When I first moved to Tokyo, it was during Sakura season, one of my favourite times of the year in Japan. Sakura is Japanese for cherry blossoms, and when these unique trees bloom, they turn Tokyo from a grey and monolithic megacity into a dreamy pink wonderland. Living in Tokyo can be overstimulating with its non-stop frenetic energy, after all, it is the most densely populated city in the world. Hey, that’s one of the main reasons why I love it here in Japan’s capital. But when the cherry blossom trees awake from their winter slumber, it’s like a moment to pause, breathe, and be able to appreciate nature’s beauty right in the beating heart of all the urbanism. While you can literally find Sakura in every neighbourhood in Tokyo, here are my absolute best places in Tokyo for cherry blossoms that will take you by wonder. Curious? Follow me on Instagram and YouTube for more adventures!
First up is my hands down absolutely favourite Sakura spot in all of Tokyo (and of course, a great spot for one of the best places in Tokyo for cherry blossoms). I know this is quite a statement to make since this list is an all-star list for cherry blossoms in the metropolis. But on a bright sunny day, Chidorigafuchi Moat makes for a romantic and whimsical spot that locals and Tokyiotes adore. All for a good reason - the moat, which looks like a wide river, snakes itself around the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo. During Sakura season, Chidorigafuchi Moat is lined with cherry blossom trees, all up and down the water.
My favourite activity here is walking down to the boat rental and getting a row boat. You can rent by half an hour, and if you take longer, you can pay the extra sum when you return the boat. If you prefer paddling over rowing, there are also cute Swan boats you can rent to paddle in. The rowboat can easily fit up to 4 people. I often row all the way up to the cherry blossom trees themselves and hang out right underneath the branches, watching the petals fall onto my row boat. You’re free to bring your own drinks, food, and have a picnic on the rowboat too!
For those who want a more leisurely way to take in the cherry blossoms, above the Chidorigafuchi Moat, there are also walking paths. The path surrounds the whole moat, with more sakura trees on the pathway too.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
It was actually hard for me to pick between which spots in Tokyo I love for Sakura spotting the most - but Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden would tie with Chidorigafuchi Moat. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a spacious grand park located in central Tokyo, completed with different tea houses, ponds, and many areas to enjoy different cherry blossom species. Impressively the park has over a thousand cherry trees of different varieties (really living up to its national garden title), and they bloom at different times, so you can enjoy the blossoms for a longer period.
The ultimate local’s tip:
Now, what many people may not know about Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is that there are multiple different entrances to this humungous park. But the Sendagaya entrance is the easiest and closest entryway to most of the cherry blossoms. The park opens each day at 9 AM, and if you want to enjoy the cherry blossoms before the massive crowds turn up around 10:30 AM (yep, you get around an hour and a half before its too overcrowded, even on a weekday) get to the gate before 8:50 AM. When the gate opens at 9 AM on the dot, head to the ticket machines and buy your entry (card or cash). When you enter, follow the pathway left to the Sakura grove. During Sakura season, if you visit Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday - you will have to book your entry online beforehand (due to the overcrowding), so be prepared to plan that in advance.
Likewise, each year, the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden hosts Sakura viewing at night where they illuminate the cherry blossoms and give each guest a light-up lantern to walk around with. It will be packed with long queues just to get in if you don’t come before 7:40 PM.
Shinjuku Gyo-en, TokyoShinjuku Gyoen National Garden, 11 Naitōmachi, Shinjuku City, Tōkyō-to 160-0014, Japan
In the evenings, the lanterns that are hung up here all light up in a warm glow - so you really can enjoy it any time of the day. My favourite time to visit is during the morning time, when the sunlight hits through the cherry blossoms, illuminating them with golden rays. Also, since Sakura season is one of the most popular tourist seasons in Japan, and most definitely Tokyo, it’s great to come here before 10 AM to be able to walk down the lined Sakura avenues and take your time without the overcrowdedness (likewise, after 10 PM is a calmer time too).
Ueno Park, TokyoJapan, 〒110-0007 Tokyo, Taito City, Uenokōen, 8, ５−２０・池之端三丁目 Ueno Onshi Park
The Meguro River is a small river that flows through the capital’s Meguro district, and also happens to be one of the best places in Toyko for cherry blossoms. The river is lined with these gorgeous Sakura trees, creating a magical atmosphere all up and down the river. Take it in! This spot is deservingly so beautiful, and quite unique to see all of these cherry blossom trees soft limp branches hanging over above the water. There are a few benches all along the river, so you can sit down and watch the petals gently flow down the river.
A popular place to hang out here during Sakura season is the Starbucks Reserve Roastery (which at one point was the largest Starbucks in the world). Starbucks is a big deal in Japan, locals love it, and travellers sometimes get confused about the hype compared to their run-down joint back home. But here, there’s a whole balcony platform to view the cherry blossoms, and along with seasonal Sakura theme Starbucks drinks, there’s special Sakura-flavour pastries that you can only get at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. But if you do come here during sakura season, be sure to get here before they open at 7am (yes, even on a weekday) because you’ll have to get a ticket from the building next door in order to even get inside - that’s how popular this place is.
The Meguro River stretches throughout the neighbourhood, and a lot of the crowds hang out by the spots outside of Meugro station. Wander a bit down the river for the exact same views, and hang out by Nakameguro for a bit more of a laid-back vibe. This is probably because Nakameguro is also where some of Tokyo’s bohemian set hangs out. You can grab a coffee at Omnibus Cafe, watch the train go by in their backroom, or stand on one of the many bridges over the river for a sweet Sakura moment.
Located near the Tokyo Skytree, Sumida Park is along the effervescent Sumida River in eastern Tokyo is one of the best places in Tokyo for cherry blossoms. During the Sakura season, there are traditional food stalls (look out for sakura flavour specials! Like the strawberry sakura daifuku), vendors selling souvenirs, and traditional Japanese music performances.
The park also has a view of the Tokyo Skytree, making it a great spot for taking in an iconic sight of the metropolis. A great way to see the oh-so-casual 510 cherry blossom trees blooming is taking a water taxi that will cruise along the riverbanks. Or if you want to get up close to the trees, take a stroll underneath them. In the evenings the lanterns glow and the cherry blossoms are illuminated.
Each spot in Tokyo has its own unique charm and atmosphere, so be sure to visit as many as you can during your visit to this vibrant city during Sakura season!
Where to Stay
Now, these top cherry blossom spots in Tokyo are located in various neighbourhoods all across the city but I’ll recommend staying in and around Shijunku for easy access to public transportation to easily visit these places. APA Hotel Higashi Shinjuku Kabukicho Tower is straight-up no fuss, has everything you’ll need as well as being well-located. Now, another great experience is Prostyle Ryokan Tokyo Asakusa, which is located on the east side of the city. This is a ryokan which will give you an authentic stay into traditional Japanese hospitality. For those on a budget, check out Wise Owl Hostel Shibuya, where you won’t have to break the bank to explore Tokyo.
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