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In Japanese culture, appreciating the cherry blossom is extremely important, and in Japanese it is traditionally referred to as hanami, an activity that originates more than 1,000 years ago. Nowadays, people still love to hang out under the blooming cherry trees to have a picnic and appreciate their transient beauty.
Tokyo is one of the best places in Japan to admire the cherry blossom. The many parks, like Yogogi and Ueno, house hundreds and hundreds of cherry trees, and you can have fun with your loved ones by strolling around and spreading your picnic blanket. Or, if you prefer, you can visit the canals, lined with trees, or visit one of the nearby mountains to fully immerse yourself in nature.
Keep reading our short article and learn more about hanami in Tokyo!
For Japanese people, sakura flowers are deeply symbolic; they embody their most deep-rooted philosophical beliefs. Tokyo represents an excellent starting point. The city is full of locations that are ideal for picnics, where you will find clusters of cherry trees, planted for choreographic effect.
Some of the highlights are, for example, the Ueno Park, one of Japan’s oldest parks, which houses more than one thousand cherry trees. If you like something different, head to Nakameguro and its canal lined with cherry trees. At night, the trees will be lit up by lanterns, and the view is truly unique.
People enjoy the cherry blossom by having picnics under the trees, going to concerts held inside the parks, strolling around the city, and eating all the street food they can find. This is a wonderful opportunity to taste some amazing dishes like okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and the like.
Usually, you can expect to see the bloom in Tokyo around the end of March and the beginning of April. On average, the bloom starts on 25th March and is at its peak on 2nd April. Of course, this doesn’t happen every year – the cherries can open a week earlier or later. So, if you want to be sure not to miss the bloom, you should stay in Tokyo from 25 March to 10 April.
If you are lucky enough, all the cherry blossom will open at the same time, giving you a unique and unforgettable view. However, this is rare, as usually there is big variation between trees.
Hanami, in Japanese means “flower viewing”, and it represent the core of this celebration. The theory behind it is extremely simple: Just enjoy the view of the pink flowers. You can simply stroll in a park, but the traditional way is to have a picnic under a cherry tree. People usually try to reserve the best spots by spreading their picnic mat early in the morning.
As everything else, also hanami has its etiquette to follow. Respect, as usual, is the key. Be sure to have a picnic in an authorized place and, when you place your blanket, keep it away from the roots. Be considerate, take your space according to how many you are. If you want to use a fire to cook something, be sure you are allowed to.
Treat the tree with respect, and never ever pluck a branch or a flower; they are meant for everyone to enjoy. Keep everything clean, leave no trace. Avoid being too loud and respect other people’s space.
Tokyo is not short of places to enjoy the view of the blooming trees. Inside the city you will find tons of parks. They are perfect for a picnic under the trees, and most of them have thousands of trees and an incredible variety of different cherry blossoms.
If you want to try something different, get out of Tokyo and reach Mount Takao, a sacred mountain, popular especially during this period of the year.
Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the most famous parks in Tokyo, and it attracts crowds to do hanami, especially families. However, it is very big, and it costs 200 yen to enter, so it can be actually less crowded than other places. Just remember that the park closes at 4:30 pm.
Ueno Park is one of the oldest parks in Japan, and it has been renowned as a cherry blossom-viewing destination since the Edo period (17th century). It is considered by many to be the best area to enjoy the blossoms in the capital city. At night, the park will be lit up by 1,300 paper lanterns.
The park occupies both sides of the river with the same name. The surface of the river will be colored with cherry blossoms in a band that is a kilometer long. Riding a boat on the river is an amazing way to enjoy the elegant view of the trees along the riverside.
Yogogi Park is in the middle of the city, surrounded by buildings and shops, but it is still a perfect place where you can relax and do hanami. You will find many different varieties of cherry blossoms, and some of them bud as early as February.
This is another extremely old cherry blossom-viewing spot. It has hundreds and hundreds of cherry trees, dating back to the 18th century. It is especially popular for picnics and for night viewing, when tons of lanterns brighten the trees.
Chidorigafuchi is one of the most important cherry blossom sites of the capital. You will find it between Chidorigafuchi and the British Embassy, and it houses more than 170 different types of cherry trees. The paths will be lit up, and it is also possible to have a cruise on the moat.
There are more than 800 cherry trees along the Meguro River and, at night, they are lit up as part of the Nakameguro Sakura Festival. The river is like an urban canal, beautifully aligned by trees. It is the perfect place for a quiet walk, and there are dozens of cafes, shops, and restaurants.
If you want to get out of Tokyo, Mount Takao is the place to go. It is only one hour away and extremely popular among both, locals and tourists. It is considered a sacred mountain, and many people go there to visit shrines as well.
More and more people start appreciating the cherry blossom, and this is why it can be considered the peak of the tourist season in Japan. All the prices, especially the prices of guided tours and private transportation, will increase by 30-50%. Hotels will be more expensive, and it can also be pretty hard to find a room. It therefore is crucial to book in advance.
It is also important to book train tickets to move around the country in advance, as all the locals will be traveling during that period. And, of course, everywhere it will be crowded, especially in the spots listed above. Therefore, it is a good idea to think about where you want to do hanami and to reserve your spot as early as possible.
Another piece of advice: Just look at the crowds as a vital and joyful part of the festival; this will greatly improve your overall experience.
Admiring the cherry blossom is a unique activity that basically only Japan offers. We know you cannot wait any longer and want to get on a plane to reach Japan just on time to see the first trees bloom. Asia Highlights can help you! Our knowledgeable staff will plan the perfect trip for you and your family, and you will only have to worry about where to place your picnic blanket!
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