Spring fever in the air here in Tokyo…
While countries and cultures the world over have their own ways of ushering in the spring season, perhaps none are as famous as Japan’s spectacle of cherry blossom viewing. At present, the normally gray cityscape of Tokyo is awash in bright shades of pink as sakura (??????, ??; cherry trees) trees are beginning to reach the climax of their annual spring bloom.
While modern Japan is seemingly unconnected to the whims and nuances of the natural world, the Japanese still retain a strong sense of seasonality. Indeed, cherry blossoms are revered as the harbinger of spring, and the opportunity to have a hanami (?????; flower-viewing) party is not to be missed.
For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of being in Tokyo during cherry blossom season, hanami is the traditional Japanese way of admiring the sakura. While other Japanese arts such as the tea ceremony and karate can take lifetimes to master, hanami essentially boils down to a picnic in the park.
However, before you can indulge in copious amounts of alcohol, a veritable feast of seasonal foods and the obligatory impromptu haiku, first you need to pick your spot. And that, my loyal audience, is why I am bringing you this clear and concise guide to Tokyo’s top cherry blossom viewing spots.
Before you can polish off a few tumblers of seasonal sake, first you’re going to need to find some cherry blossom petals worthy of adoration. Indeed, Tokyoites such as myself are keen on keeping our secret spots to ourselves, though the following list of ‘classic’ spots should get you started:
Ueno Park (上野公園; Ueno-kouen) Considering to be the granddaddy of cherry blossom viewing spots, Ueno Park is home to literally thousands of cherry trees, which create a veritable canopy of luscious pink petals. Although it’s certainly not the quietest spot to appreciate nature, hanami parties here are of rock star proportions.
Shinjuku Gardens (新宿御苑; Shinjuku-gyoen) Regarded as having the most beautiful gardens in all of Tokyo, this private park is where you should head if you’re a fan of classic Japanese landscapes. Sakura petals blowing in the wind is a sight in itself, but the scene becomes all the more surreal when they land on perfectly manicured bonsai trees.
Yoyogi Park (代々木公園; Yoyogi-koen) Start your hanami party off with a slow and steady walk through Meiji-jingu (明治神宮), one of Tokyo’s most beautiful shrines, and then wind things down over a bottle of Kirin Ichiban and a rice ball or two in this sprawling urban retreat. Yoyogi attracts a diverse cast of characters, so bring your camera and get ready for some great people-watching.
Sadly, sakura blossoms are as ephemeral as life itself, so don’t waste any time – head to the convenience store, stock up your cooler and start composing those spring haikus.
Are a divine sight to watch
While sipping beer.
** All photos were taken by yours truly in Shinjuku-gyoen **