Translated by Richard Perkins
Visiting Tokyo In March? Enjoy Early Cherry Blossom Viewing!
It may go without saying, but the centerpiece of sightseeing in Japan in the spring is getting to view the cherry blossoms. We introduce here places in Tokyo where you can see types of sakura in bloom earlier than usual in 2018!
Written by Yumi
It may go without saying, but the centerpiece of sightseeing in Japan in the spring is getting to view the cherry blossoms, or as they’re known in Japanese, sakura. This I’m sure we can all agree is Japan’s most beautiful time of the year, when everything seems to be dyed pink by the cherry blossoms.
How many of you think that getting to view the cherry blossoms is an experience that only those who visit Japan from the end of March until around the beginning of April get to experience?
It might not be known by many people, but depending on the type, there are some cherry blossoms that will bloom earlier than what’s considered to be the cherry blossom season. We’d like to share with you the types of cherry blossoms that bloom earlier than others, as well as the spots around Tokyo where those of you visiting Japan can enjoy these flowers from around halfway through February to around mid-March.
What are the Cherry Blossoms that Bloom in February and March?
I’m sure many Japanophiles may already know this, but there are various types of cherry blossoms. The well-known cherry blossoms that bloom in the so-called ‘cherry blossom season’ at the end of March until the beginning of April are the Somei Yoshino cherry blossoms. I’m sure there are many of you who’ve heard of this type of cherry blossom before. Believe it or not, there are actually cherry blossoms that also bloom from February to March. Out of these cherry blossoms the kawazu-zakura are well known.
The kawazu-zakura that bloom earlier than other cherry blossoms were given their name after being discovered in the city of Kawazu in Shizuoka prefecture. Along with the city of Kawazu in Shizuoka, the southern region of the city of Izu is also famous for having kawazu-zakura. From the beginning of February to the beginning of March there’s even a sakura festival that takes place in this region.
It’s not just Shizuoka prefecture, but there are even spots in Tokyo too where you can view the kawazu-zakura. Of course it all depends on the location and weather, but these flowers bloom a little bit later than they do in the city of Kawazu and in the southern region of the city of Izu. You can enjoy these cherry blossoms in Tokyo for about one month, from about mid-February until about halfway through March.
1. Enjoy the Cherry Blossoms along with Tokyo SkyTree! - The Kawazu-Zakura along the Kyunaka River
With the symbol of Tokyo, Tokyo SkyTree, in the background, this is an area in where you can enjoy the kawazu-zakura. On the promenade along side the small river known as the Kyunaka river there are about 30 trees growing there that bear kawazu-zakura and okan-zakura. There aren’t too many trees bearing cherry blossoms in this area, but while walking along the river you can take it easy while viewing the cherry blossoms. This is also a great spot for train lovers as trains pass by upon the iron bridge that’s above the river.
The closest stations to this river are Hirai Station on the JR Sobu line and Kameido-Suijin station on the Tobu Kameido line. From both stations it’s about a 10-15 minute walk. It takes about 20 minutes to get to Hirai Station from Tokyo Station with one transfer. From Shinjuku Station you can get there in about 30 minutes without having to transfer trains.
To be honest, this is a little bit of a difficult spot to find. Search for the Fureai-bashi (a bridge) that goes to the Kyunaka river on Google Maps and you shouldn’t have trouble getting to this area.
2. The Kawazu-Zakura at Shinjuku Gyoen - A Short Walk from Shinjuku Station
Shinjuku Gyoen is a popular and well-known area for viewing the cherry blossoms in the spring. However, it’s not just the spring when you can view these flowers. Here, there are also a number of trees bearing kawazu-zakura which you can enjoy in February and March. The kawazu-zakura in the Shinjuku Imperial Garden are inside the area that’s set up as a British-style garden.
Along with the kawazu-zakura, at Shinjuku Gyoen you can also view kan-zakura, kanhi-zakura, tsubaki-zakura and a number of other cherry blossoms that bloom earlier than other types. Believe it or not, but there are even cherry blossoms here that bloom as early as the end of January. For those who’d like to view the cherry blossoms a little bit earlier than what’s considered the ‘cherry blossom season’, we highly recommend visiting Shinjuku Gyoen.
Shinjuku Gyoen is about a 10-minute walk from the south exit of Shinjuku Station. You can also access it by using the Marunouchi subway line. It’s about a 5-minute walk from Shinjuku-Gyoenmae station.
3. The Row of Kawazu-Zakura Trees at Kiba Park - Easy Access from Tokyo Station
To those of you who are searching for a spot to view the cherry blossoms near Tokyo Station, we recommend Kiba Park along the Oyoko river. This is another quiet area with a promenade along the riverside with a row of trees bearing kawazu-zakura. This is an area that’s quiet, so if you’re lucky you may be able to see mejiro (*1) birds among the blossoms too.
The closest station to Kiba Park is Kiba Station, which can be reached by riding the Tozai subway line from Otemachi Station, which is near the north exit of the underground Marunouchi line at JR Tokyo Station. It takes about 7 minutes and you don’t need to transfer trains.
Near Kiba Park is the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as Monzen-Nakacho, an area where you can feel the culture of the downtown area of Tokyo. There are a number of sightseeing spots here such as Kiyosumi-Shirawaka, which is an area with a large number of cafes, so you can add this to your list of places to visit when coming to view the cherry blossoms.
*1 Mejiro: a type of bird smaller than a tree sparrow that has green wings. This is a type of bird that inhabits areas from East Asia to South-East Asia.
If you’d like to be able to view the cherry blossoms earlier than usual, use this article as a guide and visit the areas listed above.