinjuku Gyoen features lush lawns and over a thousand cherry trees. The area is unique in that it is home to both late and early blooming trees. This makes it a prime spot for visitors who arrive a week too early or too late for the main sakura-matsuri festival.
See Also: Best Cherry Blossom Festivals in Japan
Located in the heart of the city, Tokyo’s high-rise buildings provide a startling contrast to the park’s peaceful natural surroundings. Shinjuku Gyoen is a mere ten-minute walk from Shinjuku Station, one of the central Tokyo train stops, part of the circular Yamanote line. Japan Rail Pass holders can ride all Yamanote line trains with no limits, during the duration of their JR Pass.
No article on cherry blossom viewing spots in Tokyo would be complete without Ueno Park. During the hanami season, the park is visited by thousands of families, company workers, and students all looking to take in the beautiful pink blossoms. Since the park can get crowded during this time of year, we recommend meeting up with your party at Ueno Station rather than in the park itself.
Shibuya and Meguro are also home to beautiful cherry trees. That said, finding a spot to set up a picnic can be a little difficult, so be careful if you’re going to be having your hanami party here.
Meguro River is flanked by around 800 cherry trees on both sides, stretching for about 3.8 km. At night, lanterns are lit, making for a very atmospheric hanami experience.
Like in Shinjuku Gyoen and Yoyogi Park, it’s a little difficult to find a nice plot to set your tarp down, but the blossoms are just as beautiful if you want to simply take a stroll down by the river. The closest stations for Meguro River are JR Meguro Station or Nakameguro Station on the Tokyu Toyoko Line.
Thousands of visitors come every year to enjoy hanami at Yoyogi Park. With around 500 trees, primarily of the Somei Yoshino variety, visitors can come and purchase snacks like yakisoba at stalls or catering carts set up throughout the park and many people also bring their own food and alcohol to enjoy in the shade of the trees.
Learn More: How to Hanami
During the cherry season, the lines for the public bathrooms become quite long, so either make sure you find a toilet near the park that you can scurry off to or keep the libation imbibing to a minimum.
Rikugien Garden is one of the big two Japanese-style gardens that can be enjoyed in Tokyo (the other is Koishikawa Korakuen). The gardens are beautiful year-round, but especially striking in the springtime when the drooping cherry trees come into bloom. With the garden bathed in pink throughout the day, once the sun sets they are lit up, bringing about a whole new beauty to the blossoming buds.
Also located in the northern part of Tokyo, Asukayama Park in Oji, Kita Ward, is a place famous for its cherry blossoms, having captivated the Japanese people for the past 300 years. Visiting the park when all 650 of the park’s gorgeous cherry trees are in bloom is a sight to behold.
Hakodate is also an area in Hokkaido where you can enjoy cherry blossoms in late April. Goryokaku was designated as a Chidorigafuchi, a road that runs along the west side of the Imperial Palace is home to an assortment of cherry trees that truly speak to the Japanese spirit, with the trees accented by the freshly sprung greenery and the palace’s moat. Though there are a number of skyscrapers located in the distance, these shouldn’t detract from the cherry blossom viewing experience. The area is also lit up at night, transforming the area’s beauty.
Located a short walk away from Asakusa Station is Sumida Park along the Sumida River, renowned as an excellent cherry blossom viewing spot.
Though strolling along the river, viewing the gorgeous cherry trees as their blossoms scatter into the Sumida River is a sight to behold in its own right, we also recommend chartering a pleasure boat where you can view the trees from the river itself. Tokyo Skytree is also close by, affording a view of both the old and the new.
At Inokashira Park, located a short walk from Kichijoji Station, visitors can enjoy the cherry blossoms from the park or from a paddleboat in the park’s lake.
The park’s 500 cherry trees in bloom are simply amazing, drawing in tons of families and couples from around the city. The park’s pond is especially beautiful as it reflects the ocean of pink surrounding it.
Asukayama Park is holds around 300 years of history as a favorite sakura viewing spot for locals in Tokyo’s Kita ward. Approximately 600 cherry trees bloom in spring at this expansive park. It is an ideal place to enjoy a day full of flowers and hanami picnics.
Parkgoers can enjoy viewing antique steam engine trains that were used in Tokyo, too, making it a great spot for families and those traveling with children.
Flower viewing in a cemetery? That’s possible in Yanaka Cemetery near Ueno. The place has been relatively popular among locals for quite some time now, as its main path is lined with cherry trees, leading it to be called Cherry Blossom Avenue. If you’ve grown used to the image of cemeteries as places of gloom and solemnity, you’ll be surprised to see (some) people having picnics here. If you think about the symbolism behind the cherry blossom, it doesn’t seem too unusual — the short-lived sakura is a reminder of the transience of life, after all. Just be as respectful as possible if you decide to drop by this place.
Kasai Rinkai Park
Tokyo’s largest central park, Kasai Rinkai is just a station away from Tokyo Disneyland. Its vast space and other attractions (a Ferris wheel, observatory, and bird sanctuary) make it an ideal location for family outings.
The rustic Mt. Takao is another famous spot for cherry blossoms in spring. This Tokyo peak is the ideal option for those looking to enjoy a more rural scene while still being close to the city. Cherry trees line the hiking paths, and there is are mountain temple buildings scattered around the mountainside. From the top, you can get a view of more sakura and, on a clear day, Mt. Fuji. For those who want to go straight to the top, there is a cable car and ropeway that will bring you to the peak.
Please note that Mt. Takao is a popular destination on the weekends. If you visit during the cherry blossom season, try to go on a weekday to avoid crowds.
Location: Takaomachi, Hachioji, Tokyo 193-0844
Located a little outside of Tokoy, in Tachikawa, the Showa Memorial Park is roughly 40 times the size of Tokyo Dome! With 1,500 cherry trees, this is an excellent spot for hanami, especially the Sakura no Sono area of the park. Bring your tarp, some food and drinks, and enjoy a relaxing afternoon under the blossoms.
Location: 3173 Midoricho, 立川市 Tokyo 190-0014
Cherry Blossoms are one of Japan’s most sought-after tourist attractions. With their beauty and limited appearance, it’s not hard to see why so many people love them. Hopefully, this guide has given you some ideas of where you want to travel to see the sakura in Tokyo and how to do it. Let us know if the comments below what your favorite viewing spot is.
Traveling to Japan in Spring
Spring can be an amazing time to travel to Japan. With cool weather that hasn’t yet turned humid, beautiful clear skies, and of course the allure of cherry blossoms, it’s many people’s favorite time to visit the islands. Here are some of our resources for traveling to Japan in the springtime.
- Japan Rail Pass
- Cherry Blossom Tours
- What to do in Japan in Spring
- Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan
- Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto
- Where to See Cherry Blossoms Around Mt. Fuji
- Best Cherry Blossom Festivals in Japan
- Best Spring Hikes in Japan for Cherry Blossoms
- 5 Places to See Night Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
- Cherry Blossom Photography Tips
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