Even though Tokyo is a large city with no shortage of cherry trees, tourists and locals alike tend to gravitate to the same few spots. Here are a few tips to make the most of your time in Tokyo, and enjoy the cherry blossoms without stressing out.
The view from Sotobori Koen. - image © Florentyna Leow
- First: Avoid the crowds
Tokyo is definitely mind-bogglingly busy during the blossom season. But unlike the more compact Kyoto, the metropolis also sprawling enough that it’s possible to avoid the worst of the crowds most of the time. Few things are worse than fighting your way through a crowd to take a photo of the same tree when you’re on holiday. If you’re willing to wake up early, and
- Second: Don’t focus on the big names.
Cherry trees are everywhere across Tokyo, and you don’t necessarily need to hit up the most popular spots to enjoy the blossoms. Many neighborhood temples, shrines, and parks have a cherry tree or several on their grounds, with nary a tourist in sight. This is why I wouldn’t really recommend Yoyogi Park or Ueno Park at the height of sakura season. You’ll appreciate the falling petals much more when it’s quiet. Don’t be afraid to wander off the beaten path.
- Third: Go out on weekdays.
It almost goes without saying, but Tokyoites will be out in full force on the weekends during sakura season, since we’re stuck in the office for the rest of the time. For instance, it can be challenging to find a place to set up for hanami at Ueno Park on the weekend at this time of the year. You’ll have a far more pleasant time if you plan your cherry blossom walking on weekdays.
Shinjuku Gyoen in cherry blossom time. - image © Florentyna Leow
This itinerary takes you through some gorgeous cherry blossom spots in the city. Both days involve quite a bit of walking, but it’s possible to take the strain off your feet with taxis, or bus and train journeys. Timings are also approximate and dependent on your walking speed. Tokyo is beautifully walkable, however, and it’s really the best way to see all the sights.
Tokyo Cherry Blossom Itinerary Day 1
A view of the cherry trees at Koishikawa Korakuen. - image © Florentyna Leow
9am Koishikawa Korakuen
- Begin your day at Koishikawa Korakuen right when it opens.
- Take the train to either Iidabashi Station or Korakuen Station; the road from Iidabashi Station is quite clearly signposted in English.
- Koishikawa Korakuen relatively less-visited compared to places like Ueno Park and Yoyogi Park, but there’s nothing like getting there before more visitors begin filtering in.
The path through Sotobori Koen. - image © Florentyna Leow
10am Sotobori Koen
- Walk back towards Iidabashi Station and head for the park. Sotobori Koen is a park running along the outer moat of the JR Chuo and Sobu lines between Yotsuya Station and Iibadashi Station.
- The walkway is lined with cherry trees, as are the banks of both sides of the moat. The sakura here are divine when you can catch them in full bloom.
- Even on a Sunday, it feels very much more local, with mostly elderly folks and families enjoying quiet hanami here.
- Tip: if you’re a morning person, you could start walking through this park at 8am and end up at Koishikawa Korakuen in time for their opening at 9am. This park is popular with joggers. Also, if you’re a fast walker and have time, you could stop by Yasukuni Shrine, another famous and popular spot to view cherry blossoms.
Cherry trees at Shinjuku Gyoen. - image © Florentyna Leow
10.30am Shinjuku Gyoen
- At around half past ten, hop on the Toei Shinjuku Subway line at Ichigaya Station and make your way to Shinjuku Sanchome Station.
- You could pick up some food at a convenience store, or you can up your hanami picnic game and score some food at the Isetan depachika.
- Take Exit B3 to Isetan and do some shopping - you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to picnic food. Be aware that no alcohol is allowed in the park, so don’t buy any.
- From here, walk to the Shinjuku exit of Shinjuku Gyoen. It’ll be more crowded than usual, but the park is large enough that you’ll have no difficulty finding a place to set up for lunch. With over 400 cherry trees in the park and hundreds of other flowers and trees, there’s so much to see and photograph that you can easily spend hours here. Don’t forget to explore the greenhouse, too.
- Tip: If you’re here on a weekend, you may run into a horrendously long queue at the Shinjuku exit. The security guards are quite strict about checking bags for alcohol, which causes a huge bottleneck at the entrance. When this happens, you’ll be directed to an alternative entrance (usually the Okido exit).
