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This year will mark a different type of cherry blossom season. Usually each year as these transient beauties reveal themselves to the country the Japanese gather together with friends, family, and coworkers and party under the blossoms in a custom called hanami. It is by far my favorite activity in Japan, eating delicious food and drinking into the wee hours of the night celebrating life and beauty that we all know will fade shortly after. In fact it’s the short time period that makes us appreciate the beauty all the more.

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In the wake of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami the cherry blossom parties will be understandably subdued. But I also think that they cheery blossoms offer us a time to reflect on life, the tsunami and what is important to us and how we can help. As the cherry blossoms are just opening around the country here are my favorite viewing places in Tokyo and Kyoto. If you are nearby I urge you to go and still celebrate life and beauty. If your planning to take a trip to Japan, I urge you to keep to your schedule and see for yourself all the beauty Japan has to offer.

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Tokyo

Walking through the Cherry Blossoms in Ueno Park Tokyo Japan

Ueno Park during cherry blossom season

There are three main areas of Tokyo that I’d recommend viewing the cherry blossoms. The first is Ueno Park, perhaps Tokyo’s most well known cherry blossom destination and thus the most crowded. If you are looking to avoid the crowds this is certainly not the place to be. But if you want it lively, and filled with music, families and temples within walking distance than Ueno is the place to be.

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Shinjuku Japan

Shinjuku Gyoen

Our next stop is Shinjuku Gyoen (park) where the vast variety of cherry trees helps to ensure blossoms opening throughout the season. The large open areas ensure spots for those wanting to picnic. However, there are not that may spaces underneath the trees themselves. One tree not to miss is the beautiful weeping cherry tree, Yaebeni Shidarezakura.

Our last top is the Sumida Park which is a nice cherry tree lined walkway along the Sumida River in Asakusa, home to famous Senso-ji Temple. This is a nice relaxing area where you can stroll under the cherry blossoms. It is less crowded than Ueno but still has a nice historical feel to it. Across the river is the Asahi Beer company with its curious golden monument on top of the building. You can also see the ongoing construction to Tokyo’s latest and tallest broadcasting, restaurant and viewing tower the Tokyo Sky Tree.

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Kyoto

It is hard to improve on the beauty and elegance of Kyoto. But when the cheery blossoms appear in the Spring and when the leaves change in the Fall the city comes alive even further wrapped in natural colors that only accentuate the traditional buildings and quietly manicured gardens. Kyoto is full of cherry trees but here are some of my favorite areas.

Cherry blossom viewing in Maruyama park Kyoto

Old Cherry Tree in Maruyama Park

No cherry blossom experience is complete in Kyoto without a visit to Maruyama Park, and its stately old weeping cherry tree that is lit up at night. This is a popular place so if you are planning on having an evening party here you best stake out a spot early in the morning. Companies usually send their junior employees to claim their spot early. Sitting in the park all days sounds like a nice day of work! You can access the area through Yasaka Shrine, which sits at the eastern end of Shijo-dori in the Gion District.

If you are looking to contemplate life during a stroll than the Philosophers Path (哲学の道, Tetsugaku no michi) should be your next stop on your cherry blossom viewing odyssey. This cherry tree lined stone path in the northern section of Higashiyama area is quiet and is a good place to beat the crowds. However, space for picnicking is limited so it’s best for a stroll or to incorporate as part of your walking tour through the area.

Cherry blossom viewing along the philosophers path in Kyoto

Get your inner philosopher a kick start with a little beauty to contemplate

Finally, get a bird’s eye view of the city and the forest of cherry blossom trees surrounding Kiyomizu Temple. Besides the temple being one of Kyoto’s most beautiful and most famous, it has an incredible wooden deck that trusts outs into a sea of blossoms. This spot will be one of your photographic highlights so make sure you head later in the day when you have nice soft light.

Have you been on a hanmi? Where else would you recommend for viewing the cherry blossoms?

