Millions of delicate pink flowers open gently in the sun. Petals float in the breeze, covering the streets in cotton candy confetti. Parks hum with the sounds of laughter and glasses clinking. The sleeping city is awakened, transformed into a magical pink wonderland. The sakura is in full bloom – springtime in Tokyo is here. Japan is famous for its sakura, or cherry blossom season. Millions of cherry trees across the country bloom in a dazzling display of of ephemeral beauty, attracting visitors from far and wide.
Mankai, or peak sakura bloom, comes at a slightly different time each year, and I was worried I might miss it because of my trip to Vietnam. But luckily for me, spring arrived late this year, and I returned to Tokyo just in time for full bloom. It did not disappoint. Sakura season was a stunning, magical time in Tokyo. I visited a few famous sakura spots around the city, and enjoyed view of sakura right outside my window at work.
Hanami in Inokashira Park
Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is the Japanese word for a picnic/party in the park to enjoy the sakura. During springtime in Tokyo, you’ll find all the parks crowded with locals hamami-ing. People lay out tarps, play music, eat snacks… and get wasted. It’s the quintessential Japanese springtime experience. I’m fortunate enough to live right next to one of Tokyo’s best sakura spots, Inokashira park. My friend Peter and me had ourselves a little hanami in Inokashira Park and admired the blossoms. We rode a swan boat in the lake, which I have been dying to do since I came to Tokyo, but have been waiting for the right moment. This was it.
Nakameguro Sakura Festival
Another one of Tokyo’s most renowned sakura viewing locations is Nakameguro. Hundreds of cherry trees line the Meguro-gawa river, and during the Nakameguro Sakura Festival, pink paper lanterns are lit and the trees are illuminated at night. It’s a lovely sight. I visited the famous festival on a Saturday night. It was so crowded I could hardly even walk, but worth braving the crowds for the picture perfect view of the sakura and the river. I got a glass of bubbly pink champagne and enjoyed the magical scene.
Arakura Sengen Shrine & Chureito Pagoda
The Arakura Sengen Shrine is built into the hillside of Mt. Arakura in Kawaguchi, Yamanashi Prefecture. It overlooks Fujiyoshida City and Mt. Fuji, offering one of the most iconic images of Japan. The shrine attracts many visitors and photographers every year, especially around sakura season. A short walk to the top of the shrine will give you a panoramic view of sakura trees, the bright red Chureito Pagoda, and Mt. Fuji in the background. Kawaguchi is at a slightly higher elevation than Tokyo, so the sakura had not quite reached peak bloom when I visited, but it was worth it for the views of Mt. Fuji alone. There was also a Sakura Festival with live music, dance performances, food, and local vendors.
Now, the sakura flowers have fallen from the trees and new green leaves have grown in their place. Summertime is amost here. The magic can’t last forever, but I’ll always remember this special time in Japan.