After freezing winters, spring in Japan seems like a boon, a magical one. The famous cherry blossoms are arriving early in 2019. Kanto (Tokyo) and Kansai (Osaka, Kyoto) expect peak bloom between March third week and April first week. Check the accurate forecast here. But what’s all the hype around spring? Just look at those mesmerizing flowers and it’ll answer all the questions!
What is a ‘Hanami‘?
The blooming of Japanese cherry trees, originating more than 1000 years ago, has always been a priceless gazing experience and a source of inspiration for poets. Since then, the term Hanami (花見) has become a tradition in Japan. ‘Hana’ (flowers) and ‘mi’ (view) literally translated to cherry blossom viewing.
How to celebrate Hanami?
The new generation, however, has added a fun component to Hanami. Now Hanami is more like a picnic with drinking-under-the-tree :P. People get home cooked meals or barbeque their food or just get a bento and relax by drinking and eating at the parks. People start flocking to parks as early as 10 am and chill throughout the day. By the end of the day, it’s more like a pleasant revelry. When in Japan, surely attend a Hanami party! It’s a great way to socialize and get to know the Japanese way of celebration. You’d most definitely do a lot of ‘kanpais’ (cheers!) at this party!
Tip: You might want to carry your glares, for the time when the sun is right up your head and some warm clothing for evenings.
Where to celebrate Hanami?
There are quite a lot of festivals during Cherry Blossoms. The highlights of these festivals are food and drink stalls, and lit atmosphere! If you are in Tokyo during full bloom, do check out these places for surreal experiences
Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival, Ueno Park
Ueno is home to more than 1200 cherry trees. Imagine the beauty of this place during peak bloom season! For a hanami party, you might want to consider coming early to the park to save your place. This park gets super crowded! It lights up during the evening. Do stay back until night to enjoy one of the three best night cherry blossom views in Tokyo.
Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival: 21st March to 7th April @ Ueno Park
Chidorigafuchi Cherry Blossom, Chiyoda
This is the iconic place which shows up in Google search when you search for “cherry blossom in Tokyo”. I couldn’t agree more with Google that this place deserves to be in the top search results. It is exactly the same as it looks in the picture. This a filter-free picture! 😛 There are long, very long queues (up to 3 hours waiting) for the boat ride here. However, just walking around the place is an underrated experience. Avoiding weekends and national holidays is the key to enjoying cherry blossoms in Tokyo.
Map: Chidorigafuchi Park
Bokutei Cherry Blossom, Sumida River
How beautiful is the view of Tokyo Skytree with the sakura in the foreground! 🙂 Asakusa is a beautiful place to be at during spring. Spend the morning at Senso-Ji shrine, afternoon at the cherry blossom festival and the evening by the Sumida river soaking in the picturesque night view. A perfect itinerary for your day!
Meguro Cherry Blossom, Meguro & Nakameguro
The place to go for a breathtaking sakura night view. Of course, it is beautiful during the day too. But the pink lanterns and the illumination around sakura trees make it the best sakura night view of Tokyo. Also, you can check out various restaurants with the cherry blossom view. The riverside is crowded around Meguro. I recommended Nakameguro to witness the cherry blossom. It’s less crowded and equally lit up! A perfect date place too 🙂
Tokyo Midtown Cherry Blossom, Roppongi
The main attraction of the festival is this long Sakura avenue, which is lightened up elegantly at night. Enjoy the collaboration of charming cherry blossoms and modern skyscrapers in the heart of Tokyo.
Local’s tips for Hanami:
- Always reach early to escape the crowd. It can get very overwhelming during peak hours to find a place to merely sit.
- Never go empty-handed. Always carry some drinks or food for the people.
- Although the main attractions are exceptionally beautiful, you can check out other alleys and riversides for a relaxing hanami.