If you're keen to witness the famed cherry blossoms of Japan but want more than the classic viewing experience, Tokyo has plenty of unique experiences up her sleeve.
Those travellers who don’t want to wait a second longer than necessary to make their sakura holiday come true are in luck this year as the season is expected to start earlier than usual with full bloom expected on March 23, according to a forecast released by Japan Meteorological Corporation.
From the city centre to the countryside, from its riverbanks to its temples, Tokyo is set to lure travellers with a variety of iconic and lesser-known cherry blossom experiences. Here are some of our favourites:
Cherry blossom illuminations (yozakura) & festivals: if you can’t get enough of the blossoms in daytime, they are just as lovely at night. Enjoy yozukura from a boat, cruising along the Chidorigafuchimoat or admire the blossoms in Tokyo Midtown’s Sakura-dori street. For an extra festive experience, head to the trendy Nakameguro neighbourhood for the Sakura-matsuri festival where, in addition to the illuminations in a beautiful setting by the river, paper lanterns and food stalls add to a magical atmosphere. To access the complete guide of cherry blossom illuminations click here.
Indulge in cherry blossom-themed food & wine: Who says the cherry blossom experience has to happen on the streets only? Enjoy the cherry-blossom experience on a plate with Tokyo’s stores selling special bento boxes, cherry blossom-flavoured sweets and even wine flavoured with petals.
Celebrate like the locals: The classic hanami party sees friends or colleagues gather under the cherry trees to drink beer and sake and eat colourful bento meals and fried chicken. Some sing karaoke in the park or even dress up in cosplay. If you’re up for a rowdy party, join the fun at the Yoyogi and Inokashira parks. For a quieter but equally enticing celebration, have a picnic with family or friends atShinjuku Gyoen National Garden.
Cherry blossoms, the historic way: Whilst sakura viewing is a relatively recent trend, Tokyo’s cherry trees date back as far as the Edo period (1603-1867). Tokyo’s Rikugien Garden was built in the 18th century for a feudal lord and is known for its weeping cherry tree, a sight that is worth seeing in daytime, but it makes an even bigger impression at night, when illuminated.
Head to the countryside: For an off-the-beaten-track experience away from the crowds, head to Mount Takao. Just 50 minutes from central Tokyo, it is the perfect place for a quiet nature escape. One of our favourite sakura spots is the Takaosan Senbonzakura area known for its many varieties of cherry blossoms blooming a week or so later than the rest of Tokyo.
For more information on sakura season, access the complete ‘Hanami Guide’ here.
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