WHERE TO VIEW CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN TOKYO
I was incredibly fortunate to be able to visit Japan in spring last year. Of course, I was reminded of how much I love the country and just had to revisit earlier last month — more on that in the upcoming posts. But for those wanting to see Tokyo in full bloom, don't miss out these hanami spots:
Just a few steps away from Ueno Station, Ueno Park has been a traditional favourite and undeniably one of Japan's most popular hanami spots. Hence, it was no surprise to us that the whole place is already flooded with tourists and locals alike by the time we arrived (even before 9 am?!). I read from somewhere that the blossoms here bloom a few days ahead of those from other parks in the city, so you might want to visit this place first — we all know cherry blossoms don't last that long! You can almost never get a shot without any photo bombers, trust me, but it's always good to just bask in the sun and enjoy 花見 (hanami) with the rest of the crowd. If you wish to see the blossoms in a different light, come by at night when the flowers are being illuminated (from 17:30 to 20:00).
There are a few spots around the area for flower viewing — one is Chidorigafuchi Ryokudo (千鳥ヶ淵緑道) and another would be the Imperial Palace East Gardens (皇居東御苑). Take a stroll along Chidorigafuchi (not the easiest to pronounce, I know) Moat — one of the twelve moats that surround the Imperial Palace, or rent a boat to enjoy the pink blossoms up close (warning: queues and waiting time could get insane though!) Even if you are late for the season, you might still catch the sea of fallen petals on the river — a romantic sight that's not to be missed!
Well, if you're hungry or really just need something to snack on (because what's Japan without their a-m-a-z-i-n-g food?!), you can find food stands around the nearby Yasukuni Shrine (靖国神社). And the best part? The shrine grounds stands another hundred of cherry trees, yay to more blossoms!
The Imperial Palace East Gardens is home to the remains of the Edo Castle. Featuring a koi pond, lush greeneries and a waterfall, this 52-acre park is also a nice spot for hanami. It's completely free, but take note of the opening hours!
Saving the best for the last, right? This place is my absolute favourite hanami spot — just google "Shinjuku Gyoen in spring" and you'll know why. The park is spacious, peaceful and picturesque — it's hard to imagine that it's located in the heart of Tokyo. Strangely enough, the park has its charm that instantly makes you feel like you've teleported out of the metropolis. There are three types of gardens, each with a unique theme: the English Landscape, the French Formal, and the Japanese Landscape. The English Landscape - featuring a wide, open lawn surrounded by cherry trees - is perfect for a picnic. Well, who'd say no to picnicking under cherry trees? The Japanese Landscape is quintessentially the perfect traditional Japanese garden - large ponds dotted with islands connected by little bridges, impeccably manicured shrubs surrounding the water and grounds for several pavilions.
The park is huge and home to varieties (65 to be exact) of cherry trees blooming at different stages - you'll never be disappointed as there'll always be blossoms during springtime. If you want to know how it feels like to be surrounded by boundless clouds of cherry blossoms, or really just want to breathe in that zen-like tranquillity, this is the best place to be!
Note: the opening hours for the park is 9:00 to 16:30 (last entry at 16:00) and entrance fee is￥200 (it's worth it, trust me!)
After my most recent visit to Tokyo (during late summer), I must say, I honestly can't find a better season to visit than spring. Most parks in the city are covered in fluffy blossoms and cherry trees raining petals as the wind blows — it was breathtaking, surely. But truth is, it's also the peak season for tourism, which means it's crowded everywhere, I mean, everywhere. There'll be a throng around every cherry tree and long lines in front of the best restaurants. But you'll be fine, just be prepared, and plan ahead — the nicer hotels & Airbnbs are likely to run out soon, so hurry and book them now!