Seasoned travellers and frequent visitors to Japan may not need this, but I still get asked a lot about when and where the best time to visit during Sakura season is.
Sakura: Cherry Blossoms (but you already knew that didn't you)
Ohanami/Hanami: Literally "see flower" in Japanese. This is the word used for viewing/visiting Sakura spots
End of March to beginning of April is usually the safest. Though there are times that it blooms earlier or later, I feel that if you book around this time you'd have a better chance to see Sakura! This year, 2018, Sakura will bloom a bit earlier, and it will already start from around March 20 since it became warm earlier this year.
Unlike last 2017 when it was very cold until March, the Sakura bloomed from 1st-2nd week of April.
Tip: If you are a tourist, it's better to visit during weekday mornings, as it is less packed compared to weekends where everyone--as in Japanese and foreigners alike--crowd these beautiful Sakura spots. Of course, sometimes the livelier the merrier, but it is a bit difficult to walk around with such number of people, and it IS a terribly hard to take nice photos in such situations!
The below list may be common but I've tried to compile according to my own experiences and observations within the three consecutive years I've been lucky enough to experience Spring season in Tokyo. As such, it does not include areas outside of Tokyo (yet!)
*The photos below were taken by me both by phone and my dslr, however, so unfortunately, I dropped my hard drive just before uploading the photos :((( How unlucky is that?? Anyway I was able to save some from my other memory card/ so pardon me if some potos are lacking. Non-watermarked photos were taken from the web.*
Nearby the Imperial palace, this is the first Sakura spot that I ever visited, and it's truly beautiful especially on a sunny spring day! However, a lot of people come here and just walking about can sometimes be a pain in itself, but it's a really beautiful spot, and within the vicinity you can also ride a boat on the moat to see the Sakura! But be aware that there is always a long queue--so come very early or be prepared to wait.
Kitanomaru Park is which is the park around the Budokan, Science Museum and National Museum of Modern Art, is also within the area.
I haven't been to Chidorigafuchi lightup at night, but I presume that it would be beautiful too.
<Click on the gallery above to view larger photos>
Opening hours: none (along the road)
Access: Tokyo Metro/Toei Subway, Kudanshita Station Exit 2
Tokyo Metro line, Hanzomon Station Exit 5 (Chidorigafuchi)
Opening hours: 9:00-20:30 (Night time: Mar 29-April 4 as of the year of writing, 2018)
Normal season: 30 mins=¥500, 1 hour=¥1000
Peak season (sakura): 30 mins=¥800, 1 hour=¥1600
Access: Hanzomon Station
Every year I visit this garden; both spring and autumn, and this year in winter, when there was surprise snow in January. It's beautiful every time! Although there aren't as much Sakura treas as other most popular spots like Ueno or Shinjuku Gyoen, I like this place because it is less crowded (there are less picnics, only lunches/snacks on the given benches) and I just feel very at peace and serene whenever I am here.
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00
Access: JR Line, Suidobashi Station
Marunouchi Line/Namboku Line, Korakuen Station
We also always go here for the evening light-up! The lane of trees are very pleasant for an evening stroll.
Light-up hours: 17:00-23:00 (March 16-April 14 as of the year of writing, 2018)
Fee: none (along the road)
Access: Roppongi Station
guide here (redirects to another website)
This is also just nearby Chidorigafuchi (Kudanshita side) and is also a very popular Sakura spot. I only went here for lunch break and didn't go inside the actual temple since we didn't have enough time to explore, but it should be very fun since there are also matsuri or festivals during spring season.
Inside, there is also the famous Sakura tree that is used by the Japan Meteorological Agency to mark the official bloom of Sakura.
Photo above from tokyostreetview.com
Opening hours: 6:00-17:00 (until 18:00 From March-October)
Access: Kudanshita Station
Fee: Free (except for the museum which is ¥800)
This is also a beautiful spot to see Sakura and nearby, there is the Canal Cafe where you can also rent a canoe to see Sakura while in it!
Opening hours: none (public area)
JR Iidabashi Station west exit
Tozai line (subway) Iidabashi Station exit B2a
Tip: This is a very popular cafe during Sakura season so it is better to arrive one hour or earlier before it opens, the queue is crazy during this time.
Most popular, but also very crowded:
One of the most popular cherry blossom sightseeing gardens, you'll never miss a Sakura tree in this area. Be aware though, that there a lot of picnics being held here, and some even assign one person to hold a spot for lunch or nighttime gathering!
I'm sorry to say that Ueno photos were the majority of the victims hit by my spoiled hard drive :( It's better to go see for yourself, yeah?
