A Guide to Hanami: The Best Cherry Blossom Spots in Tokyo 2020

Mar 06 2020
Mar 17 2020
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Notice:

Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus in 2020, requests for restraint in holding gatherings as well as the suspension of events have been increasing. Please check the official websites for the newest information before making plans.

Japan has four distinct seasons, but spring is truly the best time to visit. It’s the most comfortable season, with perfect temperature and humidity. Above all, spring has Japan’s biggest attraction: cherry blossoms, called sakura in Japanese. Cherry blossom viewing, or hanami, is one of the best things to do in spring. Enjoying picnics under the cherry blossom trees or visiting cherry blossom festivals and nighttime light-ups are common ways to admire the beauty of sakura. However, cherry blossoms are very frail; they only bloom for one or two weeks a year, and full bloom generally lasts for only about a week. The sakura start to bloom in the south first, reaching the north in March and April. During this time, many people pay attention to the“blossom forecast,” which tells you when the best time to view the blossoms will be. In Tokyo 2020, so far the blossoms are predicted to start blooming around March 16th and be in full bloom around March 24th. This article will serve as a guide to hanami and some of our recommendations for spots in Tokyo. Read on to find a hanami spot that will make you go “WOW”!

Hanami Picnics

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How and where do people do hanami? The most common way is to have a picnic outside with a view of cherry blossoms. Japan has plenty of places where you can enjoy cherry blossoms, but parks and riverbanks are the best for hanami. Usually, there are lines of cherry blossom trees, and most places allow picnics. People enjoy hanami with family, friends, and even colleagues. Sometimes, hanami can be a huge party with a lot of members. However, since it’s a popular thing to do in Japan, many places get pretty crowded, especially on weekends. Because of this, some people head out early in the morning or even the night before they plan to picnic in order to save the ideal viewing location. It’s also important to check about the location of any restrooms near the spot you choose and be aware there tend to be long lines during hanami season.

Where do we get everything we need for hanami?

Food and drinks

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In Japan, it’s legal to drink alcohol outside unless the location specifically prohibits it. In fact, having drinks is often an important element of hanami. People get food and drinks from convenience stores and supermarkets, usually on their way to the hanami location. Particularly in Tokyo, take out food such as Uber Eats or catering is also a option. Some hanami spots have food stalls set up nearby as well. Traditionally, Japanese people like to do potluck-style picnics. They bring homemade bento lunch boxes, sometimes even “character bento,” which are special lunch boxes with food arranged to look like popular characters. This is usually done for children’s school lunches, but if you bring it to hanami, it will surely catch people’s attention! If you’re curious about how to make character bento, click here.

Tour
[Tokyo ・ Yotsuya] Character Lunch Box Cooking

What else should we prepare?

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To have the perfect hanami, there are a few more items you should prepare, such as a picnic sheet, wet tissues, paper plates and cups, cutlery, and garbage bags. You can find these items easily at 100 yen shops, Don Quijote, and supermarkets. During this season, shops usually create special pop up corners for hanami items. Depending on the weather, bringing a small blanket might be a good idea too, since it can be a bit chilly in spring, especially when the sun goes down. As mentioned above, trying to save a good spot for hanami can be quite competitive, especially in Tokyo. However, there are companies that offer a service that will save spots for you. If you don’t want to get up early but you do want to get the best view of sakura, make sure to check it out!

The Best Hanami Spots in Tokyo

Ueno Koen Park

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Crowd level Amount of trees Nighttime Light-Ups
Very crowded aprx.710 Yes

Ueno Koen Park is one of the most famous parks in Tokyo. It’s known for having museums, shrines, and the Ueno Zoo all within the grounds.

Notice

Ueno Koen Park (2020): During the hanami period, visitors are asked to refrain from using the park as an area to gather in groups to sit, have picnics, eat, and drink. Additionally, the use of seats on Sakura Street will be restricted until further notice.

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Ueno Koen Park Tokyo City

Yoyogi Koen Park

Crowd level Amount of trees Nighttime Light-Ups
Crowded aprx. 600 No

This is the most popular park in Tokyo for both tourists and residents. Throughout the year, people enjoy picnics, jogging, walking their dogs, or special events that are held almost every weekend.

Notice

Yoyogi Koen Park (2020): In order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), visitors are asked to refrain from holding picnics that involve eating and drinking at the park.

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Yoyogi Koen Park Tokyo City

Inokashira Koen Park

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Crowd level Amount of trees Nighttime Light-Ups
A bit crowded aprx. 400 Yes

This park is located near Kichijoji Station, which is a popular shopping area in western Tokyo. There is also a large pond where you can enjoy a special view of cherry blossoms from a paddling boat.

Notice

Inokashira Koen Park (2020): The park is expected to be crowded during the cherry blossom season, so in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) visitors are asked to refrain from holding picnics that involve eating and drinking at the park. Furthermore, when taking walks through the park, visitors are asked to consistently practice good manners when coughing in order to keep the spread of infectious diseases under control.

