A Cherry Blossom Tour in Tokyo

It is frequently claimed that to get the most out of your travels, you need to research and plan well in advance. Mostly, the people who make such proclamations are the serial spreadsheet sorts, who fail to see any thrill in putting together itineraries at zero hours notice, who prefer concrete plans over impulsive gambles and who must, no doubt, be secretly judging my style of travel planning.

cherry blossom viewing Tokyo

In my own book of travel tales, however, some of the most memorable and inspiring experiences from around the world were born from those very gambles – the surprise finds that I never studied, never considered and sometimes, had never even heard of. Piran in Slovenia was one example and the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina was another; the third and most recent surprise was the discovery of the cherry blossom season in Japan, one of the most delightful and unanticipated treasures I have unearthed to date.

cherry blossom season Japan

When we booked our Japanese adventure at only six weeks notice, we genuinely had no idea that our dates would fall within cherry blossom season, albeit the end of it. As someone who isn’t green-fingered at all and definitely doesn’t know their hydrangea from their chrysanthemum, this was nothing short of a coincidence.

Tokyo scenic photo locations

Never could I have predicted that our last-minute adventure would bestow upon us one of nature’s most inspiring marvels.

where to find cherry blossoms in Tokyo

Cherry Blossom Viewing in Tokyo

Since we were arriving right at the end of the brutally narrow time window, we decided not to get our hopes up – at best, seeing any blossoms would be a bonus. But when we read about a cherry blossom tour in Tokyo, which was drawing to a close just one day after our arrival AND which happened to have its pick up point at the very hotel we were staying at, well it seemed that the universe really wanted to ensure we saw these cherry blossoms, also known as Sakura.

spring in Tokyo

Ordinarily, we prefer discovering parks and gardens at our own pace rather than on organised tours but since it was a race against time and this would be our first full day in a country where we couldn’t speak the language, we decided a tour was the best way to ensure more time was spent looking at flowers than maps!

cherry blossom Japan travel blog

What we hadn’t foreseen was that we would end up arriving in the centre of Tokyo at 7.15am after a night on the airport floor, giving us only half an hour to turn things around before we had to meet our guide in the lobby; to say we were exhausted would be putting it mildly. Still, the promise of silken petals kept our eyes stretched open as we made our way around some of Tokyo’s best blossom viewing spots.

Tokyo Sakura Photo Spots

My cherry blossom education kicked off early on in the day, when I learned that the term “cherry blossom” is often used to encompass a range of different blossoms, corresponding to the many varieties of cherry tree found in Japan. Among the commonest types and the ones most prolific during official cherry blossom season are the Somei Yoshino (which usually have around 5 petals).

Tokyo highlights

Many of these had fallen by the time we arrived in mid-late April but we, instead, caught the fuller-bodied Yaezakura – the late bloomers (a term that made me giggle as it conjures up connotations of a 15-year-old boy desperately staring into to mirror seeking out any fragment of a facial hair!)

Honestly, if I hadn’t been specifically told about the contrasting qualities of the blossoms, I would never have deciphered these distinctions. In my simplistic eyes, regardless of their names or botanical properties, they were all equally mesmerising, swaying with grace and poise in the benign April breeze.

Hamarikyu Gardens Tokyo travel blog
The “don’t photograph me without my shades on when I’ve had 2 hours sleep on an airport floor” nervous laugh face at Hamarikyu Gardens

Showa Kinen Park

The Showa Kinen Park was the first sight we explored after arriving in Japan. Within seconds of strolling into the park, we caught our first glimpse of the plump, blushing blossoms. They cast their spell on us, as they have done with millions before us and our jet-lagged slumber soon became a hazy memory, our eyes fixated on the floral clusters ahead, our hearts singing from the Hanami hymn sheet.

Showa Kinen cherry blossoms

The literal definition of Hanami is “flower viewing” but the term is frequently used to describe the celebration and pleasure that comes from intensely gazing at the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Families gather on picnic blankets for Hanami parties and couples giggle covertly under canopies of sweeping pink blossoms. I honestly cannot think of a more idyllic way to spend an afternoon with someone you love than a spring-time picnic under the cherry blossom trees of Japan. Sound like a fairy-tale? Felt like one too.

