In Japan, the appearance of cherry blossoms, known locally as sakura, signals the beginning of spring. The arrival of these flowers is an annual event so significant, that there are forecasts pinpointing exactly when and where the flowers are expected to bloom.
From an outsider’s perspective, this may seem excessive. However, when taking into account the fact that sakura are only in bloom for a maximum of about two weeks, it’s understandable that people would want to find out both the ‘kaika’ (blooming) and ‘mankai’ (full bloom) predictions in order to make the most out of the ‘hanami’ (flower viewing)
1. Yoyogi Park, Tokyo
Despite being Tokyo’s third-largest park and having 730 cherry trees, Yoyogi is actually not one of Tokyo’s top hanami (blossom-viewing) spots for couples. Instead, it is popular with larger groups, as people can spread out a little more. It’s a perfect place to bring a bento lunch (or dinner), a can or few of beer, and enjoy relaxing under the blossoms without so much interference from others.
Best viewing: Early April
2. Nakameguro Canal, Tokyo
We’ve called Nakameguro Tokyo’s best neighborhood for seeing cherry blossoms, and it continues to hold true, largely thanks to its canal-like waterway: Each spring, the more than 800 trees that line it come alive in brilliant pink. During the Nakameguro Sakura Festival, the trees are illuminated in the evening, and shops and restaurants sell cherry blossom-themed wares like pink champagne along the canal.
Best viewing: The festival runs from March 23–April 9.
3. Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokyo
It is one of the best spots for cherry blossoms in Tokyo. In the expansive garden with an area of 58.3 hectares (583,000 sqm) and a circumference of 3.5 kilometers, about 1,100 Japanese cherry trees bloom in spring.
Since the different kinds of trees have different blossoming times, you can enjoy all kinds of flowers for a relatively long time, making the cherry blossom garden an especially attractive viewing spot.
Best viewing: March 22–April 7
4. Maruyama Park, Kyoto
Maruyama Park is Kyoto’s oldest park, and one of the ancient capital’s most popular spots for sakura viewing. And while it’s pleasant enough to stroll under the park’s cherry trees during daylight hours, most visit at night to see Maruyama’s famed shidarezakura tree, which is lit up during the blossom season.
Best viewing: April 23–May 6