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There’s a reason why millions of people flock to Japan to see the cherry blossoms bloom each spring in what is known in Japanese as the sakura. The sight of skies filling with tiny pink petals truly is magical. I’m usually someone who enjoys visiting places off-season, but when I had the chance to visit Japan during cherry blossom season, I had to take it. I spent much of my time in Tokyo zig-zagging across the city to check out various parks where you can see the sakura. Here are my recommendations for the best places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo.
The guide to seeing cherry blossoms in Tokyo
Tips for seeing cherry blossoms in Tokyo
First, a few tips for visiting Japan during cherry blossom season.
- Be flexible. I booked my trip just a few weeks beforehand, and even then, the cherry blossom forecasts kept moving forward. As a result, I found myself chasing the end of the season as the sakura swept across Japan. The forecast linked above is a vital resource, as it can mean the difference in catching the peak of the Tokyo’s cherry blossom season & being disappointed. I did get to see the tail end of the Tokyo sakura, but I could easily see how people who had booked months in advance might miss it entirely. If you’ve kept some flexibility in your itinerary, then you can go further north to catch sakura season. Related, there are different varieties of trees that flower at different times, so some parks will see their seasons extend for a bit longer. I’ve tried to note places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo that had some trees with later blooms. Also, not all of the springtime flowering trees are cherry trees, but they all look pretty nonetheless, and unless you know a bunch of botanists, your friends won’t know the difference.
- Remember climate change. As winters & springs have tended to be more mild than in the past, cherry blossom season has gradually moved earlier. This of course is subject to variance each year, but keep this in mind if you’re reading information about when to visit. March is the new April for viewing cherry blossoms in Tokyo. Generally, once the cherry blossoming starts, it takes about a week to reach peak bloom, which then lasts for about a week. Bad weather will cause the flowers to drop faster.
- Be patient. The parks in Tokyo can be crowded, though I found them not to be quite as bad as I expected, perhaps because I had just missed the peak. Just know that if you want to get the perfect selfie with the cherry blossoms, you might have to wait for a bunch of other people to finish taking their selfies first.
- Make a whole day of it. The locals love to have picnics underneath the cherry blossoms. This is called “Hanami.” Here’s a good guide to how to make the most out of a Hanami experience.
- Be respectful. Don’t touch the trees, definitely don’t shake them or climb them, be sure to clean up any trash, & don’t run around shouting.
Where to find the best cherry blossom spots in Tokyo
Tokyo is remarkable in that despite being so urban & dense, it is still dotted with significant parks that are great places to relax and enjoy nature. This is the case year-round, of course, but during cherry blossom season, Tokyo’s layout allows for quick access to the sakura. You’ll see office workers & students catching quick breaks in parks to enjoy the flowers (or managing to have a full day for Hanami). Some of the spots on my list of the best places to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo are huge parks, while others are smaller places with a just a few trees. All were easily accessed by the Tokyo subway. If you’re visiting during the Sakura season & the first place you try doesn’t have impressive cherry blossoms, go check out another. You can go to several parks in one day and see a completely different experience. These Tokyo cherry blossom viewing spots are in no exact ranking, though I’ve listed what I feel are the most notable ones near the top, at least based on when I was there. Everyone will of course have their own favorites. That’s the best part of traveling.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen is a gorgeous park any time of year, but it’s phenomenal when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Set in the middle of central Tokyo, the gardens are surrounded by the city. It’s much like New York’s Central Park in this way.
Entry to Shinjuku Gyoen is ¥200. There is a very strict no alcohol policy, which could impact your Hanami plans. The guard at the entrance made me open my water bottle, and then he proceeded to sniff it. Apparently, I look like the sort of person who would try to sneak alcohol into a garden. This is 100% true, just not in this particular instance.
The size of Shinjuku Gyoen & its variety of trees means that some part of the park will be in bloom for longer. This was one of the few places where I was able to experience the cherry blossoms at peak bloom, and it was magnificent. When you’re standing under a cascade of pink blossoms, you see what all the fuss is about.
Nearest subway/train stations: Sendagaya, Shinjuku-Gyoemmae, & Shinjuku
Shinjuku Chuo Park
Shinjuku Chuo Park is small, but it’s a nice oasis in the middle of dense Shinjuku. There are many hotels in the area, so this could be the easiest place to see cherry blossoms if you are staying nearby, or if you don’t have a ton of time, or if you don’t want to pay an entrance fee.
To get a view of the cherry blossoms from above Shinjuku, I recommend visiting the free observatory at the Tokyo Government Building.
Nearest subway/train stations: Shinjuku & Tocho-Mae
Ueno Park was my first cherry blossom experience in Tokyo. Thanks to jet lag, I was up early, so I took the subway from Shinjuku around 5am. I’m rarely awake when the sun comes up, so I figured I’d make the most of it and see the cherry blossoms at sunrise. Of course, the weather was cloudy, so all I saw was a gradual moderate brightening of the grey.
At the first light around 6am, Ueno Park was still busier than I expected. Signs directed me to where the cherry trees are located in the park. Activity here must be nearly 24/7 during cherry blossom season, as trash pick-up was still going on while some people were already getting there to claim & reserve spots. Ueno Park is one of the most popular places for Hanami. The sidewalks were lined with claimed spaces, even though the peak of the season had already passed here.
While there’s a main cherry blossom section in Ueno Park, there’s also a nice path that circles around a lake. There isn’t much room for sitting here, but it makes for a good walk beneath the trees. In addition to the pretty flowers, the park is also filled with a not-insignificant number of birds.
