Hanami (花見) is the annual custom of relaxing and socializing with a view to the blossoming Sakura cherry trees. Here’s a list of my favourite hanami spots in this past month. You may still be able to enjoy some of them before they turn green!
1. Meguro riverside – the annual favourite
Few locations can contest the beauty of the sakura trees hovering above Meguro river. In my years in Japan, I haven’t once skipped a visit to the long riverside during the hanami season. Nakameguro is a great neighbourhood either way, abundant with chic cafés and fashionable stores. The pink hues only add to its charm. The blossoms are best enjoyed on foot, walking along the river. The annual tradition also suggests a glass of strawberry flavoured champagne. If you are patient, you can hone your skill of taking pictures of trains passing through sakura, at the Tokyu Toyoko train line.
The good: An unending sequence of trees, plenty of food and drink stalls
The bad: Crowded due to popularity (avoid weekends), few places to sit
2. Sakurazaka in Denenchofu – The namesake of the song Sakurazaka
Denenchofu is a rich suburb that blurs the line between a city and a giant garden. It is the home for many celebrities and expensive bakeries. In April, the whole area turns pink, from the riverbeds of river Tama and Tamagawa Sengen shrine until Numabe. Sakurazaka (=sakura hill) a hidden sakura spot, previously known only to residents. However, in the past decade it became a pilgrimage site for the fans of the song with the same name by Masaru Fukuyama. You’ll find plenty of people hanging around the picturesque red bridge.
The good: A nice area for coffee and brunch, relaxed and quiet
The bad: No benches or picnic areas to chill
3. Tokyo Institute of Technology – Two campuses that both turn pink
Apart from being a prestigious engineering university, Tokyo Institute of Technology is easily the winner of the ‘best campus view during spring’ award. Both the Ookayama and Suzukakedai campuses have dozens of sakura trees. They feature an open area with enough benches and grass fields to enjoy the flowers under the spring sun. In Ookayama campus, you can marvel at the stature of Mount Fuji from the bridge overpass, when the atmosphere is clear. A not-so-hidden spot in Suzukakedai campus is the top floor of the J2 building, which offers the best overhead view of the blossoming trees.
The good: Plenty of areas to have a picnic, friendly crowds and energetic youngsters
The bad: Not may things to do in the surrounding areas, may be subject to entry restrictions due to covid, limited access to some university buildings
4. Shibukawa/Imai/Motosumi Sakura – Do it like the locals do
The walled Shibu river flows parallel to Tama, with most of its riverbank paved with grey stones. A hidden spot known only by local residents, it is a bit more cramped than Meguro river, but excellent in terms of enjoyment. You can follow the river by hopping from one bridge to the next, play with the ducks and the koi, or eat a bento on the stone tables. Near Nakahara ward office, you can find an impressive assortment of different sakura and prunus tree varieties, which bloom in sequence. Look for the fluffy Yaezakura, the binary Genpei sakura, taiwanese cherry and all kinds of flowering peaches and plum trees.
The good: A long paved path on the river canal, shops and restaurants nearby, local atmosphere
The bad: It can be crowded when the whole neighbourhood is out (but it also adds to the fun!)
5. Yokohama’s Parks – Sea and sakura combined
If you are tired of the view of the generic city sakura trees, try Yokohama’s port area for a change. From Yamashita part to Rinko park, there is no shortage of picnic locations to choose from. You can enjoy the sea view while simultaneously sakura petals are dancing in the air. China Town and the large malls of Minato mirai are nearby, perfect for a day full of activities.
The good: A lot of open space and a view to the sea, lots of shops in the vicinity
The bad: I can’t think of any
Here’s a map with all the locations mentioned above. Which one is your favourite? What’s your own most cherished spot for enjoying spring blossoms? Tell me about it!
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