No trip to Japan is complete without at least a short excursion to the bustling Japanese capital of Tokyo. While there is never a shortage of fun & interesting sights in Tokyo, visiting during cherry blossom season is an experience that can’t be missed.
Throughout Tokyo, magnificent cherry trees line parks, rivers, urban malls, and gardens. If you want a chance to see the best of the cherry blossoms in Tokyo though, you’ll need to plan your trip carefully.
Cherry blossom season in Tokyo doesn’t last long. You only have a short window in early spring for catching the trees in full bloom.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Catch the sakura at their best with this guide on when & where to go to see the best Tokyo cherry blossoms…
Table of Contents
- Spring in Tokyo: When is cherry blossom season in 2020?
- Where to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo: The top sakura viewing spots
- Where to stay in Tokyo: The best hotels for sakura season
Spring in Tokyo: When is cherry blossom season in 2020?
Timing is everything for cherry blossom viewing. Even if you show up just a tad too late, you may miss all the glory of blossoming light pink and white flowers.
The best time to view cherry blossoms in Japan varies by region. While you may get to see some lovely blossoms in Okinawa as early as January, you typically need to wait until late March or early April in many of the most popular places to visit in Japan including Tokyo.
In 2019, Tokyo’s cherry blossoms flowered on March 21st and hit full bloom on March 27th.
If you’ve only got a few days to spare, the best time to go to Tokyo for cherry blossom viewing is usually the last week of March. This is when the flowers tend to be in full bloom (mankai). Visit a week later and the flowers may be gone.
Check out the official Japanese cherry blossom forecast when it releases (usually mid-January) for the exact dates of prime cherry blossom season in Tokyo in 2020.
Where to see cherry blossoms in Tokyo: The top sakura viewing spots
Finding cherry trees in Tokyo isn’t difficult. However, if you want to see the most beautiful, billowing clouds of pale pink or white flowers, the following options are a safe bet.
Keep in mind that cherry blossom season is an incredibly busy time in Japan, especially in Tokyo. You’ll need to yank yourself out of bed early if you want to beat the crowds to these top viewing spots.
As the most popular destination in Tokyo during this season, Ueno Park should be the first stop on your cherry blossom tour—even if you can only carve out one day in Tokyo. Ueno Park is also known for its wild blossom-viewing parties that can put Mardi Gras in New Orleans to shame.
If you want to avoid the public drunkenness and crowded streets, get to the park earlier on in the day. However, if you want to unwind at the end of your cherry blossom tour, you can always make this your final stop on your Tokyo itinerary.
Kitanomaru Park includes hundreds of cherry trees that surround the moats of the former Edo Castle. It’s just north of the Tokyo Imperial Palace, one of the top things to see in Tokyo at any time of the year.
For a truly magical time during sakura season, visit the Imperial Palace in the evening. They illuminate the cherry trees, creating an ethereal experience.
Two gates near the entrance remain from the Edo Castle. The gardens, however, are the main attraction. You can stroll through a forest of trees, including hundreds of blossoming cherry trees, maple trees, and humongous gingko trees.
Like the cherry trees northwest of the Imperial Palace, the trees along the Sumida River are illuminated in the evenings to create an out-of-this-world sight. Both banks of the river are lined with cherry trees. Adjacent to the river is the lovely Sumida Park.
You can stroll through the park while walking underneath a canopy of cherry blossom flowers. There are also plenty of food stands, so you can grab a bite of local street food before continuing your cherry blossom tour.
While Sumida Park gets a lot of foot traffic, it’s a lot less rambunctious compared to Ueno Park.
Admission to the Aoyama Cemetery is free and it’s just a short walk from Nogizaka Station. While the cherry trees are lovely, the cemetery isn’t the best spot for a wild hanami party. Be respectful as you walk the straight, paved road that cuts through the cemetery.
Each side of the road is lined with hundreds of cherry trees. When in full bloom, they almost create a canopy over the road. It’s a great spot if you want to quietly reflect on the beauty of the mostly-white flowers.
Koishikawa Botanical Garden
The Koishikawa Botanical Garden is a large park with a wide variety of plants, including many varieties of cherry trees and an intricate Japanese garden. Just remember that the garden is closed on Mondays if you’re planning on starting your tour at the beginning of the week.
This botanical garden is another wonderful choice if you want some peace and quiet. It’s owned and managed by Tokyo University and provides a place of study for agricultural students. Due to the admission fee and the connection to the university, the gardens don’t get quite the same crowd as some of the other popular destinations for cherry blossom viewing.
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden
Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of the largest parks in Tokyo and one of the best places to see blossoming cherry trees in early April. The spacious lawns and winding pathways are surrounded by cherry trees and other plants. Along with cherry trees, the park houses a Japanese garden, English garden, and French garden.
The popularity of Shinjuku Gyoen Park means that it gets extremely busy during peak cherry blossom time. The long, meandering walkways, however, help make the park appear less crowded.
The Meguro Canal cuts through Tokyo and offers numerous spots for gazing at cherry trees. Most areas of the river include banks of concrete and riverside paths for pedestrians. The banks are also lined with cherry trees, food stands, benches, and provide convenient access to nearby shops and restaurants.
The Meguro Canal is also one of the most popular areas for local sakura viewers and tourists. If you go in the evening, it’s going to be packed with people wanting to see the flowers. If possible, get off the Nakameguro Station just after 8am and follow the stream of people to the river.
You may also want to add Yoyogi Park to your itinerary if you prefer a leisurely stroll through a park full of cherry blossoms. Yoyogi Park a large city park with wide lawns and a variety of ponds. While it doesn’t have the most cherry trees, it does offer something special.
With fewer cherry trees, Yoyogi Park isn’t a tourist trap during cherry blossom season, but is a popular spot for locals. You can enjoy a relaxing walk through the park and take your time looking at the beautiful trees that blossom for just one to two weeks per year.
Where to stay in Tokyo: The best hotels for sakura season
Cherry blossom season is one of the busiest times of the time in Japan’s capital. If you want to get your pick of some of the top choices for where to stay in Tokyo, you’re going to need to book your accommodations well ahead of time.
Since there’s plenty of opportunity for hanami wherever you are in the city, no particular area stands out as being better than any other at this time of year. As usual, I’d recommend sticking to one of the central areas, particularly Shinjuku, Asakusa, Shibuya or Ginza to get the most out of your trip.
Here are a few of the best hotels in Tokyo to start your search…
- Khaosan World Asakusa: Located in the lovely Asakusa district, this popular former love hotel turned classier ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) is one of the best choices for private accommodations on a budget in Tokyo. Both Both Japanese-style rooms (with tatami mats) and Western rooms are available to guests.
- Hotel Rose Garden Shinjuku: A centrally-located hotel in Shinjuku that’s got everything you need for a comfortable stay in the heart of the city. Located within a quick walk of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.
- Hyatt Regency Tokyo: Among the best value luxury hotels in the city, this 4-star offers great rooms, and superb on-site dining within short walking distance of Shinjuku Station. Top hanami spots like Yoyogi Park and Shinjuku Gyoen are a quick ride away.