One of the best times to be in Tokyo is the end of March, when locals and tourists alike swarm across the city to partake in the Japanese tradition hanami (cherry blossom viewing). It typically takes seven to 10 days for the sakura to reach full bloom, and the peak period usually lasts for four to six days. With such a short time frame, deciding where to go can be overwhelming.
So, let us help you out. Here are 17 of the most beautiful places, including a few lesser-known spots, to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo’s central area.
Easily one of the biggest parks in downtown Tokyo, Yoyogi is a one-stop destination for those looking for a traditional “hanami” (read: “getting slightly inebriated under pink trees”) experience. Incomparable when it comes to partying, it’s always a rowdy spot to crash, so you better be there early to reserve your square of land. You’ll see street performers, organized office hanami meetings, school groups minglings, sports competitions, troupes of lolita girls, college students traipsing through, in addition to all sorts of festivals and markets.
We’ve got a complete guide to Yoyogi Park here.
One hundred and forty acres divided into three distinct park styles (Japanese, French, and English, with a bonus “Imperial” and “Greenhouse” area) makeup Shinjuku Gyoen. It’s certainly one of the more formal parks in the city, with its well-kept appearance, tidy ponds and neatly knit-together flower fields. Be sure to include it on your list of places to check out when plotting your park-hopping course. But its beauty comes at a price. If you are to celebrate cherry blossom season in Shinjuku Gyoen, be prepared to pay an entrance fee of ¥200 per person and remember that there is no alcohol allowed. Park hours must be respected, which means no late partying.
Nakameguro is neither a garden nor a park, but rather a neighbourhood famous for being the home to one of the more prominent canals of Tokyo. Lined with low-hanging cherry blossom trees, and decorated with bright pink lanterns during the spring season, Nakameguro is great for those who want to take the time to eat delicious food while taking in the sights. During hanami week, you’ll find throngs of booths serving up hot “yaki”-types of eats and plenty of chu-hi cans opening left and right. Cross over the bridges for a better look down the canal, and to capture the coveted “river sakura” image.
Meguro Station has a lot more to offer. Click here for our complete area guide.
One of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets, the canal behind Toho Studios is like Nakameguro minus the crowds. The Sengawa River is located only a few blocks away from Seijo, Setagaya. The river is 20.9km long and originates from Chofu City, one of Tokyo’s 23 wards, west of Setagaya. The mirror reflection of the sakura in the water against the blue sky is certainly divine. Plus, it is quiet and plenty of space to walk at your own pace. The effort it takes to get here is well rewarded.
Ueno park is arguably the most popular park in Tokyo and features more than 800 trees growing across its broad expanse. An official “Sakura Matsuri” spans a week or two, depending on the length of the cherry blossom season, and provides even more entertainment than your usual hanami locations. Visitors can experience live shows, food carts, parades, and other sightseeing experiences. It’s especially a hotspot for Tokyo families due to the number of museums and zoos in the vicinity, so brace yourself for extra-dense crowds.
Our most recent Ueno area guide suggests the perfect recipe for a perfect day.
Sumida Park is split by Sumida River. The left bank is very open and a great place to stroll, while the right one is smaller and more intimate. Both sides are a great place to have hanami picnics and photogram cherry blossoms with Tokyo Sky Tree in the background. There are also waterbuses to enjoy the sakura from the river. The cherry blossom trees will also be lit during the night for a beautiful night stroll hanami.
For even more things to do in the area, check out our Asakusa area guide.
Hibiya is the epitome of a downtown park in Tokyo. It’s got markets, concerts, ponds, the city’s oldest ginkgo tree, protected flower gardens, “gothic” statues, restaurants, fountains, festivals, and some of the oldest hotels surrounding it. Go during the day and you’ll see a park full of suited-and-tied salarymen; go on the weekends and you’ll see an oddball mix of the whole population of Tokyo. A stone’s throw from the Imperial Palace, this historically important park is certainly one you should have on your hanami list this year.
Chidori-ga-fuchi and the Imperial Gardens
A large, neat, smoothly sloping hill covered in a blanket of pink blossoms leads down into the moat that surrounds the Chidori-ga-fuchi Park at the Imperial Gardens. The river is wide and still, welcoming boaters with its glittering surface a romantic view of the petals drifting in the wind. Many other seasonal flowers festoon the gardens, making it a favorite place for tourists and returning visitors alike. Runners often use the surrounding path as a part of their routine just for the view – and it’s easy to understand why. This is the place to go if you want to row a boat under the cherry trees.