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Inokashira Koen Park Outskirts of Tokyo City

Shinjuku Gyoen Park

Crowd level Amount of trees Nighttime Light-Ups
Crowded aprx. 1,100 Yes

Shinjuku Gyoen Park used to be an Imperial Garden in Tokyo, but after World War II it was opened to the public. You can enjoy Japanese, English, and French styles of designed gardens. There is one thing to note, however: visitors are not allowed to drink alcohol here.

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Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Tokyo City

Showa Memorial Park

showa_memorial_park

Crowd level Amount of trees Nighttime Light-Ups
A bit crowded aprx. 1,500 Canceled (2020)

This huge park (160 square meters) boasts both natural spaces and museums. It was opened to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Showa Emperor’s reign in 1983. It’s known to have a variety of flowers in each season. Here, you’ll find lovely spring flowers in addition to the cherry blossoms.

Notice

Showa Memorial Park (2020): Due to the large crowds that gather in the park during the cherry blossom season, in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) visitors are asked to refrain from holding picnics that involve eating and drinking at the park. Furthermore, at the barbecue garden, usage will be directed at intervals to ensure that there is sufficient distance between each group. When taking walks through the park, visitors are asked to consistently practice good manners when coughing in order to keep the spread of infectious diseases under control. Additionally, the Night Blossom Walk (gardens open at night during the blooming season) as well as the Night Blossom Fireworks Launch events that were planned to take place during the Flower Festival of the cherry blossom season have been suspended.

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Showa Memorial Park Outskirts of Tokyo City

Cherry Blossom Festivals and Nighttime Light-Ups

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Cherry blossom festivals are called sakura matsuri in Japanese, and are usually held at or nearby famous hanami spots. At sakura matsuri, people can enjoy delicious food and drinks with amazing views of cherry blossoms. Even at night, the fun doesn't stop with a different attraction known as yozakura. It literally means “night cherry blossoms” and refers to viewing cherry blossoms lit up in the dark. It is a breathtakingly beautiful view absolutely worth experiencing firsthand.

Top Sakura Matsuri and Light-Up Events in Tokyo

Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival

Crowd level Amount of trees Nighttime Light-Ups
Very crowded aprx. 800 Canceled (2020)

This is one of the most famous sakura matsuri in Tokyo. There are some iconic bridges that cross the Meguro River, and if you stand on one, you’ll feel as if you are in a tunnel of cherry blossoms. Lining the Meguro River, you’ll also find plenty of food stalls.

Notice

Nakameguro Town (2020): Due to the novel coronavirus, this year's Cherry Blossom Festival has been suspended. The Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Light-Ups (3/20 ~ 4/10, 5:00 p.m. ~ 8:30 p.m., held on both banks of the Meguro River between the Saikachibashi Bridge and the Nambubashi Bridge) have also been suspended.

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Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival

Rikugien Garden Shidare-zakura and Daimyo Teien Park Light-Ups

Crowd level Amount of trees Nighttime Light-Ups
Crowded aprx.40 Yes

Rikugien Garden is considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Tokyo. It’s popular all year round for its traditional Japanese landscapes. The highlight during hanami season is a shidare-zakura, or weeping cherry tree. The daimyo teien garden inside has great light-ups at night as well.

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Rikugien Garden Shidare-zakura and Daimyo Teien Park Light-Ups

Chiyoda City Cherry Blossom Festival

Crowd level Amount of trees Nighttime Light-Ups
Crowded aprx. 260 Canceled (2020)

This festival is held at Chidorigafuchi Park, which is known for its photogenic moat around the Imperial Palace. Even at night, you can rent boats and take a ride under cherry blossoms.

Notice

Chiyoda City (2020): Due to the current spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in order to preserve the health and safety of both guests and staff, the Chiyoda City Cherry Blossom Festival has been suspended. This decision was reached through discussions between the Chiyoda Ward and Chiyoda Ward Tourism Association.

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Chiyoda City Cherry Blossom Festival

Sumida Koen Park Cherry Blossom Festival

Crowd level Amount of trees Nighttime Light-Ups
Crowded aprx. 510 Yes

Along the Sumida River, there’s a one-kilometer-long line of cherry trees. Visitors can enjoy special events with food stalls and drinks all day long. At night, you’ll see beautiful, illuminated cherry blossoms with the Sumida River and Tokyo Skytree in the background.

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Sumida Koen Park Cherry Blossom Festival

Enjoy hanami even more with the convenience of LFT If you use a service called Luggage-Free Travel (LFT), hanami can be done so much more easily! You won’t need to carry anything with you, just go and enjoy. For further information, check the article below.

Reference: https://www.tokyo-park.or.jp/special/cherry

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