Cherry blossom season: from the most popular to the best hidden sakura spots in Tokyo

Cherry blossom petals are swirling around the city in the last few days. The 2019 sakura season has almost come to an end, but you might be still on time for “hanami” or for a simple stroll under the sakura trees this week.

Every year the blossoming begins in Okinawa from late January, and typically arrives in Kansai and Kanto area from the end of March to the beginning of April. It proceeds then into northward areas, reaching Hokkaido a few weeks later.
As the “mankai” (full blooming) period approaches, a large number of parks, shrines, temples, and riversides become very popular spots for people who want to celebrate the beauty of cherry blossom. For many, “hanami” (flower-viewing party) is a good chance to relax and have fun with friends or family while enjoying the beautiful view or taking the best Instagram-worthy pic.

The custom of hanami dates back many centuries in Japan. It is said to have started during the Nara period (710–794), and was originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court. By the Edo period (1603-1868), the custom of having lunch and drinking sake under the sakura trees spread to the common people as well.
For that reason, many of the cherry trees in Tokyo date back to the Edo period. They are becoming more and more fragile so you should never pick the flowers or climb the trees!

While some people prefer crowded spots with a lively atmosphere to get in the spring mood, others prefer more quiet places to relax and enjoy the view. So, I have put together a list of popular & quiet sakura spots in Tokyo to cover both. Keep in mind, though, that even the most “hidden” place in Tokyo will still have people (but not quite as many)!

🌸Most popular cherry blossom spots:
Ueno Park (上野公園)
Access: Ueno Station
Recommended for: hanami/picnic, festival, boating lake

Shinjuku Gyoen (新宿御苑)
Access: Shinjukugyoenmae Station
Recommended for: hanami/picnic, photo shoot (it’s the less crowded park among the most popular ones!)

Yoyogi Park (代々木公園)
Access: Meijijingumae or Harajuku Station
Recommended for: hanami/picnic, parties, sports

Rikugien Gardens (六義園)
Access: Komagome Station
Recommended for: walk, “yozakura” (sakura night illumination)

Meguro River (目黒川)
Access: Nakameguro Station (or Ikejiri Ohashi Station if you want to avoid the crowd)
Recommended for: walk, photo shoot, yozakura, street food/drinks

Other popular spots:
Tokyo Tower/Shiba Park (Akabanebashi Station), Imperial Palace/Chidorigafuchi Park (Hanzomon Station), Inokashira Park (Kichijouji Station), Sumida Park (Asakusa Station).

🌸Unfrequented sakura getaways
Setagaya Park (世田谷公園)
Access: Ikejiri Ohashi or Sangenjaya Station
Recommended for: hanami/picnic, barbecue

Hamarikyu Gardens (浜離宮庭園)
Access: Shimbashi or Shiodome Station
Recommended for: tea house, walk (also good for enjoying the view of other types of flowers🌷)

Keio University Mita Campus (慶應義塾大学・三田キャンパス)
Access: Tamachi or Mita Station
Recommended for: walk, photo shoot, study (Keio library)

Other quiet cherry blossom or spring-ish locations: Komazawa Olympic Park (Komazawa Daigaku Station), Todoroki Valley (Todoroki Station), Aoyama Cemetery (Omotesando or Nogizaka Station), Roppongi Sakurazaka (Roppongi Station).
Furthermore, most Japanese schools and public buildings have sakura trees outside of them. These places are also a nice retreat for lunch/coffee break during work or school.

I will keep looking for other hanami spots, outside of Tokyo as well.
Hope you will enjoy the spring season!