19 June 2012

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Tokyo, Japan

Hanami is Cherry Blossom Viewing in Japan. It is the main reason i scheduled my trip for late March/early April. When all the trees are in full bloom it is truly a spectacular sight.

My first taste of a cherry tree in bloom was in Kyoto. Unfortunately due to the cold snap and a typhoon that hit i didn't get to see Kyoto cherry trees in full bloom, but on my last night while wandering around, i came across a beautiful tree in Maruyama Park. I could see that, in preparation for the festival, food stalls had been set up and people had their picnic spots already marked out and secured waiting for the other cherry trees to follow suit.

Cherry Blossom tree in Maruyama Park (Kyoto) at night

Cherry Blossom tree and food stalls in Maruyama Park (Kyoto) at night
I was, however, lucky enough to bear witness to the beginning of the season in Tokyo this year and to be there over the first weekend. It was the last few days of my holiday when the clouds of pink finally appeared. First stop was Shinjuku-Goyen (Shinjuku Park). It was a Friday and as the park charges a small entrance fee - i didn't see the crowds i later saw at Ueno Park. This was lucky as i managed to get some great photos of the rows of pink blossoms. Be warned, this is a photo-heavy post!

Pink cherry blossoms
Simple pink Sakura blossom

Cherry blossom cloud - Shinjuku-Goyen
Cherry blossoms
Sakura photography at Shinjuku Goyen, Tokyo
Cherry blossoms in Shinjuku Goyen, Tokyo
Cherry blossom close up
Early picnickers at Shinjuku Goyen
Sakura blossom close up
Low hanging cherry blossoms - Shinjuku Goyen, Tokyo
Capturing the perfect cherry blossom - Shinjuku Goyen, Tokyo
A canopy of pink - Shinjuku Goyen, Tokyo
Pale pink, dark pink and white cherry blossoms - Shinjuku Goyen, Tokyo
Family picnic
"Salary men" picnic

Cherry blossoms and picnics - Shinjuku-goyen, Tokyo

There are so many places people go to view Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo. Some of the more unusual recommendations were cemeteries. I'm not kidding. Below are some photos taken in Yanaka Cemetery. People had no qualms about spreading their picnic blanket among the grave sites and tombstones and doing their cherry blossom viewing there. I have to say though one of the most amazing sites i went to was Aoyama Cemetery - the main traffic thoroughfare through the cemetery is lined with cherry trees and in bloom they were S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G!! Unfortunately my camera battery had run out when I'd visited so i don't have any photos but i did dig some up on the Internet. Sleepwalking in Tokyo has done a whole post on Aoyama cemetery complete with lots of photos, but my fav is this one.

Cherry blossom viewing among the graves at Yanaka Cemetery
Picnic among the graves - Yanaka Cemetery
Sakura lined avenue - Yanaka Cemetery

Yanaka Cemetery - cherry blossom season

Sakura canopy in Yanaka Cemetery
Ueno Park is perhaps the most popular (certainly the most crowded that i saw) destination for Hanami in Tokyo. The cherry tree lined avenues were in full bloom and the crowds were out in full force, you could not squeeze through the throngs of people even if you were a shadow...i think the photo below speaks volumes.

Cherry blossom crowds at Ueno Park, Tokyo
Sakura viewing at Ueno Park, Tokyo
Hanami at Ueno park, Tokyo
Sumida Park on the banks of the Sumida river was also a popular choice...they light up the cherry blossoms at night but i didn't get the chance to see that.

Sumida Park cherry blossom viewing
Yoyogi Koen (Yoyogi Park) i found to be more popular with the younger crowd (maybe due to its close proximity to Harajuku) and expats. Still quite full of people enjoying Hanami, it had a more relaxed vibe and more space for people to play games, stretch out or manoeuvre between picnic camps without stepping on someone. I did enjoy myself there far more than the other parks so i highly recommend it if you ever find yourself i Tokyo during cherry blossom season or other festival holiday.

Yoyogi Park picnickers
Yoyogi Park fountain and Cherry trees
One place that was quite beautiful and had a lot of cherry blossoms, i came across purely by chance. I was in Kagurazaka, a place that isn't usually high on a tourists list but apparently this is where the French expat community have settled. Cherry blossom trees line the river and while the footpath beside the road is not too wide, plenty of people were out taking a walk and taking in the lovely view. Those that could afford it (or had the time to line up) could enjoy the view from the cleverly located Canal Cafe over a bite to eat or from the river after hiring a small boat.

Kagurazaka cherry blossoms
Cherry tree lined river - Kagurazaka, Tokyo
I took so many photos of cherry blossom trees and people enjoying their picnic, of a line of trees, bunches of blossoms and single blossoms that i could hardly fit all of them here, and even if i did, it really would not convey how breathtakingly beautiful they are. I love that Japan treats such a gift of nature as something to celebrate, other than buying food and drink for the picnic, there really isn't much commercial about this celebration and it is all about chilling out and spending time with family and friends.

VP at Shinjuku-Goyen

Hope you enjoyed this very blossom-y post...

Vanishing Point

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