Opening hours: 5:00-23:00
JR Yamanote Line, Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Hibiya Line, Ueno Station
Ooedo Line, Ueno-okachimachi Station
Keisei line, Keisei-ueno Station
Although the view of Sakura near Meguro river at Naka Meguro is very popular and has so much people, I love the festive feel of this place. There are many stalls while walking along the lane, and there are also rose champagnes being sold which truly makes the viewing experience more enjoyable! I usually go here from late afternoon to early evening, because they also light up the cherry blossoms for a more spectacular view.
Opening hours: all day (18:00-21:00 for evening light up)
Access: Toyoko line, Hibiya line, Nakameguro Station
Especially during weekends, a lot of people--and I mean a lot--come here to have picnics and just relax under the Sakura trees. There is usually a long line of people outside waiting to go in, but it moves pretty quickly, so no need to worry so much about not getting inside. Getting an ideal spot, however, is another story, especially on weekends.
9:00-16:00 (Gates close at 16:30)
The Greenhouse 9:30-15:30 (Closes at 16:00)
Teahouse 10:00-16:00 (Service may not be available certain days.)
Information Center (Art Gallery) 9:00-16:30
Closed on Mondays
Fee: Adults ¥200, Elementary and junior high school students ¥50, Infants Free of charge
Group discount (30 persons or more, no reservations are necessary.) Adults ¥150, Elementary and junior high school students ¥25
Annual Passport also available.
JR, Keio, Odakyu Lines Shinjuku Station South Exit
Seibu Shinjuku Line Seibu Shinjuku Station
Marunouchi Line (Subway) Shinjuku Gyoen Mae Station Exit 1
Toei Shinjuku Line (Subway) Shinjuku 3 Chome Station C１&C５Exit
Hama Rikyu Gardens
When I came here 2 years ago, unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn't remember it for the Sakura but for the field of rape blossoms, because it was just so mesmerizing. Either way, the garden is really beautiful and worth visiting.
Photo above from tokyotimes.com
Opening hours: 9:00-17:00 (last admission 16:30)
9:00-18:00 (March 20-April 8, as of the year of writing, 2018)
Toei Oedo Line Shiodome Station
Yurikamome Shiodome Station
To be honest I haven't been here during spring, since it is most popular during autumn, but by searching it seems like a beautiful spot for Sakura as well!
Opening Hours: 9:00-20:00 (March 21-April 5, as of the year of writing, 2018)
9:00-17:00 (normal days)
JR/Tokyo Metro Namboku Line, Komagome Station
Toei Mita Line, Sengoku Station
Places I haven't been but I plan to go this year:
I'll be writing separate blog posts once I get to visit them this year!
I wanted to come here because it is has the iconic Tokyo Tower as its backdrop.
Opening Hours: no closing time
Mita Line Shiba Koen Station
Mita Line Onarimon Station
Toei Oedo Line Akabanebashi Station
Toei Oedo & Toei Asakusa Lines Daimon Station
JR Yamanote Line Hamamatsucho Station
Located near Sumida river and for the same reason Shiba Park is near Tokyo Tower, The Tokyo Skytree (tallest tower in Japan) can be seen from this area.
Opening Hours: no closing time
Access: Ginza Line, Toei Asakusa Line, Tobu Isezaki Line Asakusa Station
My assumption is that since it's a cemetery there must be less people, but I've been told that this assumption is wrong. Either way we plan to go here for Sakura viewing this year!
Opening Hours: no closing time (public area, you can go midnight if you want, lol)
Tokyo Metro Ginza line, Gaien Station
Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line Nogizaka Station
Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line, Toei Oedo Line, Tokyo Metro Ginza line, Aoyama Itchome Station
Okay, so this is not particularly in Tokyo; but I included it in the list as I also want to visit this area this year. Kawaguchi-ko is a popular tourist destination near Mt. Fuji, and judging from others' photos the view of Mt Fuji against Sakura is totally gorgeous!
However, take note that Sakura blooms a bit later here, around Mid-April as compared to the early March to beginning of April that I mentioned earlier.
Access: Train from Shinjuku station to Otsuki station by Chuo line and then you'll need to transfer to a train going to Kawaguchiko ( more details here from another website)
Finally, I suggest that you also explore other areas, Sakura is abundant in Japan in this season and you can find it almost everywhere. For example, I accidentally found the Sakura dori (Sakura street) in Shibuya at one time I was just lazily strolling around the area. There are also other lanes of Sakura trees (behind my office, PM me for details, let's go for lunch! Lol) that you will find which are not necessarily on this list. So enjoy and please do not pick the flowers off the trees!