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Japan’s Cherry Blossoms – Secret Hanami Spots to Enjoy Spring Magic Without the Crowds

Japan’s Cherry Blossoms – Secret Hanami Spots to Enjoy Spring Magic Without the Crowds

Update: 9 May 2017

When talking about hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, in and throughout Tokyo, these places are among the first that come to mind: Ueno Park and Chidorigafuchi, the beautiful moat around the Imperial Palace. Between the end of March and the beginning of April, the hundreds of cherry trees are in bloom, transforming Tokyo into a cherry blossom wonderland. The tiny flowers aren’t only extremely beautiful to look at, however, they also have a rich symbolic meaning in Japanese culture, and Tokyoites and tourists alike set out to refresh body and soul under the blooming trees, shaking off the last cold thoughts of winter. From the end of March to the beginning of April, Tokyo’s popular spots like the two named above are crowded with thousands of people, making it rather hard to genuinely appreciate the beauty and philosophy of the cherry blossoms in peace and quiet. Fret not, however, as there are certain secret hanami spots all around Tokyo, known by only a few and promising a quiet and relaxed cherry blossom experience. Let’s head to Tokyo’s suburbs and get a first-hand experience of the authentic hanami magic!

The Cherry Blossom Tunnel of Zenpukuji River, a Hidden Sight of West Tokyo

The Cherry Blossom Tunnel of Zenpukuji River, a Hidden Sight of West Tokyo

The first cherry blossom recommendation is the Zenpukuji River in Tokyo’s Suginami ward, bordering the beautiful Zenpukuji Park. The river, around 10 km in total length, basically crosses right through the heart of Suginami and in the river’s 4 km big basin, a little lush park can be found, lovingly called the Zenpukuji River Green Space, as well as a park featuring a baseball park and more called the Wadabori Park. The river is lined with cherry trees, blooming beautifully in March and April, creating an almost out-of-this-world style cherry tree tunnel over the water.
This lush place is the neighborhood’s largest park area, nestled just between the Marunouchi Subway Line and the Keio Inokashira Line, easily accessible by a 20-minute walk from both Shin-Koenji Station and Eifukucho Station, lined with atmospheric old shops and stores. Despite by this place’s beauty, it is a well-guarded local secret and thus hardly crowded.

From the end of March to the beginning of April, about 700 individual cherry trees are in bloom at the Zenpukuji River Green Space and Wadabori Park, dipping the usually green area in a marvelous light pink. The 4 km long walkway along the river thus turns into a tunnel of cherry blossoms, their branches hanging down close to the calm waters. From the Ozaki Bridge, the view is particularly spectacular, creating a scenery of branches, waters, and petals that you won’t be able to forget. At the open space near this very bridge, the Zenpukuji River Sakura Festival is being held in early April, so by all means, go ahead and experience the lively atmosphere of a Japanese spring festival under a dream of pink cherry blossoms.

Entry: free
Hours: 24/7
Closed: always open
Cherry Blossom Bloom Time: late March – early April
Access: Shin-Koenji Station (Marunouchi Subway Line), 5 minutes by Kanto Bus via Itsukaichi Gaido-Eigyosho to Narita Sanchome, a short walk from there

  • Zenpukuji River Green Space
    善福寺川緑地
    • Address Naritanishi, Suginami-ku, Tokyo, 166-0016, Japan

Cherry Blossom and Sky Tree Spring Magic at Sarue Onshi Park in Tokyo’s Shitamachi

Cherry Blossom and Sky Tree Spring Magic at Sarue Onshi Park in Tokyo’s Shitamachi

It is very likely that you’ve never heard of Sarue Onshi Park before, a beautiful oasis of calm tucked away between Sumida and Arakawa River, facing the scenic Tokyo Bay. With a history that goes back to 1932, it is one of Tokyo’s oldest parks and known as a precious green space among locals for many decades. Sarue Onshi Park is three times the size of Tokyo Dome and divided into North and South Park, divided by the Shin-Ohashi Bridge that connects the east and west sides of the Koto ward. While the South Park features a baseball field and tennis courts, the North Side is filled with numerous cherry trees, blossoming beautifully in spring. As there are no major sightseeing landmarks or popular areas around the park, it is astoundingly quiet and mostly frequented by locals wanting to relax.

Around 200 individual cherry trees can be found throughout the park, including beautiful cherry blossom varieties such as the Yoshino cherry called Somei Yoshino, Satozakura, and the weeping cherry, Shidarezakura. The majority of them bloom around the north’s Central Square, as well as on the banks of the Yokojukken River and on a sunny day, the pink cherry blossom petals create a wonderful contrast between the blue skies of Tokyo and the colorful trees. Even the Sky Tree can be seen in the distance, peeking out over the cherry blossom scenery. And while the trees themselves aren’t lit up during the night, the lights of the tennis courts shine over and dip the cherry trees in an almost enigmatic shimmer.

