At the top of everyone’s “Japan Bucket List” is seeing cherry blossoms in the spring. Cherry trees grow from Okinawa to Hokkaido throughout different times of the year. In Tokyo, the height of the viewing season takes place roughly around late March and early April. During your travels, you’ll see many Japanese people sitting under sakura trees having picnics and parties called hanami.
As the biggest city in the world, picking out where you’ll go can feel overwhelming at first. Will you visit the most renowned locations with hundreds of thousands of blossoms? Or do you want to see areas that aren’t yet on the average tourist’s radar? Also, how can you combine seeing flowers with your other destinations?
To help you get started, here are our favorite places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo.
Ueno Park is the most popular spot to see cherry blossoms for locals and travelers. There are around 800 trees in total, most of which line a road between the Tokyo National Museum and Keisei Ueno Station. During the peak bloom, the branches stretch out from either side of the road and look like a tunnel of pink petals. If you plan on having a hanami party, get here as early as possible to reserve your area.
There are many points of interest in the park besides cherry blossoms. The park used to be part of a temple, and you can see remnants of it on Shinobazu Pond. Now, Ueno Park is home to several museums, including the National Museum of Western Art, and the National Museum of Nature and Science. Families might also enjoy a day at Ueno Zoo, where you can meet Xiang Xiang, a giant panda who was born in 2017.
Yoyogi Park has as nearly cherry blossoms as Ueno Park, but its easier to maneuver because of its expansive land. Yoyogi is over 100 acres wide, and there’s plenty of space for groups to lay out their blankets. The scope of its size attracts local clubs and hobbyists to meet for practice sessions every week. Particularly on warm Sunday afternoons, you’ll see dancers, drummers, models, and more.
The park is also home to Meiji Jingu, which enshrines the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. While here, you can pray at the Main Hall, see personal items of the Emperor and Empress at the Treasure Museum, and see cherry blossoms and other flowers in the garden. Meiji Jingu is also a prominent wedding venue, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot a bride and groom in traditional kimonos.
In the heart of the bustling Shinjuku neighborhood, it’s hard to believe that you could ever find a blade of grass, let alone a cherry blossom. Shinjuku Gyoen was once the imperial family’s private garden, but it opened to the public in 1949. There are over a thousand cherry trees of several varieties, so the viewing season lasts a little longer here than in other parts of Tokyo.
Shinjuku Gyoen closes in the early evening and requires an admission fee. You can buy tickets at automated terminals, but the lines to them can get a little long. Once inside, there are nearly 150 acres for you to explore, and you won’t notice the crowds anymore. Most of the cherry blossom trees grow between the Shinjuku and Okido Gates.
If you go to the Ghibli Museum during your tour of Tokyo, take some time to walk through the surrounding Inokashira Park. Around 500 cherry trees circle the large central pond. When their petals drop, they spread across the surface of the water in swirling formations. You can take in the scenery from the Nanai Bridge, or rent a swan-shaped paddleboat to get a closer look.
Inokashira Park is in the middle of the stylish Kichijoji neighborhood. Young Tokyoites love this part of the city for its trendy yet sophisticated shops and restaurants. During the peak bloom, groups of 20 and 30-somethings fight for the best viewing spots by the water to down cups of sake and beer.
For those who want to find the most photogenic cherry blossom areas, Meguro River is a big contender. About 800 trees bloom along a 3.8-kilometer stretch between the Kamenoko and Ikejiri Bridges. At night, aesthetically pleasing lanterns glow softly under the pink petals.
The iconic sight attracts couples on dates going for romantic strolls. There aren’t any places to sprawl out for a picnic, but several stalls selling food and drinks open up during the peak bloom. Among the most famous refreshments is sakura-flavored sparkling wine. There are also restaurants on either side of the river where you can dine and people-watch.
You can find Chidorigafuchi on the northwest side of the Imperial Palace. Around 1,000 cherry blossoms bloom along the ancient walls of the former Edo Castle. Here, you can walk down a 700-meter footpath enclosed in a tunnel of flowers, or rent a rowboat to paddle around on the moat. At night, multi-colored lights illuminate the blossoms.
In addition to being a beloved hanami area, Chidorigafuchi is a memorial site for casualties of World War II. The cemetery is the final resting place for 352,297 unidentified soldiers and civilians. Given its proximity to Yasukuni Jinja, it often gets lumped into debates about the controversial shrine, but the two sites serve separate purposes.
Rikugien Garden is a classic Japanese-style landscape garden. In Japanese, its name means “The Six Poems Garden,” and features 88 miniature reproductions of scenes from notable poems. It takes about an hour to explore all of the spacious grounds, which include a pond, hills, and a forested area.
The main attraction during the cherry blossom season is the weeping sakura tree. It measures 15 meters high and 20 meters wide and resembles a cascading waterfall when it reaches its full bloom. During this time, the park stays open late with an illumination festival.
Sensoji Temple and Tokyo SkyTree are two of the city’s most well-known sightseeing destinations. The easiest way to get to one from the other is to ride the subway under the Sumida River via Oshiage and Asakusa Stations. Before you board, stop by Sumida Park for a quick stroll through cherry blossoms.
Around 600 trees bloom on both sides of the Sumida River. With the towering SkyTree and Asahi Beer Headquarters in the background, it makes for an unforgettable sight. You can walk through this area, or board a yakatabune sightseeing cruise and enjoy a meal.
If it isn’t your first time in Tokyo or you want to go to a “local’s only” place, the suburbs also offer magnificent views. A thirty-minute journey from Ikebukuro Station takes you to Hikarigaoka Park in the Itabashi ward. The park used to be an airfield, and its outstretched lawns have plenty of room for a small hike or a picnic.
Although it’s a bit of a journey to make from the center of the city, you aren’t likely to run into other travelers. In general, the only attendees are residents of the area. On the weekend of the peak bloom, a large festival with food stalls and live music opens. However, on weekday afternoons, the park can be practically empty.
Another place that often gets left out of “Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms” blogs is Shakuji Park in Nerima. Along with Ueno Park, it is one of the largest public green spaces in Tokyo. The park contains two ponds for fishing and rowboats, the ruins of the Shakuji Castle, and a forest with excellent birdwatching.
North of here is the Shakuji Green River Road. Like Meguro River, cherry blossoms bloom on both sides of a bank. Compared to other areas in Tokyo, very few people come here, especially on weekdays. It’s the perfect place to take a 30-minute stroll and snap a few pictures.