Nearest subway/train stations: Ueno
Rikugien Garden is one of the finest gardens in Tokyo, no matter when you visit. During the sakura, it’s packed with visitors both day and night. Rikugien is one of a handful of places where the trees are lit up for nighttime walks.
While there are plenty of trees throughout Rikugien, the centerpiece is a weeping cherry tree. Unfortunately, it had almost no blossoms left on it when I visited. It had reached peak bloom on March 24th, and I visited on April 3rd. That’s how brief the cherry blossom season is. At least they had posted a photo of what the tree had looked like.
Despite my bad timing, there was still plenty to see. Rikugien was the lushest park I visited in Tokyo. Not a lot of trees were blooming by the time I got there, but it was still a nice park anyway. There were also kiosks in the park, including some selling seasonal specialties such as cherry blossom ice cream. I had to try it, and it tasted… pink? I don’t know, there wasn’t a particularly strong flavor to it.
Nearest subway/train stations: Komagome
Chidorigafuchi Moat & the Chiyoda Sakura Festival
Tokyo’s Imperial Palace sits right in the center of Tokyo. The Palace is surrounded by green spaces, as well as Chidorigafuchi Moat. This area is one of the more famous spots to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo, given its central location & picturesque views above the water.
The paths around the moat are home to the Chiyoda Sakura Festival. Unfortunately, the festival appeared to have been moved ahead of schedule due to the early blossoming, so everything was gone by the day I arrived. The trees in the area had a few blossoms, but not many. If you’re there at the right time, Chidorigafuchi Moat & the Chiyoda Sakura Festival are a great place to see the sakura in Tokyo, especially since the festival has trees lit up at night.
Nearest subway/train stations: Kudanshita & Hanzomon
Yoyogi Park is perhaps the biggest place for Hanami in Tokyo. It’s a massive park with plenty of grassy areas underneath acres of cherry trees. You can find these groves by heading to the center of the park.
Despite most of the blossoms being gone by the time I was there, there were still hundreds of people out picnicking & enjoying the weather in Yoyogi Park. I can only imagine how crowded it must be when the blossoms are in peak bloom.
Nearest subway/train stations: Harujuku, Yoyogi-Koen, & Yoyogi-Hachiman
Hamarikyu Gardens is located along the Sumida River, not far from the former Tsukiji Fish Market. Boat rides are available along the river, which is lined with several more parks that have cherry blossoms (see below). On a warm day, there’s a nice breeze blowing off the water.
Entry to Hamarikyu Gardens is ¥300, but a combined ticket with nearby Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden is ¥400. The park is overlooked by new buildings. Since this is mostly an area of offices, and the entry fee is one of the higher ones I saw, the gardens were fairly quiet when I visited.
Hamarikyu Gardens doesn’t have a ton of trees, but the ones that were in bloom were quite spectacular. You could get up nice & close to take some good detailed photos of the blossoms. Thanks to the park being quiet, there were a few other photographers there, all of us circling around the trees to try and get a the perfect shot.
Nearest subway/train stations: Shiodome, Shimbashi, & Hamamatsuchō
Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden
Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden is fairly small, but its intimacy makes it one of the nicer spots to see the cherry blossoms in Tokyo. Entry to the garden is ¥150, so the combined ticket with Hamarikyu Gardens isn’t a huge savings, but given how they are so close & have different experiences, I recommend seeing both.
I visited Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden around lunchtime, and there was a special concert going on in the park. The music could be heard throughout the gardens, making for a nice addition to the atmosphere.
In the back corner of Kyu Shiba Rikyu, there was a snowstorm of blossoms. It was quite pretty to see, though it also demonstrated just how fragile the bloom is. Once the flowers are out, it doesn’t take much of a wind to accelerate their demise.
Nearest subway/train stations: Hamamatsuchō
Shiba Park is also within walking distance of the previous two cherry blossom viewing spots on this list, so you can easily get to all three in a few hours.
It’s a bit confusing to get around Shiba Park, since there are several buildings, including a hotel & a couple of temples, so it’s not particularly easy to see the blossoms. There were some trees scattered throughout, but I had the best luck finding them in the southern sections of the park.
Nearest subway/train stations: Hamamatsuchō & Shibakoen
Sumida Park runs along both sides of the Sumida River, north of Asakusa. The parks aren’t huge, and on one bank it’s a fairly narrow strip, but there are still some cherry trees to be seen here. There is also a cherry blossom festival.
Note that most of the trees are actually above the river path, so if you try to see them by walking along the river itself, you might miss out.
Nearest subway/train stations: Asakusa
Asukayama Park is a bit north of central Tokyo, so it has a slightly later bloom than other parks.
It’s not a huge park, but it’s pretty, and a good option if you’ve missed the sakura elsewhere.
Nearest subway/train stations: Oji
Beyond these top spots, there are a few other decent places for seeing cherry blossoms in Tokyo. Hibiya Park is conveniently located in central Tokyo & has an annual festival, as does Roppongi. Other potential viewing locations are Arisugawa Park, and the Meguro River, which also has lights at night.
If you’d like to experience Hanami with a local in Tokyo, here are some tours that are available:
If you’re even thinking that it might be nice to visit Tokyo during cherry blossom season, by all means go. Japan really is lovely in the spring, and the blossoms are gorgeous, if a bit tough to catch. The chase makes finding them all the more special when you catch peak bloom somewhere. I had visited Japan a couple of times prior to going for the sakura, and the springtime cherry blossoms added an extra level of magic to one of my favorite places to travel.
Last updated on December 28, 2019