- Alternatively, travel from Iidabashi Station on the Sobu line for Sendagaya Station and use the Sendagaya exit, which is usually far less crowded. You’ll need to pick up lunch in Iidabashi rather than around Sendagaya, as there are fewer convenient choices around the latter station.
2pm Mid-afternoon tea break
- Take the Sendagaya exit and meander towards Jingumae or the Aoyama area.
- By now you’ll have walked plenty, so this is a great time to stop and refuel with tea and cake in one of the many cute, stylish cafes in these neighborhoods.
The main avenue at Aoyama Cemetery. - image © Florentyna Leow
4pm Aoyama Cemetery
- Walk, take a bus, or a taxi to Aoyama Cemetery.
- If you still have the energy, I highly recommend walking. You’ll pass through some quiet residential backstreets on the way, and it’s great wandering through the gravestones.
- The central road that goes through the cemetery is flanked by gorgeous cherries (mainly the Somei Yoshino varieties) on both sides, but here and there among the headstones are even more sakura trees.
- All that walking builds up an appetite. From Aoyama Cemetery, walk to Roppongi and find yourself a square meal.
- Check out our various suggestions for great restaurants in Roppongi.
- If necessary, ask your concierge to book you a table.
Cherry trees near Roppongi Midtown. - image © Florentyna Leow
7.30pm Roppongi Sakurazaka, Midtown
- After dinner, make your way to Sakurazaka near Roppongi Midtown. This road lined with cherry trees is pretty during the day, but at night they light up the trees, making them glow pink and purple.
- You can view them from street level, or from a bridge over the road.
8.30pm Nakameguro Canal
- Take the Hibiya line from Roppongi Station to Nakameguro Station.
- Whether during the day or at night, the view of the cherry blossoms lining Meguro River (which is more like a canal) is one of the most iconic spring scenes in Tokyo.
- In the evening, the trees are lit up, and stalls set up along the banks, giving it a very festival-like atmosphere. It is also one of the more crowded spots in Tokyo for the cherry blossoms - you’ve been duly warned. With pink champagne and tasty hot snacks, a walk here is a great way to end your evening.
Tokyo Cherry Blossom Itinerary Day 2
The view of Chidorigafuchi moat. - image © Florentyna Leow
8am Buy food for lunch
- Today, you’ll be walking through a number of parks around lunchtime, so it’s a great time to eat al fresco. Buy some lunch supplies at a supermarket, convenience store, or local bakery before setting out today.
The path around the moat near Kudanshita Station. - image © Florentyna Leow
8.30am Chidorigafuchi Park
- Northwest of the Imperial Palace is a plover-shaped moat. The park surrounding this moat has a long pedestrian path lined with around 260 cherry trees of different varieties. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the most-visited sakura spots in Tokyo. This is also an excellent place for yozakura, as the cherry trees are lit up at night.
- Exit from Kudanshita Station. Head towards the pedestrian path looping around the moat - the entrance is pictured above.
- You’ll be walking in an anti-clockwise direction. It can be fairly busy at peak season, so the walk may take around 40 - 45 minutes.
- There will be a very long queue for the pleasure boats on the moat. We gently suggest skipping the several-hour queue and avoiding paying extortionate prices for these boats. There are plenty of other blooms to enjoy along the route as well if the timing’s right, including some rather magnificent magnolia trees. You will not need to cross the road, so just stay on the circumference of the moat.
A view of Chidorigafuchi moat. - image © Florentyna Leow
- Your walk will take you past the Metropolitan Expressway, which runs over the moat. Keep walking onwards and away from the moat. You’ll pass by a red brick building on your left. Cross the road and turn left, following the pedestrian path to make your way to the entrance of the Imperial Palace East Gardens.
- Tip: Depending on your political inclinations, you could also visit nearby Yasukuni Shrine, another popular cherry blossom viewing spot, before embarking on a walk around the moat.
Some variegated cherry trees on the grounds of the Imperial Palace East Gardens. - image © Florentyna Leow
9.30am Imperial Palace East Gardens
- The Ninomaru Japanese garden is open all year - it’s beautiful in all seasons, and it’s fabulous cherry blossom viewing spot.
- Entrance is also free.
Cherry trees on the lawn. - image © Florentyna Leow
- The cherry trees are located around a spacious lawn near the entrance.
- Chill out, explore the park further, or wend your way eastwards towards Otemachi.
