If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you have witnessed the enchanting sight of cherry blossoms (桜 sakura) in full bloom. A cherry blossom’s lifespan frequently serves as a metaphor in literature, symbolising a brief burst of beauty followed by a swift demise as flowers fall off within days. In Japan, people associate the cherry blossom with its transient beauty, rather than just the beautiful appearance of the flowers.

 

What is Ohanami?

Cherry blossoms in Japan are a must-see during spring
The delicate cherry blossom only blooms for a brief period. | Photo by photoAC

 

Spring is the season for new beginnings, and during this season locals gather to take part in ohanami (お花見 flower-viewing). More than just a floral spectacle, ohanami is a cherished encounter with nature’s fleeting beauty, where families and friends gather to revel in and appreciate the short-lived but impactful splendour of the sakura

 

Ohanami usually includes picnic under cherry blossom trees

Wind down with a picnic under the cherry blossoms. | Photo by ぱくたそ

 

Ohanami is an age-old tradition believed to have originated during the Nara Period (710-794), where people enjoyed the blooming of plum blossoms (梅 ume). Over time, the cherry blossom grew in popularity as the flower of choice for ohanami.

 

Where to Enjoy Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo?

Thinking of heading to Tokyo this spring to catch the cherry blossoms? Here are five must-visit cherry blossom spots to admire the pretty pink flowers!

 

1. Chidorigafuchi

Chidorigafuchi is a must-visit for cherry blossoms in Tokyo
Rent a boat at Chidorigafuchi. | Photo by photoAC

 

You often imagine strolling under a tunnel of cherry blossoms to enjoy the scenery, but how about enjoying the scenery from a boat? At Chidorigafuchi (千鳥ヶ淵), the moat of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, you can do just that! Flanked by hundreds of cherry blossom trees on both sides, Chidorigafuchi offers a unique way of viewing these flowers. 

 

Rent a boat amongst the sakura trees in TokyoPedal boat, or paddle boat? | Photo by photoAC

 

Visitors can rent paddle boats or pedal boats to explore the moat and take in the scenery of the flowers. Of course, if you prefer the regular method, you can also take a stroll under the trees on land.

 

Chidorigafuchi (千鳥ヶ淵)
Address: 1-1 Kitanomarukoen, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0091
Access: 2-minute walk from Kudanshita Station (九段下駅)

 

2. Meguro River 

Nakameguro Cherry blossoms night-time illumination is a Tokyo favourite
The Nakameguro cherry blossoms lining the Meguro River. | Photo by ぱくたそ

 

Ohanami is not just a daytime activity, you can do it in the evenings and at night too. There’s something especially alluring about viewing cherry blossoms at night, known as yozakura (夜桜). Cherry blossoms are illuminated from below, creating an otherworldly scenery that is unlike anything you’ve seen before.

 

Enjoy yoruzakura at night in Tokyo
Enjoy yozakura at the Meguro River. | Photo by ぱくたそ

 

Stretching for 5 kilometres along the Meguro River (目黒川), over 800 cherry blossom trees form a pink tunnel over the canal, which is lit up by lanterns at night. You can spend an hour just walking from one end to the other. Find a spot under a tree and set up your picnic mats to enjoy an ohanami experience under the stars.

 

Meguro River (目黒川)
Access: Walk from Nakameguro Station (目黒駅) or Meguro Station (目黒駅)

 

3. Nihonbashi Sakura Namiki 

Sakura trees in Nihonbashi, Tokyo
Rows of cherry blossom trees in Nihonbashi. | Photo by photoAC

 

The Nihonbashi (日本橋) area is located to the east of Tokyo Station, and the two streets known for their rows of cherry blossom trees are Edo Sakura-dori (江戸桜通り) and Yaesu-dori (八重洲通り). 

 

Night-time cherry blossom illuminations in central Tokyo
Cherry blossom trees are illuminated at night. | Photo by photoAC

 

Against a backdrop of historic Western-style buildings, the cherry blossoms stand out and add magic to this business district. In the evenings, the trees are illuminated, making the area even more enchanting. Who says ohanami has to be planned? Admiring the flowers along the street is also a way of appreciating them.

 

Nihonbashi (日本橋)
Access: Walk from Tokyo Station (東京駅)

 

4. Sumida Park

A quintessential Tokyo photo: sakura with Tokyo SkyTree in the background
Enjoy views of cherry blossoms and Tokyo Skytree at Sumida Park. | Photo by photoAC

 

With over 450 cherry blossom trees lining the banks of the Sumida River (隅田川), Sumida Park (隅田公園) near Asakusa has been a beloved ohanami spot since the Edo Period. In modern times, people come here to catch fantastic views of Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー)―Japan’s tallest tower―peeking over the cherry blossom trees.

