The author of this article is Naoko Miyajima.
What is Japanese Hanami
Hanami literally means flower viewing.
Spring is blossom time. Flower viewing is one of the most popular spring events in Japan, and mostly means cherry blossoms viewing. Cherry blossom is called ‘Sakura ’in Japanese. Hanami is like a picnic party among families, friends and coworkers. People gather together and enjoy eating, drinking and chatting while appreciating cherry blossoms under or near trees. Since ancient times, Japanese people have appreciated the beauty of flowers. The custom of Hanami is said to have started during the Nara period (710-794) when it was plume blossoms that people admired in the beginning. But by the Heian period (794-1185), cherry blossom came to attract more attention. Recently it attracts foreign visitors from all over the world as well.
When to Hanami/ Cherry blossom Forecast
As the weather warms up, cherries begin to bloom across Japan from late March to April, appearing from south part such as Okinawa and Kyushu up to north and finally ending in Hokkaido. The peak blooming period varies year to year due to the weather conditions of each year, and it lasts for only a week or so. This year temperature have averaged warmer than normal, and according to the weather association, the cherry blossom season is expected to come earlier than usual in many places around Japan.
To admire the transient beauty of the flowers, researching the information about the flowering dates and the peak timing for full bloom is recommended.
Below is the link for cherry blossom forecast.
It will be updated for the latest version during the season.
Famous places for Hanami in Tokyo
There are many places to enjoy cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo. Here, we introduce 3 spots which are designated as 100 best cherry blossom spots in Japan.
Shinjyuku Gyoen National Garden
It was built as a garden for the Imperial Household in 1906 and was opened to the public in 1949. There are over 1100 cherry trees, and you can enjoy about 65 kinds of cherry trees. Shinjyuku Gyoen has three different styles of garden: English, French, and Japanese. Including cherry trees, there are about 20000 trees in spacious grounds. With its large lawn, it is a nice place for a picnics and relaxing strolls
Opening hour：March15~September30/ 9:00～17：30（Gates Close at 18:00）July1~August20/9:00~18:30(Gates close at 19:00)
Charge：Adults 500JPY, Seniors(65 and over) 250JPY, Students(with valid ID)250JPY,Children(junior high school students/15 and under)FREE
Nearest Station: Shinjyukugyoenmae Station(Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line)
Ueno Onshi Park
It is also popular to have a picnic under the sakura at night. Hanami at night is called yozakura in Japan, and Ueno Park is one of the most popular places to enjoy Cherry blossom at night. During the blooming season, many lanterns are hung in under the trees which are lit up after the sun goes down. Let’s enjoy the flower illuminations. It can be quite crowded, but it is worthwhile visiting at least once. You can buy a lot of food at food stalls in the park.
Location: Sanchome, Uenokoen Ikenohata, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Nearest Station: Ueno Station(Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line, JR)
There are about 500 cherry trees in the park such as Yoshino cherry trees and Yamazakura. Approximately 250 cherry trees surround a central pond, and the reflection of the full blossom and scattering of the cherry petals are splendid. People can go boating, and the swan shaped boats are loved by families and couples.
Location:1-18-31, Gotenyama, Musashino City,Tokyo
Opening hour:9:30～17:00（Admission until 16:00）
Nearest Station: Kichijoji Station(JR Keio Inokashira Line)
For Bring Food and Drinks
In Japan, we have a famous proverb,“Hanayoridango”, which literally means dumplings rather than flowers. Actually, for many Japanese, it can be said “no matter how beautiful flower is, food comes first”. Why not get some food and drinks for Hanami picnic like local Japanese people do? At some famous Hanami spots, there are food stalls selling snacks and drinks, but if you visit basement floor of some department stores, you will easily find a variety of eye-pleasing bento lunch boxes beautifully arranged with seasonal ingredients. Let’s enjoy spring of Japan not only with eyes but also with the taste buds.
Also, dumplings are recommended food for Hanami. Especially Sakuramochi is the traditional seasonal confectionary. It is a rice cake with sweet red bean paste inside and wrapped with a leaf of cherry tree which is pickled in salt water.
It is eaten without removing the leaf, so you will enjoy a scent of cherry blossom. The mixing of the salty leaf and the sweet bean paste is superb.