Despite Tokyo’s reputation as a concrete jungle, the city has a number of parks and green pockets, many of which host sacred cherry trees perfect for picnics and viewing parties. Here’s a selection of some of the city’s best spots for hanami (cherry blossom viewing).
Running along the Imperial Palace’s moat, these sakura trees can be seen from the walkways and bridges, but if you want to get up close and personal, there are rental boats. The Imperial Gardens are another great spot to check out while in the area, featuring a koi pond, lush greenery and a waterfall. Best of all, it’s completely free to walk around the moat.
Yoyogi Park — a prime spot for celebrating sakura blossoms — is not necessarily the place to go for tea-sipping reflective types but more for those looking to party down on their blue tarps. Be forewarned if you are planning to meet friends inside the park: The high volume of park-goers during hanami-season weekends often makes mobile-phone reception an issue. And the number of toilets is limited. Also, be sure to load up on party supplies before you enter the park because nearby options are limited. Amazingly, Domino’s Pizza does make deliveries.
Ueno Park has long been a traditional favorite and, therefore, one of the more crowded areas during the season. The park’s sakura trees line the main walking path and create a beautiful pink archway. During winter, pink lights create artificial blooms, but in April the real flowers are illuminated.
Anime lovers may already be familiar with this park, as the Ghibli Museum can be found on the other side of the park. Inokashira Park is famous for its swan boats and a shrine with walkways hovering over the water, giving visitors a lot of great photo opportunities. With its large pond and high volume of trees, there isn’t a lot of physical space for sit-down parties so make sure to show up early in the day to claim your party spot.
Many visitors may only think of Shinjuku as a place to shop and eat, but there’s one giant serene spot right in its center. Shinjuku Gyoen’s gardens stretch from Shinjuku to Setagaya, and holds 1,500 sakura trees from many different species. Note, the park rules are strict and alcohol is forbidden on the premises. They even search bags at the entrance so be forewarned. This is perfect for families and those wishing to just relax beneath the trees. As for those who cannot view sakura without drinking, there are plenty of bars and pubs in the surrounding area.
Megurogawa is a winding river not too far from Shibuya Station. Though normally a plain view of buildings lining the water, the canal comes alive during springtime and attracts many tourists due to its rows of sakura. The trees are lit up at night and the twinkling colors are reflected onto the water, creating a fantastic view. It can become extremely crowded after sundown, so be sure to arrive early for optimal viewing. Picnic space is at a premium, but local bars/restaurants, plus temporary food and drink stalls, are plentiful.
For people who want a more untraditional hanami spot, Aoyama Cemetery is a prime spot. It is not as crowded as other locations, and the stroll along a stone ladened path is beautiful. Although drinking parties were permitted in the past, hanami picnics have been forbidden in recent years. The graves of many important people can be found in Aoyama Bochi, including one for the famous loyal dog Hachiko.
This quiet garden near Ikebukuro boasts an impressive tall shidarezakura (weeping cherry tree) that blooms much earlier than other sakura varieties. For a few weeks, the willow and its surrounding trees are illuminated when in bloom, creating a magical display.
About an hour from Shinjuku Station, Mount Takao boasts three different trails to the top, mountain monkeys and a shrine. The senbonzakura route (1,000 cherry blossoms) is breathtaking, especially when the petals start to fall. And if you’re running behind schedule, do not fret, as the flowers tend to bloom a bit later than the rest of Tokyo.
Compiled by Samantha Cubbison