As you wander through Tokyo’s cherry blossom-populated parks, it feels like the entire city is on vacation. Known as hanami (花見), or “flower-viewing” in English, these special park picnics are a traditional Japanese custom, one that celebrates the momentary beauty of the nation’s stunning sakura trees.
Picnic set-ups are more advanced than any camp sites you’ve ever seen, and plenty of locals are already buzzing from cherry blossom-flavored sake that’s endlessly flowing.
From the Imperial Palace, to the river of Nakameguro and the residential streets that come together to create the central nervous system of the city, here are a few photos of some of Tokyo’s best and most popular cherry blossom spots in peak bloom.
Around Chidorigafuchi, also known as the Imperial Moat, is one of the city’s most iconic destinations. Both guests and locals make their way to the picturesque pocket of the city to rent a boat and float underneath the clouds of overhanging blossoms. The moat is located at the northwest of the Imperial Palace, and is just a ten-minute walk from Hanzomon Station subway.
Heading a little further north is where you’ll find Ueno Park, one of the city’s biggest parks and definitely one of the most stunning in spring. Throughout spring and summer, this park feels like a non-stop neighbourhood party, home to rotating food stands and weekend events during these warmer months.
Down south, close to Shibuya is where you’ll find Nakameguro, a hip little inner suburb that’s pretty laid-back most of the year, except for these first few weeks of April. As the area’s famous cherry trees explode with blossoms, it feels as though the entire city has swarmed to the neighbourhood to marvel at the trees as they hang over the canal, heavy underneath the weight of the flowers. Head to Nakameguro Station on the subway, and join the procession of punters sipping pink sakura-themed Champagne.
Although those parks may be some of the most popular, during this special time of year the streets are literally filled with cherry blossoms. It’s said that there are hundreds and hundreds of different kinds of cherry blossoms existing in Japan, which attract locals and travellers from far, far away. Each year it can be a little different, but generally the best time to enjoy the flowers is five to seven days after the first blooming – but be quick, as around seven days after that they’ll be gone.
There is a name for when the petals begin to fall from the trees. It’s hazakura (葉桜). As the wind pushes through the streets, sweeping up the petals from the ground and shaking them from their branches, admiring the beauty of hazakura is an integral part of appreciating the beauty of spring.