Starting in the warmer south, sakura (cherry blossoms) spread in a wave across Japan, blooming and wilting in just a week. You have to be in the right place at just the right time to see them!
Sometime after winter, usually around March and April, frozen hills thaw and the countryside starts blooming colour as the warmth of spring ripples through the islands of Japan. It’s around this time that the people of Japan, and visitors from all over the world, start anticipating nature’s incredible annual travelling show; cherry blossoms.
We were lucky enough to see sakura in a few places on our two week journey through Japan, including in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Kyoto.
Celebrating sakura with hanami
As the spectacle invades the urban landscape, even city dwellers connect with nature for a moment to celebrate the cherry blossom, known as sakura. Cities and parks are suddenly full of lively parties dedicated to their national flower that symbolises both good fortune and the fragility of life.
Hanami literally translates to “flower viewing” and it is the centuries old Japanese custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers. In modern-day Japan, hanami consists of having an outdoor party beneath the sakura during daytime or when they are illuminated by lanterns at night.
Surprisingly, there are plenty of opportunities to spot the colourful blooms in Tokyo and we were able to experience the beauty of the cherry blossoms up close!
Where to see sakura (cherry blossoms) in Tokyo
It’s quite easy to find sakura in Tokyo since almost every park or green space will have them. And almost anywhere you go, there will be thousands of others there, also trying to take that perfect selfie!
According to the locals, the best spots in Tokyo for sakura (cherry blossom) sightings are:
- Yoyogi Park is a favourite destination for sakura sightings and can become quite busy with tourists during the sakura season.
- Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden (Admission: ¥200 / £1.25)
- Ueno Park towards the National Museum and around Shinobazu Pond. It can also get very busy here. The trees are illuminated for two weeks from late March to early April between 17:00 and 20:00.
- Chidorigafuchi in Kitanomaru Park near Kudanshita Station. You can also go rowing in the moat under the blooming trees! The trees are illuminated for one week from late March to early April between 18:30 and 22:00.
- Inokashira Park (currently under construction). On the other side of the park is Kichijoji, a bustling little hub with plenty of stuff to explore.
- The Meguro River in the Meguro area is lined with sakura trees. The area is also full of little cafes and hand-made craft shops. It is close to Yoyogi Park and can get very busy with tourists during sakura season.
- Zempukuji River
Read more recommendations and tips from our Journey through Japan
In March 2016, we went on an epic journey through Japan with thirteen of our friends. We experienced the amazing culture, ate some of the most incredible food and truly experience the best Japan has to offer. Here are all of my helpful tips to help you plan the perfect holiday in Japan:
Our two week itinerary (with tips and what we’d change)
25 photos that will inspire you to visit Japan
Culture Shock: reflections on my first day in Japan
Three days in Tokyo: a tantalising taste of Japan
The top ten things to do in Tokyo, Japan
Food in Japan: the best izakaya (Japanese pub) to drink and eat at in Tokyo
Food in Japan: where, what and how to eat in Japan
Journey through Japan: The Year of the (Japanese Snow) Monkey
How to onsen (enjoy hot springs) in Japan like a local
Journey through Japan: Snowboarding in the Japanese Alps (video)
Nature’s annual travelling show, cherry blossoms!
Journey through Japan: Two days in Kyoto
Journey through Japan: A day in Hiroshima
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