Hanami Tokyo Park

Back in England, we had barely expected to reach Japan in time for the cherry blossoms let alone to add any other blooms to our viewing portfolio but it seemed that the Japanese countryside had opened up the floodgates. Showa Kinen Park welcomed us to Japan with mosaics of vibrant tulips and golden rapeseed blossoms, adding to its artist’s palette of hues.

tulip festival Show Kinen Park Tokyo

The locals welcome visitors around the world to admire and partake in this enchanting perennial custom – you don’t have to be Japanese to participate in Hanami.

And it would appear you don’t have to be human either…

dog in Kimono Japan

I think we can all agree that this pooch was dressed quite the part for a day of cherry blossom viewing with an ensemble that complemented the environment better than anything I could have thrown together.

cherry blossom parks Japan

Pumpkin and I are currently in talks about having our garden re-designed (I italicise *talks* since our house-related conversations rarely amount to anything (because all either of us really want to be doing outside of work is travelling) but on the offchance we follow through with this garden plan, I am currently pitching my idea of a Japanese-themed space.

small bonsai tree Tokyo

My suggestion of including a series of adorable little bonsai trees is being met with mixed feelings but after seeing these miniature, dolls-house sized ones at Showa Kinen, can you blame me for trying?!

where to see cherry blossoms Tokyo

Shinjuku Gyoen

Any fears of peaking early on this tour were soon allayed upon reaching Shinjuku Gyoen, one of the most popular parks in Tokyo for Sakura viewing. Here, just metres from one of the most built up parts of the city, the cherry blossoms refused to hold back with rows of trees boasting the best of their blossoms.

Cherry Blossom Season Shinjuku Gyoen

As for the ones that had given up already, they had their own act of magic lined up, conceiving carpets of unctuous petals on the pavements beneath. One perk of travelling towards the end of the official cherry blossom season is that the walkways and gardens absorb the delicate floating residue of fallen blossoms which makes for a beautiful canvas to be exploring on foot.

Sakura Blossom Viewing Shinjuku Gyoen

The other perk, of course, is that the cherry blossom viewing spots are far less crowded than you might expect for that time of year since the most ardent Sakura worshippers arrive earlier for full bloom.

Sakura viewing Tokyo

Frequently cited as one of the best parks in the city for seeing the cherry blossoms, Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the absolute must-see spots if you are heading to Japan in the March/April  time of year. And just like Showa Kinen Park did with its tulips, this park also diversified beyond the powder pastel tones of the cherry blossoms, throwing us off guard with its bulbous fuschia offerings.

Shinjuku Gyoen FlowersTokyo travel blog guide

Hamarikyu Gardens

If you’ve been reading any of my recent Japan posts, you may recall that one of my weirdest “only in Japan” moments was queuing for a sushi breakfast feast at 8am. I had no regrets but as someone who usually eats a banana for breakfast, this unfamiliar early morning fill necessitated a stroll and off we headed in the direction of Hamarikyu Gradens. (one we found independently rather than the cherry blossom tour.)

Tokyo's best parks to visit

Whilst we were fortunate to have seen blossoms in every park we visited, I loved how each park had its own characteristic style.

sakura and yaezakura Japan

Hamarikyu, in particular, was a paradoxical fusion of movie-esque footbridges, pockets of clear water and tranquil manicured gardens against a backdrop of towering skyscrapers.

beautiful parks in Tokyo

As midday approached and the fierce sunshine illuminated the fluffy petals further, we sought shelter beneath a lattice of wooden logs and I realised that the Hamarikyu Gardens condensed so much of what I love about Tokyo into just one snapshot – the old blending with the new, the natural meshing with the man-made, the serene quiet negating the corporate hubbub.

Hamarikyu Gardens Tokyo

As cheesy as it sounds, it was a sincerely uplifting and inspiring feeling seeing the cherry blossoms dance in the sky above us, reminding me how engaging and wondrous the changing seasons can be.

Japan in April

What has been your most unexpected inspiring find on your travels?


