After the warm and boring winter in Tokyo, finally, spring is coming! Though this year the ICC Hanami event was canceled due to the coronavirus, you all still have plenty of choices to enjoy this beautiful season because the city is going to be filled with Sakura. You can find it in your neighbor’s garden, in your neighborhood park, school and anywhere.
Today, I am going to talk about my experience with Hanami in Tokyo.
Hearing the fame of the cherry blossom in Japan for a long time, I eventually was able to see it with my own eyes 3 years ago when I began my studies at Waseda University. During the spring of my freshman year, I was so excited about it. I visited most of the popular places and saw the joy Hanami brings to everyone. It is hard to tell whether one place is better than another, but I am going to list my personal Top 5 Hanami Places. This is all based on my own preference, and I welcome all of your opinions about your favorite Hanami place.
No. 5 Ueno Park
This is a really interesting place to visit especially in the evening. You will see lots of Japanese office workers sitting under the trees having drinking and welcoming parties. They are very well prepared with picnic sheets, tables, lights, food, drinks and sometimes even mini-refrigerators! I think the cherry blossom season at Ueno Park is a wonderful opportunity for foreigners to know about Japanese company network building and urban culture.
No. 4 Shinjuku Gyoen
Since Shinjuku Gyoen is a well-organized royal garden, besides cherry blossoms there are still many other scenery spots you can enjoy in the garden. Also because it charges an entry fee, there are fewer visitors than other free open spaces. My way to enjoy Shinjuku Gyoen is to bring my breakfast early in the morning, finding a place on the grass near a cherry tree and enjoying the food, sunshine and the peaceful cherry blossoms before the place becomes too crowded. The ideal time for breakfast at Gyoen is before 12:00 am.
No. 3 Kanda River
As a Waseda student, you definitely should not miss this beautiful riverside cherry blossom spot. It is also an alternative to the crowded Meguro River. But instead of making you feel like you’re at a scenic spot, Kanda River makes you feel relaxed and closer to the daily life of Japan. Most importantly, it is close to the campus which means you can casually drop by any time to enjoy the cherry blossom there when you come to school.
No.2 Meguro River
Getting off the train at Naka-Meguro Station, you can feel the popularity of this place immediately. Not only Japanese but tourists from all over the world urge to see the romantic pink Sakura arch along the Meguro River. At night, there are illuminations and it makes the whole place even more beautiful. If you are tired of being part of the crowd, there are lots of distinctive cafés and restaurants for you to enjoy the view and indulge your gourmet side at the same time.
If you are looking for a more breathtaking Sakura scene, you should never miss this place. Though there’s nowhere to sit under the trees and it’s usually very crowded, it’s totally worth it. You will be walking along the green-lined paths under the Sakura and watching the blossoms arch over both sides of moat of the Imperial Palace. Boating on the water surrounded by Sakura is also a way to enjoy the beautiful view if you are willing to wait in line for about 2 hours. There is illumination at night. The best part is that you can see Tokyo Tower from there, which makes you feel you are in the Tokyo of your dreams.
Honorable Mention: Rikugien Garden
I want to give an honorable mention to Rikugien Garden because it is quite different from other Hanami places listed above. Rikugien Garden is originally famous for traditional Japanese Garden instead of a Hanami place. However, they have special species of Sakura each tree of which is huge. The garden charges visitors at evening because they have illuminations for the whole garden. Seeing those breathtaking huge trees in the dark is kind of special experience for me.
Find and enjoy the beauty of this season!
Considering the current situation, it is better not to go to crowded Hanami places. You can save this blog for your TO GO LIST for next year. For this year, instead of heading to these popular places, you can try to explore somewhere else maybe just in your neighborhood. I think the excitement of Hanami is not only about where you go, but your feelings. If you are in a good mood and feel energetic, then anywhere would be the best spot for your Hanami. I am sure you will find the best place for you to enjoy the beautiful blossom.
T.L. (Student Staff Leader)