As you wander through Tokyo’s cherry blossom-populated parks, it feels as if the entire city is on vacation and picnicking here. Known as hanami (花見), or “flower-viewing”, these park picnics are a traditional Japanese custom that celebrates the fleeting beauty of the nation’s stunning sakura trees.
Some of the picnic set-ups you’ll come across are incredibly sophisticated, and you’ll see plenty of locals buzzing from the endlessly flowing cherry blossom-flavoured sake. These photographs are taken all over the city, from the Imperial Palace to the river of Nakameguro as well as the residential streets.
Chidorigafuchi, or the Imperial Moat, is located to the northwest of the Imperial Palace; 10 minutes’ walk from Hanzomon subway station, it is one of Tokyo’s most beautiful destinations. Make your way to this picturesque pocket of the city, where you can rent a boat and float underneath the clouds of overhanging blossom.
Head a little further north and you’ll come to Ueno Park, one of the city’s biggest parks and one of the most stunning in spring. Throughout spring and summer, there’s a non-stop party feel here, with rotating food stands and lots of weekend events going on.
Down south, close to Shibuya, is where you’ll find Nakameguro, a hip inner suburb that’s pretty laid-back most of the year, except when the famous cherry trees explode with blossoms. Then it feels as though the entire city has descended to marvel at the trees as they hang heavy over the canal under the weight of the flowers. Head to Nakameguro subway station and join the procession of people sipping pink sakura-themed champagne.
It’s not just the parks that are popular during this special time of year. The streets are literally filled with cherry blossoms, too. It’s said that there are many hundreds of different kinds of cherry blossoms in Japan, and visitors come from far and wide. 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, or they’ll be gone.
There is a name for when the petals begin to fall from the trees: 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.