Roppongi is the place to go for a classic “Tokyo night out” date, with tons of museums, places to eat, cinemas, and a variety of flowering cherry trees everywhere you look. Head to Midtown for terrace dining areas, illumination, and sidewalks lined with cherry blossoms. Nearby, Ark Hills is a winding street with stunning night views of “popcorn”-style cherry trees. An expansive park behind ANA Intercontinental Hotel is yet another place to see some blossoms and lie back on a sloping lawn in the middle of the concrete jungle.
Kinuta Park and the Yoga Sakura Tunnel
Deep in the heart of Setagaya Ward is Kinuta Park, situated beside the Setagaya Waste Disposal Plant (not the first place you’d think for a giant park to be). The expansive park is home to a number of sports fields, a bird sanctuary, the Setagaya Art Museum, and beautiful flower and fruit gardens. Pathways wind through forests, and small bridges shelter solo musicians who light up the sunny weekend afternoons with their tunes. It’s a bit far to walk to from the nearest station (about 20 minutes, in fact), so get ready to stretch your legs – or, rent a bike, if you’re a member of the Setagaya Ward Bike Rental community (Japanese site).
For something away from the crowds, this residential area in Setagaya might be just what you’re after. A breathtaking cherry blossom tunnel stretches for about one kilometer down an unnamed street, about halfway between Yoga Station and Kinuta Park. This is the place to go if you want to have the cherry blossoms almost all to yourself.
From Shibuya Station’s southernmost exit to Hiroo Park, a two-kilometer section of Meiji-Dori is lined with weeping cherries and somei yoshino cherries. Despite being one of the main roads in Tokyo, it’s a relatively quiet area. This is the place to go if you want to stroll leisurely beneath the cherry trees.
For more things to do in the area, check out our Ebisu area guide.
Image: Celia Knox
Rikugien is one of Tokyo’s most popular landscape gardens, having existed since the Edo Period. Giant weeping cherries are the main attraction in spring and are particularly beautiful in the evening when lit up. One of the older parks on the list, Rikugien has been a go-to park since 1695 in Tokyo. Its biggest draws are the evening illumination of the famed cherry blossom trees, from weeping sakura to “fluffy” hybrids. The still waters and ponds promise stunning reflections and mirror effects. Rikugien Park is a favorite for photographers, so expect lots of elbows and watchdogs guarding prime spots to take their own award-winning photos. If the illumination doesn’t do much for you, daytime is always much quieter.
Cemeteries and pretty pink flowers don’t seem like a match made in heaven, but Aoyama Cemetery proves otherwise. Situated somewhere between Akasaka and Roppongi, the beautiful site stretches over a few geographically and at a higher point, so you’ve got a view with your hanami, too. If you’re looking for a quiet stroll under the blossoms, there aren’t many quieter places in all of Tokyo.
The tranquil Koishikawa Korakuen transports you back to Edo Period when stroll gardens were reserved for the nobles. The garden also has Chinese influences including a reproduction of the Seiko Lake in China, a “Full Moon Bridge”. The name of the garden, Korakuen, was inspired from a Chinese text in Hachuen’s “Gakuyoroki”. Mitsukuni, the second clan leader of the Tokugawa family was encouraged to enjoy pleasure after using his power to help his people. Thus, the name “Korakuen” was chosen as it defines as “garden for enjoying pleasure later.” This is the place to go to see cherry blossoms from inside a tea house.
Often overlooked – despite the second largest park in all of Tokyo – Koganei Park is home to 1,700 sakura trees has and lots of space to roam around. With spots to grill BBQ safely, and plenty of bicycle-only tracks, this is one of the most vibrant and lively parks to explore. We recommend covering as much ground as possible – there is an open-air museum, shrines, temples, fountains, and lots of hidden groves to find peace, quiet, and something more than just a day at the park.
Packed with young families, Senzoku Pond is a vibrant place to hang out. Rowboats and paddle boats are available to rent, and a small festival offers Japanese street food. This is the place to go if you want to picnic by the water.
Inokashira Park in Mitaka is a beautiful location for sky-high cherry blossom trees, which tower over picnic areas nestled along the riverbanks of Inokashira Pond. A dreamy place for a date, hanami party or family outing, Inokashira Park has a great deal to offer visitors. The beloved Ghibli Museum is on the far southwest corner of the park, across the sports fields and play areas. Near the centre of the park is a small zoo, with delightful, rustic restaurants on the slopes just around the pond shrouded in bamboo. Rent small canoes or swan boats on the cheap in the afternoon, enjoy dinner outside on a restaurant veranda during sunset, and stick around for after-hours illumination.
For our complete area guide to Kichijoji, click here.