51 thoughts on “A Cherry Blossom Tour in Tokyo

  1. beautiful photographs. amazing in such a big built-up city chock full of skyscrapers to find so much vibrant plant life!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 7:08 pm

      Yes! It was exactly that contrast that I found intriguing and fascinating about Tokyo Andy!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 7:08 pm

      Thanks so much! The blossoms were beautiful ☺

  2. Ok, I already knew that I had to visit Japan in the springtime, but your post (and beautiful photos) has convinced me that I need to put this plan into action. It looks like you had such a magical visit xxx

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 7:11 pm

      Aww I’m so pleased you like the look of Japan at spring Kasha! It really was magical but having said that, is there ever a bad time to go somewhere like Japan?! I would love to go back during their Autumn time next time to see how those colours compare!☺ x

  3. Oh you’re so lucky Shikha – it’s always been a dream of mine to visit during cherry blossom season! One day… K x

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 7:12 pm

      Lucky is definitely the word Keri because we didn’t even know that the timing would work out in blossom season when we planned it! Hope you do get to visit in the spring one day, though I hear Autumn is amazing too!

  4. The Fashion Matters (@thefashionmatters) April 3, 2017 — 5:41 pm

    Would love to visit! looks stunning!

    The Fashion Matters– Travel & Fashion Blog

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 7:13 pm

      Thank you! It really was breathtaking!

  5. The cherry blossoms make the world prettier. LOVE!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 7:13 pm

      Don’t they just?! I’ve been gazing at them longingly everywhere I can find them in London this year!☺

  6. Absolutely stunning! If every night spent on an airport floor ended in scenes like this, I would be very happy!

    Polly xx

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 7:15 pm

      Haha, thanks Polly! Exactly right?! How cross can you actually be about a bad night of sleep when this is your reward the next morning (though not even going to lie about how solidly I slept after we got back to the hotel after the cherry blossom tour!) 😀

  7. So gorgeous!! I really want to make it to Tokyo someday for cherry blossom season!! I love those bright fuschia bushes… they are such a stand-out among the green! I can’t think of a more idyllic way to spend a spring day than picnicking under the cherry blossoms… though definitely an activity with friends or a partner.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 7:17 pm

      Haha, yeh I know what you mean Anna – I wonder what the etiquette is on Hanami’ing on your own!😀 Those pink bushes were so striking – I’d never seen anything like them before!

  8. oh my goodness, they’re so beautiful! I don’t think I’d just be able to enjoy them if I was there. .. I’d be snapping away maniacally!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 7:23 pm

      I can totally relate Jaime! Every little part of me kept thinking I need to put the camera away but then the other part of me kept thinking how can I NOT photograph cherry blossom season in Japan?! The good thing is though that there are so many blossom viewing opportunities all over the country so even camera happy bloggers like us can still manage to just take them all in at some point!😊

  9. Miriam @londonkitchendiaries April 6, 2017 — 10:37 am

    Fantastic that your last-minute adventure fell into the time of cherry blossom season in Tokyo. It is so stunning and should be on everyone’s bucket list 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 7:30 pm

      I agree Miriam! Yes, such a stroke of luck that the timing worked out so well for us! ☺

  10. So many beautiful photographs! I haven’t visited Japan before however one thing that would attract me to visit are the stunning cherry blossom trees, they’re so pretty!

    Laura xo

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 7:32 pm

      Thanks Laura! I definitely recommend a visit in cherry blossom season – I imagine it must be quite crowded in full bloom (as we went towards end of season) but so idyllic regardless!

  11. I love this!! I am going to Japan in June, I am so sad I am missing blossom season, I shall just have to go back!

    Ash | http://www.liakadatravel.com

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 8:23 pm

      Exactly! Planning a 2nd trip there can hardly be a bad thing can it Ash?! So excited for you that you are going as it was genuinely one of the most special places I’ve ever visited ☺

  12. Oh wow it’s a dream of mine to visit Japan in blossom season – just gorgeous!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 8:34 pm

      I can’t believe I had never known what a world famous phenomenon it is but in a way, I think that just made it all the more magical to arrive & find how beautifully pink & glorious it all was! 😍

  13. Utterly stunning Shikha! Honestly, I like to plan in time to explore at random. Does that even make sense? 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 8:40 pm

      Haha, weirdly Emma, I know exactly what you mean! Planning adequate time for random exploits is a most important element of travel planning!😀

  14. I so wish we’d been there in time to see the cherry blossoms!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 8:59 pm

      There’s always next time Angie ☺ I just completely lucked out that my last minute planning happened to coincide with the blossoms!