Entry: free
Hours: 24/7
Closed: always open
Cherry Blossom Bloom Time: late March – early April
Access: Sumiyoshi Station (Toei Shinjuku Line), 3 minutes on foot

  • Sarue Onshi Park
    猿江恩賜公園
    • Address 2-13-7, Sumiyoshi, Koto-ku, Tokyo,135-0002, Japan

Experience the Beautiful Collaboration of Cherry and Rape Blossoms at the Showa Memorial Park

Experience the Beautiful Collaboration of Cherry and Rape Blossoms at the Showa Memorial Park

The breathtakingly beautiful Showa Memorial Park, our next recommended cherry blossom location, can be reached by a 25-minute train ride from Shinjuku Station. Ride all the way to Tachikawa Station in the heart of Tachikawa City, a large town in West Tokyo with a population of four million people. The Showa Memorial Park itself is just a four-minute walk away from this large station, the largest park in the entirety of Tokyo. Roughly 38 times the size of the Tokyo Dome, the vast area is divided into five different areas, such as the Forest Zone, the Water Zone, and the Plaza Zone. The park is popular all around the year, offering illuminations in winter and barbecue areas in the summer – but during spring, it transforms into one of the most amazing cherry blossom viewing spots in all of Tokyo.

Close to the “Minna no Harappo” area of the Showa Memorial Park lies the Cherry Blossom Garden, and as the name suggests, look forward to an amazing scenery of pink petals stretching towards the blue skies. Different varieties, such as the Somei Yoshino which is in full bloom from late March to early April. Right next to the garden lies the East Flower Field, which has its very own magnificent surprise to offer. At the same time in which the cherry trees are in full bloom, the scenery of the flower field transforms into a magnificent and vivid gold as the rape plants that cover the entire field blossom beautifully. Around 1,500 cherry trees can be found throughout the Showa Memorial Park, creating a beautiful creation of pink and gold with the blooming rape plants. We also highly recommend the sight from the Sakura Bridge, but go ahead and find your very own favorite spot in Tokyo’s largest park.

Entry: 410 yen
Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00p.m. (from March to October)
Open until 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and from April to September.
Closed: New Year’s, the 4th Monday of February and the following day
Cherry Blossom Bloom Time: late March – early April
Access: JR Tachikawa Station, 4 minutes on foot from the North Exit

  • Showa Memorial Park
    国営昭和記念公園
    • Address 3173, Midoricho, Tachikawa-shi, Tokyo,190-0014, Japan

Relax Right Over the Water at Meguro River’s Famous Cherry Blossom Scenery

Relax Right Over the Water at Meguro River’s Famous Cherry Blossom Scenery

One of Tokyo’s most famous classic cherry blossom viewing spots is along Meguro River, where the trees stretch their branches down to the water, almost touching its surface. Around 800 Yoshino cherry trees line the river, along with atmospheric and charming cafés and restaurants, inviting to take a break from the busy life of Tokyo to enjoy a nice cup of coffee and gaze upon the beautiful spring scenery of Meguro River. You might wonder why this spot is on our list, as a lot of people specifically come to see Meguro River and its famous cherry blossoms – but few people are aware that cruise tours offer the unique chance to see the iconic cherry blossom scenery by boat and from an entirely new angle.

Our warmest recommendation for enjoying Meguro River’s cherry blossoms is the “Meguro River Cherry Blossom Corridor Cruise.” Organized by Pokekaru, a company that organizes a large variety of cultural events and experiences, take a seat in an atmospheric boat and glide under the hundreds of blooming cherry blossoms without having to worry about the crowds! These cruise boats depart from Tennozu Pier which can be accessed by a 3-minute walk from Tokyo Monorail’s Tennozu Isle Station, sailing up the Meguro River from there. After passing underneath several bridges, the cruise boat will take you to the biggest cherry blossom corridor of Tokyo, starting around Osaki Bridge. The weeping cherry trees are so big that you can almost reach the branches from either side of the river, and when you’re gliding below them by boat, their branches reach just right above your head. The scenery of leisurely gliding under the blooming branches is second to none! As already mentioned, you won’t have to worry about people or finding a seat – just make a reservation for a cruise and enjoy your unique cherry blossom experience.

Admission: 4,980 yen
Date & Time: March 20 to April 9; one cruise per day (does not take place in case of bad weather)
Access: Tennozu Isle Station (Tokyo Monorail), 3 minutes on foot
Reservations can be made from Pokekaru’s website.

  • Tennozu Pier
    天王洲ピア
    • Address 2-2-4 Higashishinagawa, Shinagawa, Tokyo,140-0002, Japan
*This information is from the time of this article's publication.

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