- If you’re just here for the cherries, you shouldn’t need to spend more than half an hour here.
- Walking to Otemachi Station will take a little longer.
The cherry grove at Kiyosumi-teien Garden. - image © Florentyna Leow
10.30am Kiyosumi-teien Garden
- By now, you should be in the Otemachi area. Hop on the Hanzomon Line at Otemachi Station and head to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station.
- Your next destination is Kiyosumi-teien Garden, a gorgeous, serene traditional Japanese garden that’s a little further afield but entirely worth visiting. There are fewer cherry trees here than other more famous cherry viewing spots in Tokyo, but the abundance of green makes a lovely visual palate cleanser.
- The cherry trees are clustered together in a grove towards the back of the garden; if you arrive closer to lunch, this is a good place to sit down at the tables and benches and have a picnic lunch.
- Best of all, entry is relatively cheap - just JPY150 for adults.
Locals having hanami parties at Sumidagawa Park. - image © Florentyna Leow
12pm Sumidagawa Park
- After a circuit around Kiyosumi Garden, it’s time to have lunch by the river if you haven’t already eaten.
- Take the Hanzomon Line from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station to Skytree Station.
- From here, go above ground and walk westwards to Sumidagawa Park. You might even see some variegated cherry trees in the park. It will be especially crowded on weekends as Tokyoites flock here on their rest days, so try to find a quiet spot, or go on a weekday.
- The park technically lines both banks of the Sumidagawa River, but the park on the east bank is much more pleasant with its grassy hillocks under the trees. On the west side you’ll see people having picnic lunches on the tarmac roads near the park, which strikes one as a rather uncomfortable way to view the cherry blossoms.
- Tip: If you prefer, have lunch around Asakusa or Ueno instead.
2pm Yanaka Cemetery
- Take a bus from Asakusa to Nippori Station, or take the subway, changing at Ueno Station.The cemetery is a short walk away.
- Yanaka Cemetery is one of the quieter spots in Tokyo for cherry blossom viewing. Even though it might seem a little macabre, having hanami in a cemetery is not particularly unusual, and you might see locals picnicking among the gravestones with booze and food. (This is technically disallowed, but it doesn’t stop some people from doing it. We are obliged to suggest a modicum of respect for the dead.)
- If that doesn’t float your boat, just stroll through and enjoy the cherries. There will also be some gorgeous camellias out.
- Tip: Ueno Park is congested at the best of times, but if you have to tick this off your list, it’s better to walk through the park rather than spend ages finding a picnic spot. You can walk from Asakusa to Ueno (or take a 15 minute journey on the Ginza line to lessen the strain on your feet), and then through the park and onwards to Yanaka. You’ll pass by the Tokyo University of the Arts and SCAI The Bathhouse if you walk to Yanaka Cemetery.
The main avenue along Yanaka Cemetery. - image © Florentyna Leow
3pm Time to rest
- By now you’ve walked all day and seen plenty of sakura along the way. Take some time to rest. Either find a cafe in the area - Yanaka has some charming places for coffee and tea - or return to your hotel/lodgings for some downtime.
- After exiting the cemetery, you could also take the opportunity to walk along Yanaka Ginza, the main shopping street in the area.
- Head out for a meal in town. This is Tokyo, so there’s no shortage of dining options. See our Tokyo Restaurants page for suggestions on the best places to eat and if you want more adventurous suggestions, see our Eat Like A Local In Tokyo page.
7pm Rikugien Gardens
- After dinner, take the train or taxi to Rikugien Gardens.
- If you spent your time in Yanaka, it’s a short 25-minute walk or so away from Yanaka Ginza. When the trees are in bloom, this Japanese garden is a fantastic place for cherry blossom viewing during the day, but is particularly well-known in the season for the illuminated trees. Expect higher visitor density, as you’ll be contending with the post-work crowd.
- Opening times are extended to 9pm during the cherry blossom season, and last entry is at 8.30pm.
About the author: Florentyna Leow is a writer and photographer based in Tokyo. When she's not eating or roaming the streets for food, she can be found with a book and pen in hand. Her work has appeared in Lucky Peach, Roads & Kingdoms, and Kyoto Journal. Her photographs can be found at @furochan_eats, @doorwaysofasia, and @lovemeleafme on Instagram.
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