 

Tokyo SkyTree illuminated at night
Tokyo Skytree illuminated at night. | Photo by photoAC

 

Come in the evening to take a romantic stroll along the riverside, and admire the colourful night views reflected in the waters. For something special, hop on an evening cruise along the river to enjoy a truly unique ohanami experience.

 

Sumida Park (隅田公園)
Address: 1 Hanakawado, Taito-ku, Tokyo 111-0033
Access: 5-minute walk from Asakusa Station (浅草関)

 

5. Rikugien Gardens 

Weeping willow cherry blossoms in Japan
Rikugien’s 70-year-old weeping cherry blossom tree. | Photo by photoAC

 

While many of Tokyo’s cherry blossom trees are of the someiyoshino (ソメイヨシノ) variety, you can head over to Rikugien Gardens (六義園) to admire a special type of cherry blossom tree: the weeping cherry blossoms (しだれ桜 shidarezakura). With branches that cascade downward like a waterfall, the park’s majestic 70-year-old tree attracts visitors for its dreamy sight.

 

Rikugien Gardens night sakura illumination
Admiring yozakura in the rain. | Photo by photoAC

 

Located in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward, Rikugien Gardens is a landscape garden that is usually closed at night, but cherry blossom season is one of only two times a year when the garden has illumination events. Starting from sunset until 21:00, the cherry blossoms are illuminated, with the star of the gardens being the weeping cherry blossom tree, which is located near the main entrance.

 

Rikugien Gardens (六義園)
Address: 6-16-3 Honkomagome, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0021
Access: 7-minute walk from Komagome Station (駒込駅)

 

What to Eat During Ohanami?

Sakura mochi

Sakura mochi kansai-style
Kansai-style sakura mochi. | Photo by photoAC

 

The quintessential ohanami snack, sakura mochi (桜餅) is a tradition Japanese confectionery (和菓子 wagashi), typically also eaten during the Hina Matsuri celebrations in early spring, that has different versions depending on where you eat it.

The Kansai version, eaten in places like Osaka and Kyoto, consists of a sweet glutinous rice ball, usually dyed pink, filled with red bean paste and wrapped in a salt-pickled cherry blossom leaf. 

 

Tokyo style sakura mochi
Kanto-style sakura mochi. | Photo by photoAC

 

The Kanto-style sakura mochi uses a light pink crepe instead of glutinous rice, being a crepe filled with red bean paste and covered with a salt-pickled cherry blossom leaf.

Some people make their sakura mochi own to bring on ohanami picnics, but you can also buy them from convenience stores (コンビニ konbini) and department store basements (デパ地下 depachika).

 

Sakura taiyaki

Sakura taiyaki with kawazu cherry blossoms in the background
Sakura taiyaki is “breaming” in pink. | Photo by Sue Lynn

 

Ohanami is the time to indulge in sakura-themed snacks, with many locations holding spring festivals and cherry blossom viewing festivals. A favourite snack amongst festival-goers is sakura taiyaki (桜たい焼き), a pink twist to the traditional Japanese fish-shaped cake―shaped after a sea bream (鯛 tai)―filled with delectable choices such as sakura-infused bean paste or custard. This unique snack captures the essence of spring with its delicate cherry blossom aroma and subtly sweet taste, creating a perfect fusion of tradition and innovation.

 

Sakura-flavoured Sweet Treats

Cherry blossom themed snacks in Japan
Sakura-flavours snacks from the convenience store. | Photo by Spiegel (
CC BY 2.0) and bryan…(CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

During the cherry blossom season, you can find huge assortments of cherry-blossom flavoured and cherry-blossom themed cakes, pastries, and candies being sold everywhere. From roll cakes to cream puffs to dorayaki to drinks, just pop into any convenience store to check out their line up of spring sakura specials!

 

Enjoy Ohanami at home with JAPAN RAIL CLUB

Spring-themed snacks from JAPAN RAIL CLUB

Not able to visit Tokyo this upcoming spring? Celebrate spring and have your own ohanami party at home with cherry blossom goodies by JAPAN RAIL CLUB!

To thank you, fellow readers, for reading this article so far, here’s an exclusive preview to our upcoming Omiyage Snack Box this April 2024! Titled “Spring Beginnings”, indulge in a box full of spring-themed snacks from Japan in anticipation of this beautiful and transient season.