The Secret to Seeing the Cherry Blossoms in Japan
Sponsored by JTB Corp., Panasonic Corp. and Yamato Transport Co., Ltd
Have you ever decided to visit Japan in order to enjoy the unique characteristics of a particular season, such as colorful leaves in autumn, snow in winter, or cherry blossoms in spring, only to arrive and find out that you missed the best time to see them? There are a variety of events held in Japan in each of the four seasons, and 12.3% of tourists visit Japan in anticipation of such events (source: 2018 Japan Tourism Agency annual report on spending trends of foreign tourists visiting Japan). Among the seasonal events, the upcoming blooming of cherry blossoms, representative of spring, is a popular time for both Japanese people and visitors from overseas. The blooming period for the blossoms, however, is very short, and it is difficult even for those living in Japan to predict the best time to view them. Considering that even locals have a hard time getting the timing right, tourists find it next to impossible to plan their trip for just the right time. When you visit, of course you want to prepare as much as possible, but if the day you arrive ends up being the best time to view the cherry blossoms, wouldn’t you want to head out to see them right away? So, why not leave your large luggage at the airport and set straight out? There is a service that will ensure that your bags, even ones that have items you need for the day or a change of clothes in them, are delivered directly to your hotel within the same day.
This service that allows you to deposit your bags so that you can visit places without carrying them around is called LUGGAGE-FREE TRAVEL. In this article you’ll find coupons to use LUGGAGE-FREE TRAVEL at a discount as well as introductions to a few cherry blossom spots that you can’t miss if you’re traveling to Japan this spring, so be sure to read all the way to the end.
An Unmissable Spring Event: Admiring the Cherry Blossoms Through Hanami
In Japanese, hanami refers to viewing cherry blossoms (hana = flower, mi = to see). Even though cherry blossoms are just one variety of flower, they have a special significance in Japanese culture, and it has become customary to practice hanami when the cherry blossoms are blooming in spring. Hanami usually involves meeting up with friends or family and eating and drinking together while admiring the cherry blossoms. There are a multitude of ways to enjoy hanami, such as sitting under a tree of the pink flowers in a park and having a chat, trying different foods from stalls set up along streets lined with cherry trees, or gazing out at the blossoms while on a leisure cruise. Popular hanami spots are scattered all over Japan, and people striving to save a picnic spot by laying out tarps is a distinctive sight of the hanami season.
Why It’s Difficult to Find the Best Time to See Cherry Blossoms
The period when the cherry blossoms bloom is actually quite short: less than two weeks. Even within that time frame, it is extremely difficult to predict when the flowers will be in full bloom and the weather clear. Late March to early April, when the cherry blossoms usually bloom, is called “haru ichiban.” This period is usually characteristic of strong winds, which can potentially scatter the petals, as well as rain that causes the flowers to wilt. Additionally, if the winter cold persists longer than usual, the period when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom can shift. Even for those living in Japan, predicting the best time to go see the cherry blossoms is a difficult task.
Seeing the Blossoms ASAP and the Luggage Barrier That Stands in the Way
So that you don't miss out on seeing the beautiful blossoms that are only around for such a short time, if you get the feeling that it’s the best time you should head out right away!
Example 1: If the day you arrive in Japan is the best time to view them.
In this case, the best idea is probably to head directly to the spot you're interested in. If you take the extra time to go to your hotel to drop off your bags first, you might end up having to go far out of your way.
Example 2: If you also have plans to travel to another city, such as going from Tokyo to Osaka.
If the day you are traveling is clear with little wind, you might be able to see some cherry blossoms before getting on the bullet train or airplane. However, checkout times for hotels are usually in the morning, so even if you can leave your bags at your hotel, you will have to come back for them later.
In either case, it is unreasonable to visit a hanami spot while carrying around heavy suitcases. Also, hanami spots and the train stations near them are crowded every year with people wanting to view the blossoms, so hauling around large bags will waste a lot of your strength. It is also likely that any coin-operated lockers at the station will be taken.
For reference, when it comes to just how popular hanami is, Ueno Koen Park gets the biggest crowds, with 3.58 million people coming to view the cherry blossoms over a period of about three weeks. There are a variety of other places that also draw large crowds, too: Hirosaki Koen Park (Aomori) with 2 million people, Takada Koen Park (Niigata) with 1.3 million people, and Kakunodate (Akita) with 1.28 million people.
