Spring is probably the best time to be in Tokyo. As the cold weather leaves us, we can store away our coats until next year and finally soak up that sweet vitamin D. The spirit really livens up as people start to get out of their winter shells with the flowers blossoming, especially with the cherry blossom season and spring activities underway. Japan really doesn’t shy away when it comes to painting the country pink; pink flowers; pink foods; and pink cheeks.
It’s not just about the pink overload when it comes to spring in Japan, so in light of this, here are a few things to look out for so you can get the most out of your time in Japan during this beautiful season.
If you are worried about the coronavirus, COVID-19 situation, we have included a few less crowded options for you. You can also check out our blog about precautions and our other blog about things you can do during this epidemic.
Hamani is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. “Hana” means “flower” and “mi” means “watch”. It is cherry blossom viewing season and since cherry blossoms only fully bloom for a couple of weeks, if not less, it is an activity that people treasure. It holds a special place in people’s hearts and it is an activity that nearly every person in the country enjoy. It is also the perfect symbolism for the Japanese philosophy of beautiful impermanence.
People gather with their family and friends and sit under trees to enjoy the flowers while having food and drinks. During this season, viewing spots and parks are filled with people. There are a few famous spots and less well-known spots in Tokyo that we would love to introduce to you!
For this year’s spring in Tokyo, one or two cherry blossom trees have started blooming in various parts of Japan, although the peak viewing time changes depending on the area. In Tokyo, cherry blossom trees are said to start blooming on 15th March and the best viewing period is estimated to be around 22nd March to the end of March. For other areas such as Kyoto and Osaka, it is believed that the cherry blossoms trees will bloom a little later than in Tokyo and the best viewing time is between 25th March to the very beginning of April.
Yoyogi Park is one of the most popular parks for people to visit during cherry blossom. It is one of the largest national parks and it is right next to Shibuya and Harajuku, so it’s very accessible. There are around 700 cherry blossom trees in the park, creating a beautiful, pink tunnel.
Do keep in mind that it gets very crowded! We’ve shown up as early as 5am to snag a good spot to admire the cherry blossoms from; it is hard to get a signal on your phone because of the large number of visitors; and there can be wait times as long as 45 minutes for the toilets.
Despite all of this, thousands and thousands of people still visit Yoyogi Park during. this time. You will probably run into people you know and make new friends over drinks. It’s most crowded on weekends, of course, so if you want smaller crowds, visit on a weekday instead.
Ueno Park is another popular park for people to visit in spring in Tokyo with about a thousand cherry blossom trees in the park. There are also a few museums, temples and a zoo within the park, and there is the famous shopping and dining street Ameya-yokocho right outside of it, so you can get some other tourist-y things done after your hanami sesh.
Shinjuku Gyoen is in Shinjuku, the heart of the city. It has a thousand cherry blossom trees of different species and is a great spot for snapping beautiful photographs of nature with the metropolis of Shinjuku in the background. Bear in mind that alcohol (a staple of hanami) is prohibited in this park and that there is a park entrance fee of USD$5.
If you want to get away from the massive crowds and enjoy cherry blossom viewing somewhere a little quieter, then you should check out Shioiri Park. It’s next to Sumida River where you can see Tokyo Sky Tree from as well. There are public toilets in the park and you can bring along food and drinks. It is a popular spot in summer for fireworks-viewing but it is not crowded during cherry blossom season.
Showa Kinen Park
Showa Kinen Park is towards the west of central Tokyo and you can go flower-viewing here all year round. From mid-March to mid-April, you can see Kawazuzakura, a special species of cherry blossom.
Kawazuzakura blooms earlier than other cherry blossom trees, usually from the beginning of February. It is famous for its darker pink colour and it blooms for over a month, so people have a longer period of time to enjoy these flowers.
Showa Kinen Park is large and not as accessible as the other parks in the centre of the city. Because of that, it is easy to find space to spread yourselves out. Come check this place out to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city during.
Matsuri, spring festivals
Though matsuri‘s—Japanese festivals—are more prevalent in summer, there are some happening all throughout the year as well. They great amazing spring activities for you to enjoy. Here are a few festivals to be on the look out for during spring.
Kawazuzakura Festival, Feb 10- March 10
As mentioned earlier, Kawazuzakura is another type of cherry blossom and it is famous for its darker colour. One of the most famous spring festivals is the Kazawazakura festival that takes place between 10th February to 10th March this year.
The cherry blossom trees extend down around 4 kilometres along the Kawazu River. At night, there are also beautiful illumination displays. It is a great place to come and enjoy the beautiful scenery and enjoy Japanese food and drinks.
Kanamara Matsuri, April 5
The Kanamara festival, aka the penis festival. I’m sure by now many of you have heard of or seen pictures of this bizarre festival.
This is a festival with penises literally everywhere. There penis-shaped foods and penis masks and even a large penis shrine. It takes place at the Kanayama Shrine in Kawasaki which has sexual connotations as it was visited by mostly prostitutes praying for protection from STDs in the Edo period. It has since become a place for individuals to pray for fertility, healthy childbirth, and safe sex as well.
