I’ve been making a list of the best cherry blossom spots to see this year ever since the 2020 forecast was published. There are many places to see the famous white and pink flowers in the capital, from family-friendly Shinjuku Gyoen to stylish Nakameguro, so much that you wouldn’t really need to go anywhere to see all the kinds of sakura you can dream of. Sticking to Tokyo favorites, however, might take away your chance for a spontaneous weekend getaway or even a quick day trip to one of the neighboring areas for even more cherry blossom fun.
Just north of Tokyo, Saitama Prefecture offers a little bit of everything. With some pops of history here and there, and comfortable cafés that would make any bookworm happy. Granted, you might need a car (or a camper van) to go to the more secluded places, but there’s still plenty of beautiful spots to see within a train station’s distance. Be prepared to be spoiled with choice. Nagatoro, Chichibu and Kawagoe are all great choices with different atmospheres. You’ll also have the option to add a few cultural activities to your schedule.
Northern Tokyoites might enjoy this close-to-home destination for a special hanami. Close enough to make it in a comfortable train ride but far enough that it feels like a holiday, Utsunomiya is a neglected part of Japan. If your goal is to really take it slow, there’s no better place. Plus, if you don’t mind ditching the traditional hanami bento, dig into the town’s specialty: gyoza. Utsunomiya also has an interesting mining history, which could appeal to those in for a little extra exploring.
Located south of downtown Tokyo, Yokohama is a residential city, yes, but it’s also home to a few good rows of sakura trees. Head to the Minato Mirai area to soak in the ocean breeze while you dig into your hanami picnic, or stroll along Sakura Dori. If you’re looking to sit down and soak in the spring weather, Yamashita Park is another popular spot. The cherry blossoms against the blue of the sky and the water make for a magical experience. Alternatively, head to Sankeien for a little quiet retreat. While you can’t camp out, you can sit by the pond and meditate while sipping some warm tea and munching on traditional Japanese sweets.
What could make this year’s hanami better? A little hike to build up the hype. Particularly popular with outdoor enthusiasts, Mount Takao is a must-visit during the warmer months, but many often forget that the trails blush during the spring. If you’re not keen to sit and drink, then why not make your week’s workout into an adventure with a chest of blooming sakura at the end of the trail?
For more activities, read our Mount Takao guide.
Kamakura is a popular destination year-round, and cherry blossom season is no exception. Whether it’s your first time to the historical city or whether you’re going back for more, be certain that you’ll find some sakura trees in bloom waiting for you. From museums to bamboo forests, the town offers a lot of in and outdoor excursions. For more day-tripping ideas, check out this guide to Kamakura.
Odawara is an underrated favorite. Hop on the Keihin-Tohoku Line or the Tokkaido Line for a direct trip to this coastal town. For the ultimate Japanese hanami experience, head for Odawara Castle. At the base, is a well-known sakura paradise with the bright walls rising tall above the blossoming trees. Before (or after) your hanami, there are many equally beautiful locations to check out around, only a short walk away. Alternatively, stay on the castle grounds to pay a visit to the adjoined shrine or chill with a cup of iced tea at a neighboring cafe. For more Odawara recommendations, check out our guide here.