Once you have arrived in Japan and have found out about hanami, perhaps you’ll want to go see the cherry blossoms right away. At times like that, you can send your bags directly to your destination so you can go straight to a hanami spot without carrying anything with you. If you use LUGGAGE-FREE TRAVEL, you can make a reservation online in advance, at which time you’ll be issued a QR code. Using this QR code, you can easily drop off and retrieve your luggage at the airport or hotel you’re staying at. Click below for an introductory article about LUGGAGE-FREE TRAVEL.
What Is LUGGAGE-FREE TRAVEL?
Hanami Spots You Can’t Miss
Check out some of these popular cherry blossoms spots in Tokyo!
#1. Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival
The Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival is one of the most popular hanami spot in Tokyo, boasting pink blossoms of around 800 Yoshino cherry trees that line the Meguro River. The festival bustles with people admiring the flowers while enjoying food and drink at restaurants and food stalls. The pink of the popular strawberry champagne and flowers make for beautiful, Insta-worthy photos.
Annual number of attendees: about 3 million people.
Reviews by tourists from overseas
- It’s great to eat at Hashidaya (a store specializing in chicken dishes, stone-baked & hotpot), located along Meguro River, while admiring the cherry blossoms from the second floor. (Malaysia, 23)
- Looks good to stand on the bridge to take a fantastic photo where the cherry blossoms on both sides of the river cover the sky. (China, 22)
- As for restaurants, I recommend Paris Shokudo. It’s French restaurant that has bistro-style dishes plus wine. Make sure you get terrace seating; that way you can enjoy your meal and a gorgeous view of the cherry blossoms. (America, 22)
Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival
#2. Chiyoda City Cherry Blossom Festival
This festival boasts approximately 260 Yoshino and Oshima cherry trees along a 700-meter-long promenade, creating a tunnel of blossoms to walk through. Another unique feature of this festival is the evening blossom illuminations that can be viewed from a boat.
Annual number of attendees: about 1.3 million people.
Reviews by tourists from overseas
- Photos look great during the day if you take a boat down the river through all the cherry blossom trees, and you can get an even better view of the castle by boat too, so you can see more than one attraction. You can hire the boats during the day and into the night, so both options of viewing are covered. I like that you get to self-row the boat. It's something unique you would only get to experience here. (Australia, 24)
- With the opportunity to experience nighttime viewing of 200 cherry blossom trees from the water, the festival’s location at Chidori-ga-fuchi Park makes it possible to also visit the National Showa Memorial Museum, Jimbocho, and stroll around the Imperial Palace’s East Gardens. (Malaysia, 23)
Chiyoda City Cherry Blossom Festival
#3. Rikugien Garden Shidare-zakura and Daimyo Teien Park Light-Ups
At Rikugien Garden, the shidare-zakura (weeping cherry tree) and daimyo teien park light-ups are held each year. Rikugien Garden is one of Japan’s daimyo teien parks, and the shidare-zakura here is one of its unique characteristics, boasting 15 meters in height and a branch spread of about 20 meters. While the more common Yoshino cherry trees come to full bloom in April, the shidare-zakura here bloom earlier, the best time to see the blossoms being late March. After viewing the cherry blossoms, the garden is a great place to relax with a set of tea and Japanese sweets.
Annual number of attendees: about 200,000 people.
Reviews by tourists from overseas
- Tokyo Skytree can be seen from this place. Photos of Skytree surrounded by cherry blossoms can be taken here. (China, 22)
- This seems like a great mix of viewing the cherry blossoms while having the city of Tokyo as a backdrop as you can see the Tokyo Skytree from the river. On the river there are lots of motorized cruise boats which you can book for a dinner experience, however it’s a wide river so it looks a bit touristy compared to other more intimate cherry blossom locations. (Australia, 24)
Rikugien Garden Shidare-zakura and Daimyo Teien Park Light-Ups
What did you think? Each spot has its own unique traits, so you can find a variety of ways to enjoy yourself. If you’re thinking about traveling to Japan between March and April, these places are definitely worth taking a look.
Even while you’re trying to take refuge from the crowds and predict the best time to see the cherry blossoms, we want you to be able to enjoy hanami in Japan free of stress. By using LUGGAGE-FREE TRAVEL, you won’t have to waste your strength on carrying bags or your time searching for the coin-operated locker you left them in, nor will you have to worry about forgetting to pick up your things. You can also rest assured that your luggage is in good hands: LUGGAGE-FREE TRAVEL is managed by JTB, Panasonic, and Yamato Transport, three leading companies in Japan.
Don’t miss the chance to fully enjoy the beauty of cherry blossoms in full bloom!
Please click here for more information about the best cherry blossom spots in Tokyo.
A Guide to Hanami: The Best Cherry Blossom Spots in Tokyo 2020
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