What’s kind of great about this festival, apart from the obvious, is that it also raises funds for HIV research and some visitors dress up in drag. A fun and truly unique experience. But be prepared! As it’s now a popular event for tourists, it’s advised you arrive early if you don’t want to be pushed around like a pin-ball.
The Kanda Matsuri, May 9 – 15
One of the three great Shinto festivals of Tokyo and a celebration continuing since the Edo period, this festival takes place at the Kanda Myojin Shrine and circulates through central districts. Although this is a 6-day event, the main events take place during the weekend. If you’re in the city, it’s a great opportunity to experience the festive culture of Japan.
Outdoor spring activities
Besides hanami, there are lots of fun and exciting spring activities that you can do during spring in Tokyo. Here are just some of them. If you have any questions and need any suggestions or help, feel free to message us through Facebook!
Fruit picking is a fun spring activity you can enjoy in Japan. Strawberry picking is one of the most popular activities. It is cheap, usually starting from just 1,000 yen. Thee are many strawberry farms you can visit, with the closest just 30 minutes or so from the city centre.
There are lots of amazing one-day hiking trails from Tokyo and with the weather getting warmer but still breezy, it is perfect to get out there and take in some vitamin D.
Other than hiking trails, there are a lot of beautiful rivers and lakes around Tokyo which you can visit for the day. You can rent a bicycle to go around the area and enjoy a day in the nature.
Zip-lining may not come to mind when you think about spring activities to do in Japan but there are increasing numbers of great zip-lining places you can go to, with easy access from Tokyo! The exhilaration and thrill of sliding down the forest is incredible and with the beautiful weather during spring, it is definitely an activity you will love!
Another popular spring activity is kayaking. The rivers in spring have plenty of water and you can experience a powerful rafting experience that even beginners will enjoy.
There are lots of fun and amazing places to visit and activities to do! If you are an adventurous soul and want to get your action boots on, feel free to message us and we can help you find the perfect experience!
It’s Japan, there’s no surprise that there are food-related activities! In Japan, seasonality plays a big role in food and food trends. This is why, for cherry blossom season, everything is cherry-blossom-flavoured.
Here are some of our favourite cherry-blossom-flavoured products that you have to try!
Starbucks, Sakura x Sakuranbo Frappuccino
Sakura—the Japanese word for cherry blossom—drinks are probably the go-to drinks during the sakura season. One of the most famous sakura drinks is from Starbucks. It is called the Sakura x Sakuranbo Frappuccino. The frappuccino is a cherry-based frappuccino with a slight strawberry flavour mixed with cherry flavour, with cherry pulps.
Godiva, Chocolate Mixer Sakura
Godiva also has a popular sakura drink during this season. It is a chocolate drink with soft sakura and white chocolate melted together. Sakura jelly and pink chocolate chips are added to make the drink look like it’s topped with petals of cherry blossoms. Whipped cream is added as well to create watery surface and warm spring sunshine.
Comma Tea, “comma Sakura Latte”
Comma Tea is a popular place to get your bubble tea, tapioca. This special sakura drink is an elegant, sweet milk-based latte, filled with the flavour of cherry blossom. Sour yoghurt is added to the latter along with cherry blossom sauce and strawberries.
Topped with a lightly savoury nut-flavoured fresh cream, cherry blossom chocolate shaves and strawberry powder that look like cherry blossom petals, the drink is finished in a spring-like look and taste.
Pablo, “Sakura Mochi” cheese tart
Pablo is a famous cheese tart and dessert shop and they have a special seasonal sakura mochi cheese tart. As the name implies, Sakura Mochi is a limited-edition tart with the image of “Sakura Mochi”. It is a cheese tart with plenty of cherry-coloured cherry beans, sprinkled with cherry leaves from Izu, Shizuoka. The base of the tart is poured with cheese dough and baked until slightly browned.
Patisserie Kihachi, Mont Blac Sakura
“Mont Blac Sakura” is cherry-coloured and is popular every spring at Patisserie Kihachi. The butter cream with cherry blossoms is squeezed on the mellow white bean milk mouse. The base is made of a dough that has a “crusty” texture, mixed with cherry leaves. The top is decorated with real cherry blossoms along with cream designed to look like cherry blossoms.
Mister Donut, Cherry Blossom Donut
Mister Donut launched a few cherry blossom-flavoured donuts, all to commemorate the cherry blossom season. They have donuts coated in a cherry blossom-flavoured glaze, some with kinako sugar, some with red beans. They all look incredibly delicious and are all roughly USD$1.
Q-pot CAFE, Pink Cherry Mont Blanc Plate
Q-pot Cafe is famous for their insanely kawaii and delicious dessert plates. They have created this Pink Cherry Mont Blanc Plate this spring that includes a macaroon, Japanese chestnuts, and rich matcha chocolate in cherry bean paste cream. The strawberry-flavoured meringue in the plate resembles a cherry blossom and makes you feel as though you’re eating the season itself.
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Here are some of the many things that you can enjoy during spring in Tokyo! If you need any suggestions, message us and we will be happy to answer! Happy springing Everyone!