If you were to google “best time to visit Japan” Google will tell you it is between March and May. The temperature is nice, very little rainfall, and oh yea the blooming of the cherry blossoms. If there is one thing that the Japanese take very seriously, it’s Hanami. They even have a forecast of when the flowers will blossom and of course, being Japan, it is extremely accurate.
Hanami is a flower viewing festival and it is sort of an official/unofficial spring celebration. Usually, you can do one of two things. You can get to a park bright and early and throw your picnic blanket down in the best spot you can find. Like trying to beat the Germans to the pool in Lanzarote, and get shitfaced. Or you can go to a street festival… And get shitfaced.
Now there is a massive debate about this, and that debate has raged for literally decades. Where to Hanami. Again, if you google it you will be inundated with wild numbers of places that you need to go to. “22 best places to Hanami” “top 50 places to Hanami” “26 Tokyo Sakura Spots: Cherry Blossom MEGA GUIDE!!!!!!” Seriously Google it. It’s as if every major Japanese blogging site desperately needs to have a Hanami guide with a ridiculous name and more and more spots to view flowers than competitors. Apparently, it all boils down to two places.
Yoyogi Park. Or the Meguro River.
So I went to both!
The Meguro River is a river that flows through Tokyo. it is just under five miles long and runs through Setagaya, Meguro, and Shinagawa wards and it flows into the Tokyo Bay near the Tennozi Isle Station.
Straight away the place was packed! I mean its a street festival a half a mile long, on two very narrow streets, with a river running down the middle of it, during Sakura blossom season. If there was a time for it to be packed, now would be it! The streets are full of shops and vendors on each side of the river selling street food. Japanese food, Korean food, beer, champagne, candyfloss, and of course the views!
It is my honest opinion that if you ever plan to visit Japan for a holiday check the forecast for cherry blossoms and book in advance. Make sure you visit the Meguro river! Like the title suggests it is ONE of the best places in Tokyo to visit and view the cherry blossoms.
Yoyogi is a completely different animal. It’s more of a party in the park B.Y.O.B, bring lots of friends, listen to music and watch the cherry blossoms kind of deal. First a little history.
In 1909 it was a training ground for Japanese troops. Then it was the location of the first successful powered flight in Japan. Then it housed the American military during the allied occupation of Japan. Then it became the main area for the Olympic village in 1967. Today Yoyogi park is a place for people to chill. It’s a place for people to walk their dogs and have a nice leisurely stroll in the afternoon.
Sundays are when the park really comes alive. Joggers, dog walkers, cosplayers, martial art schools, you name it. Everyone is out in force. It’s definitely a place to visit if you’re a tourist looking to observe what a Japanese Sunday looks like.
If there is one thing that Yoyogi park is known for it’s Hanami. Grab your drink of choice, or twelve, get there early to chuck your blanket down, wack on some tunes and observe the cherry blossoms. Honestly, there isn’t much more to it than that.
I can definitely see what’s so appealing. If reading a book under a tree with a flask of coffee (or booze) and enjoying the gentle breeze and fresh air, or having an outdoor laugh with mates and knocking back a couple of cold ones is your idea of a good time then Yoyogi park is for you.
For me however, it’s all about the lights, the sounds, the smells, and the action of Meguro river. There are only three images of Japan that are universally recognized as Japan. I mean if you were to show these images to anyone on planet earth, even if they had no internet they could tell you not only have they seen that image before but that it is Japan. Those images are.
The other one is the Meguro River during cherry blossom season. Honestly, if you are in Tokyo for the Hanami season there is no better place to be.