  15. Love seeing all the colors and blooms here! I’m so glad you were able to experience the cherry blossoms in Japan. It is beautiful and spectacular. We were there last year during the first week of bloom during a stopover. The flowers weren’t as colorful as what you had but it was quite an experience watching all the hanami parties.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 9:06 pm

      Isn’t it fascinating how different the colour and coverage of the bloom varies within just a couple of weeks Mary? I honestly think that that’s why Japan must be spectacular to see anytime in the spring, watching it evolve like that! But would love to go in full bloom one day like you did & to have a proper hanami experience ☺

  16. Just back from travelling and catching up on blog reading – what a gorgeous post! The dog with the tulips has to be my fave pic but the blossoms are pretty impressive too

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 9:11 pm

      Hehe, such a pristinely dressed pooch isn’t it Suze?!😀 Totally over-shadowing the blossoms!

  17. Planes & Champagne April 9, 2017 — 8:59 am

    How fabulous that you got to visit Tokyo during Cherry blossom season Shikha and that is was by pure coincidence! I must admit, these days I prefer to go with the flow when travelling unless there’s something that I’m absolutely desperate to see then only then do I tend to do more planning and make bookings in advance etc. Japan has been a long dream of mine – I’m hoping that the hubby and I will get to visit later this year xx

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 9:17 pm

      I hope you guys get to go this year Maggie, though honestly, Japan was such a special place that cherry blossom season or not, you will just love it!

  18. Lovely post Shikha, I had no idea there are so many different types of cherry blossoms! Wish our trip to Japan had coincided with Sakura Season but it wasn’t meant to be…Perhaps I should plan a trip back hehe 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 9:19 pm

      Hehe, well don’t let me be a bad influence Priti but I for one definitely reckon it’s worth going back – or maybe I’m just saying that because I want to do the same thing myself!! Next time, it’ll be great to see it in the fall too ☺

  19. Love this so much!! We want to go to Japan soon, but I think we may postpone until next Spring and try to catch sakura season! It’s just so pretty!! Love all your photos!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 11, 2017 — 9:22 pm

      Thank you so much for reading & for your lovely comment Camila! I’m so pleased to hear that you enjoyed seeing some of these photos & that you’re planning a trip there yourself in due course! Sakura season does get crowded but personally, it didn’t look as if anyone really seemed to mind that too much when all the blossoms were busy keeping them occupied instead! ☺

  20. So so pretty. If I ever get to visit Japan I definitely want to see all the cherry blossoms!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 24, 2017 — 12:11 pm

      It’s all just so dreamy Ayla! Just so pink everywhere – you & your Mum would absolutely love Japan in the Spring!

  21. Gorgeous photos, so glad you got to see not just cherry blossoms, but other flowers as well! I yet have to make it to Showa Kinen Park for the tulips!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 24, 2017 — 12:39 pm

      Aaah but I think in the time it has taken me to reply to this, you have now seen the tulips right?! Aren’t they pretty?! Was watching a documentary last all about hanami traditions in Japan & genuinely hadn’t realised how many age old traditions & stories lie behind it. Feel lucky to managed to get in to see them just in the nick of time before they disappeared!😊

  22. Stunning – Japan is so lucky to have such amazing beauty.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) June 5, 2017 — 5:16 pm

      Doesn’t it just Cherryl?! We were so lucky that we happened to catch the end of the cherry blossom purely by coincidence!

  23. Thank you for this wonderful post! I am in love with all the pictures on this post! I plan on going to Japan one day and this is one of the many reasons!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 9, 2017 — 11:51 pm

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment! I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the post & I really hope that you do get the chance to visit Japan one day! I would love to return to this amazing country myself & see more of it ☺

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