In early 2019, I went to Japan on a week-long vacation—but didn’t return home until nearly two months later. My reason for sticking around, other than being a digital nomad with a very flexible sense of home: I absolutely had to see the cherry blossoms in Japan.
Cherry blossoms, or sakura, are the national flower of Japan, and they tend to bloom around the end of March and beginning of April. (It varies from year to year, so be sure to plan plenty of time in the country if you’re hoping to catch them at their peak.)
In Japanese culture, the short-lived cherry bloom is seen as an icon of ephemeral beauty. The blossoms are celebrated through a practice called hanami, which literally translates to “watching the blossoms.” It’s a thousand-year old tradition that continues today: You’ll see plenty of people taking a break to enjoy nature and celebrating the flowery displays with everything from specialty foods to pink-colored toys in arcade games.
But you don’t have to be from Japan to appreciate the country’s sakura season. It’s incredibly beautiful, which explains why the annual flood of pink flowers ranks high on so many travelers’ bucket lists.
The big question is where to see them. When it comes to best-of viewing lists, locations like Kyoto, Mount Fuji, and Hirosaki Castle usually get most of the press. (For good reason—they’re beautiful.) But there’s nothing quite like a sakura bloom in the heart of Japan’s biggest city. While the country is full of fascinating destinations, why not mix sakura with Tokyo’s iconic sights, Michelin-starred restaurants, and dizzying array of things to do?
Unfortunately, Japan is not currently open to tourists, but the country’s COVID-19 restrictions are changing, so keep an eye on the official regulations for the latest updates. But if you’re ready to at least dream about a trip to see cherry blossoms in Japan, read on. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, here are a few places across the city of Tokyo worth exploring in spring.