Ever since I started playing with the thought of visiting Japan, I just knew that I definitely had to see the cherry blossom season. But the Japanese cherry blossoms last, just like any other cherry blossoms around the world, only for about a week or two.
To be able to capture your own personal cherry blossom pictures there are some obstacles to overcome.
This article focuses on Tokyo. But there are parks and avenues of cherry trees all over Japan. So you can take your pick where in Japan you would like to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the cherry blossoms.
The hardest thing: Choosing the right time
It takes a fair amount of luck to be in the right place at the right time.
After consulting a cherry blossom weather site, I decided to fly to Tokyo at the beginning of April. I got lucky and arrived in Tokyo one week after the start of cherry blossom season. Had I arrived at the same time the previous year though, everything would have been over already, because then the first blossoms were showing by mid-March already. Perhaps the trees would have still carried some blossoms, but would certainly no longer have given off this full white impression that I was blessed with.
Also tricky: Finding cheap accommodation
Since I was not the only tourist with the intention of seeing as many cherry blossom trees as possible, the hotels and hostels were pretty booked up – when I booked my flight – 10 weeks in advance. I did not manage to book a hotel room at a reasonable rate of 100 USD per night (the maximum amount my girlfriend and I had pre-agreed). Hence we had to make do with two beds (or rather mattresses) in a three-bed-room of a hostel for the first three nights.
Thus my first tip for you: Especially on weekends from mid-March to Mid-April, particularly in Tokyo and Kyoto, you should book half a year in advance. For this I recommend you Hostelworld and Booking.com.
Another factor: The weather
On April 2nd 2014, our day of arrival, the weather was perfect, but we were both too tired and rested. Big mistake! For on April 3rd it rained without letting up.
Second tip: When the weather is nice, go see the cherry trees immediately. This is also important because the blossoms look increasingly less beautiful every day and rain destroys them more quickly as well.
Places in Tokyo to enjoy the Japanese cherry blossoms
Regardless of the rain, we used the day to go to Ueno to look at the local cherry tree avenues, but pictures with lots of umbrellas in them are just no fun. On April 4th the rain finally stopped in the afternoon, and then came this magic moment, when everything was just perfect. We returned to Ueno Park, it was a little windy and when we turned a corner to the avenue we saw the cherry trees in perfect sunlight. The wind swept the loose blossoms off the tree. It “snowed” cherry blossoms. It was pure magic!
Below a video of this moment and more pictures:
Here the junior employees of a company already get things going, before the remaining employees join in later.
No Japanese park is ever without a temple. This picture was taken at the Shinto shrine in Ueno Park.
Ueno Park also features a lake. If you descend the steps down to the lake and walk across a dam, you’ll get to an island in the centre of the lake. To the left and right of the path, street vendors offered their goods. I was tempted into eating candied sweet potatoes. They were really good. Once on the island, I encountered one of the most beautiful impressions overall: cherry trees lining the lakeside.
After a visit to the Meiji Jingu shrine a day later, we noticed a huge crowd of people moving in a certain direction. Consumed by curiosity we let the crowd pull us along with them. We ended up in Yoyogi Park, where the impact and the craziness of cherry blossom season really put a spell on us. There had to have been several thousand, if not tens of thousands of people in this park at the same time.
At the park’s entrance, street artists were showing off their best stuff to entertain the audience.
The central part of the park is made up entirely of cherry trees and on this sunny Saturday many people did not want to miss out on the opportunity to have a cherry blossom picnic (Hanami).
Here the impressions:
These are the two places we visited.
All across Tokyo there are dozens of opportunities to experience the cherry blossom trees in order to satisfy your cravings for the perfect cherry blossom picture. (One can really easily get into rapid fire shooting picture mode – it definitely happened to me!).
I haven’t been there myself, but I have received recommendations to visit the following places in Tokyo:
Near the imperial palace close to Kudanshita Station (the JR rail pass is not valid for this station) for cherry trees lining the palace moat
Nakameguro Station (JR rail pass is not valid here either) for cherry trees lining the Nakameguro canal
All over Japan even the tiniest town has enough cherry trees to convey a memorable, beautiful impression. During our time in Tokyo and the subsequent days we caught beautiful glimpse after glimpse out of the train windows. Japan’s cherry blossom season is simply and stunningly amazing!
For your travel planning
Tokyo has two international airports: The Narita and the Haneda airport. Both are connected to the rail network. It takes about half an hour from Haneda airport to the centre, about an hour from Narita airport.
This article outlines the best ways to book a hotel.
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