Photo Credits 1, 2, 3, 4

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29 Responses to “Cherry Blossom Viewing in Japan”

  1. Cathy MNo Gravatar says:

    I think this is a perfect thing to post in the wake of the tragedy in Japan. In the middle of horror, it’s so important to see, experience, and internalize the beauty that still exists. I would think that celebrating the annual, if fleeting, beauty of the cherry blossoms is a powerful way to move through extremely trying times. They’re a natural reminder that even in the worst of times, life goes on even if we can’t see how it can. This too shall pass and new buds will bloom again.
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful celebration.

  2. Ted NelsonNo Gravatar says:

    I had the pleasure of checking out the cherry blossoms in Mayuyama Park in 2005. The place was packed, but it was a lot of fun.
    Ted Nelson´s recent [type] ..Flamingo- Florida is the gateway to the Everglades National Park

  3. Wai TsuiNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for sharing, Todd. I truly miss the cherry blossom in Japan! I’ve only been to the sakura season in Osaka and Kyoto and I’m definitely going to visit Tokyo for some hanami parties next year! I’m going to support the tourism in Japan as far as I can. Hope that things will get better soon there.
    Wai Tsui´s recent [type] ..Travel to Hiroshima – A Lesson Not to be Missed

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Wai, to be honest I love the hanami parties in the country side the best. More space, and usually a ton more trees. But I also know that most visitors are in the big cities so I gave them my attention.

  4. JoselinNo Gravatar says:

    This is so beautiful. They are by far my favorite trees to admire!

  5. UntemplaterNo Gravatar says:

    Alhough I’ve been to Japan I went in the summer and didn’t get to see hanami. It must be amazing and also tough to get around in the crowds. I’ll never forget what it’s like riding the trains in Tokyo during rush hour. For folks who can’t get to Japan, the cherry trees in Washington DC are really beautiful when they are in bloom this time of year. The trees around the tidal basin is my favorite spot. -Sydney
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  6. ArtiNo Gravatar says:

    Awesome photos! What a beautiful place to be in amid all the wonders of nature!

  7. DeniseNo Gravatar says:

    How beautiful! Being in Japan for the Cherry Blossom festivals is definitely among the top 5 travel experiences I want to do in my life!
    Denise´s recent [type] ..Spring and Cows are back

  8. i love to see that ceremony, there are so many references to cherry blossoms in Japanese literature and art
    Zablon Mukuba´s recent [type] ..5 things to know before hosting an international volunteer

  9. thanks for using my ueno picture.

  10. linaNo Gravatar says:

    One of the best time to visit. :)
    lina´s recent [type] ..Still Eating Sushi

  11. HeatherNo Gravatar says:

    Your pictures are so beautiful. I am in Japan right now, and wish I could make it to Kyoto and Tokyo and see the blossoms there. We are enjoying them a lot in Fukuoka though – the weather is wonderful now!

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Hi Heather, great! Fukuoka is a great place to see the sakura. With the weather being nice and warm I bet they are in full bloom at the moment. Enjoy!

  12. One of my absolute favorite travel memories is visiting Japan during Sakura. Amazing!!!

  13. DavidNo Gravatar says:

    ” If you are nearby I urge you to go and still celebrate life and beauty. If your planning to take a trip to Japan, I urge you to keep to your schedule and see for yourself all the beauty Japan has to offer.”

    I would add: and if you have the time and money to go, even if you hadn’t planned it, I urge you to go now!
    David´s recent [type] ..Culinary Quiz – Let’s play with eels

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Good point David. I’m going to Japan in June and have no plans to change or cancel.

      • DavidNo Gravatar says:

        :-)
        And I accept any donation that will help me buy a plane ticket as soon as possible…
        Wait? What? No, scratch that, people should give their money to the NGOs from Blog 4 Japan, what am I talking about.. (ok, if someone is a millionaire has already given all of their NGO budget and has an extra $1000 they don’t know what to do with, I’ll gladly take it).
        David´s recent [type] ..Help a Takamatsu NGO Help the People of Miyagi

  14. Yoshinoyama in Nara Prefecture. That mountain is completely covered in cherry blossoms. However, I like Himeji Castle the best.
    Turner Wright´s recent [type] ..What do you mean I’m not allowed to teach kindergarten

  15. Sarah WuNo Gravatar says:

    It’s very beautiful and this year it has special meaning.

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