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Innsyoutei: Where to wander for a springtime sakura snack

by Robbie Swinnerton

The pink mist descends and sakura fever sets in. Resistance is futile: Get out there under the petals, gaze, imbibe, revel and cavort. And then, as the evening chill sets in — as it inevitably does at this time of year — adjourn for dinner. Here are a few places close to key hanami (blossom-viewing) areas.

In Ueno Park, the hanami is hard-core. But that just makes it more of a pleasure to step out of the riotous hubbub and into the genteel, old-style calm of Innsyoutei. Slap in the center of the park, this venerable eatery looks like it’s been there for centuries. In fact it was refurbished less than a decade ago, and now serves classy sukiyaki and meals of classic multi-course kaiseki cuisine. While the blossoms are out, Innsyoutei (it’s pronounced “In-sho-tay”) also serves special seasonal bentō-style meals in tiered boxes that are elegant and exquisite.

The banks of the Meguro-gawa creek as it threads through Naka-Meguro offer some of the most scenic blossom in town. There’s no flat space to sit down, so you stroll rather than sprawl. There are plenty of street stalls covering a gamut of Japanese, Western and Asian snacks. Better yet, though, is dinner at Hashidaya (pictured), with its great location giving views of the petals from its second-floor window. The focus here is on chicken: teppanyaki, yakitori, great tebasaki wings and even nabe hot-pots, in case it gets really chilly.

Out in Kichijoji, Kin-no-Saru boasts a perfect location, right by the entrance to Inokashira Park and with views of the trees from its wonderful open-air terrace. There’s plenty of inventive modern Japanese food to go with the smart, contemporary-casual decor, and good sake to help it all down. Be warned, though: It’s a popular spot and reservations are at a premium on weekends.

Innsyoutei: 4-59 Ueno-Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3821-8126; www.innsyoutei.jp. Hashidaya: 1-15-8 Kami-Meguro, Meguro-ku; (03) 6278-8248; www.hashidaya.com. Kin-no-Saru: Inokashira Parkside Bldg., 1-21-1 Minami-cho, Kichijoji, Musashino-shi; (0422) 72-8757; www.sometime.co.jp/kinsaru.