When planning your trip to Japan, you will find that every single guidebook you open – sometimes you don’t even have to open it – features pictures of cherry blossoms. Also, every seasoned Japan traveller will insist that you should come to Japan in spring –well, and if spring is not possible that you should at least come in fall. Why is that?
Japan has four distinct seasons. In Tokyo we have fairly mild weather in spring, a hot and humid summer that arrives after a short rainy season, a fabulously colorful fall and a sunny winter accompanied by a clear blue sky. Since the Japanese school and work years start in April, spring is also the season when many Japanese leave their hometowns to start a new life, when they meet new people and make new friends. Excitement everywhere!
At the same time, spring is also the season when cherry trees all over the country start to bloom. National TV news informs you of the “Cherry blossom front” (sakura zensen), i.e. when to expect the cherry blossoms (sakura) in full bloom in your city. Sakura start blooming in the warmer south, making their way up north.
In Tokyo, the sakura season starts at the end of March lasting until the second week of April. In this short period of time, you will see hundreds of people taking pictures of their friends and family in front of cherry trees. First year students, new employees, complete firms, families and couples come together to celebrate the start of the new (work) year.
A lunch picnic under the cherry trees
If you like, you can easily make you own picnic. In Japan, we enjoy picnics with any number of people on big blue or green plastic sheets right under the trees. These so-called “hanami” picnics are part of Japanese culture and you should definitely have a look at them at Shiba Park (Shiba Koen, a park close to Tokyo Tower). If the hanami goers realize that you are a tourist, chances are high, that someone will offer you a drink or something to eat.
A great and little known spot is the Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden near to JR Hamamatsucho station. For a “proper” Hanami, I recommend you bring your own lunch box (o-bento) and non-alcohol drinks – available at any convenient store or a close-by 24h supermarket. The garden is not as crowded as other Tokyo locations and there are even benches under the cherry trees. All you need to do is look up and enjoy those wonderful fluffy clouds made of white and pink blossoms.
Even at night…
When it gets dark outside, it is time to head to Roppongi. At Tokyo Midtown (a building that houses not only the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo Hotel and many companies but also restaurants, the Suntory Museum of Art and dozens of high-end design shops), every year in spring the cherry blossoms on Sakura-dori Street are lit up at night. You can either chill in an open air restaurant or stroll up and down the street and enjoy the romantic view and the dreamy atmosphere.
It is like my cousin said, when she visited Tokyo for the first time: “First I thought how boring, looking at cherry tree blossoms, but now I understand! It’s not only the blossoms, it’s a whole lifestyle, a cultural event. I’m so happy that I had a chance to experience sakura in Tokyo!” Once you come to Japan and join in on the fun, you will fully understand what makes the entire country go crazy about sakura and hanami.
Where to hanami
|Akasaka 9-7-1, Minato-ku, Tokyo|
|Toei Oedo Line
Direct link from Roppongi Station [Exit 8]Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line
Direct link via underground passageway from Roppongi Station [Exit 4a]Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line
A 3-minute walk from Nogizaka Station [Exit 3]
Tokyo Metro Namboku Line
|1-4-1 Kaigan, Minato-ku, Tokyo|
|1 minute walk from [Hamamatsucho Sta.] of JR Yamanote Line,
3 minutes walk from [Daimon Sta.] of Toei Subway Oedo Line,
5 minutes walk from [Daimon Sta.] of Toei Subway Asakusa Line
|Shiba koen 4-10-17, Minato-ku, Tokyo|
|12 minutes walk from [Hamamatsucho Sta.] of JR Yamanote Line,
2 minutes walk from [Shibakoen Sta.] of Toei Subway Mita Line