O-hanami in Tokyo;
Our Cherry Blossom Viewing Experience in Tokyo

【01 Chiyoda Ward-Kitanomaru Park】


In April of 2010 (Heisei 22nd yr), I went to “Chiyoda Sakura Matsuri” (the Cherry Blossom Festival of Chiyoda Ward). Some volunteer guides were helping visitors and giving out free maps of the surrounding area. Kitano-maru Park and Chidori-ga-fuchi Moat which were popular places for their cherry blossoms were very crowded with many people. The statue of Shinagawa Yajiro (a samurai who was a supporter of the principle of reverence for the Emperor and the elimination of foreigners and studied at Shokason-juku School) stood near Tayasu-mon Gate as if he was quietly overlooking the cherry blossom viewers.

【01 Chiyoda Ward-Chidori-ga-fuchi】


The seasonal scenery soothes visitors at and around the Imperial Palace, and the scenery in the cherry blossom season especially fascinates people. About 260 cherry trees stand on the edge of either side of an approximately 700-meter promenade along Chidori-ga-fuchi, a part of the moat of Edo Castle. At night during “Chiyoda Sakura Festival”, many people from work drop in to enjoy the romantic atmosphere of cherry blossom illuminations. Solar-powered LED lights are used for environmental consideration. In the daytime, couples and families enjoy rowing rental boats in the moat.

【01 Chiyoda Ward-Yasukuni Shrine】


After I left Kitanomaru Park, I paid homage at Yasukuni Shrine where the souls who died fighting for national peace such as soldiers and the war dead during and after the Meiji Restoration have been enshrined. They were preparing for the performance at the Nogaku hall in the Yasukuni Shrine. Three specified Somei-yoshino cherry trees (the most popular kind of cherry tree in Japan) in the precinct are observed as the standard trees for “Kaika-sengen (declaration of flowering)” in Tokyo.


When I went to Yasukuni Shrine, there was a reservation booth for Hanami parties. In spite of it being daytime on a weekday, a lot of people were having parties under the cherry blossoms. Having a cherry blossom party and securing a space for it were once allowed. However, drinking alcoholic beverages and having a party on the grounds are now forbidden because of the bad manners of drunk people and complaints from the neighborhood. It is still possible to buy food and drink from the stalls and consume them while standing or walking.

【01 Chiyoda Ward-LUMINE Yuraku-cho】

2012年(平成24年)LUMINE有楽町で開催中の「桜を見上げよう。」Sakura Projectを見てきました。このプロジェクトは前年の3月の東日本大震災の復興支援を目的に行われました。全国47都道府県の桜の枝を、約8mの一本の桜「ニホンザクラ」に仕立て、一度に開花させました。宮城県気仙沼からの桜を見つけた時、津波の様子がよみがえり、悲しい気持ちでいっぱいになりました。同時に震災から一年経ち、このように再び桜が花を咲かすと思うと一筋の希望も見えました。

In 2012 (Heisei 24th yr), I went to LUMINE in Yuraku-cho to see Sakura (Cherry blossoms) Project of ‘Look up Cherry Blossoms’. The purpose of this project was recovery from the disaster of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March of the previous year. Cherry branches, collected from 47 prefectures across Japan, were arranged as an 8m cherry tree named ‘Nihon-Zakura (Japan Cherry Blossom)’ and made to bloom at the same time. When I found the cherry branch from Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture, the disaster of the Tsunami came to my mind and I was overwhelmed with sadness. At the same time, a ray of hope illuminated my heart to see the cherry blossoms in bloom again one year after the earthquake.

【02 Chuo Ward-Nihonbashi】


Every time spring comes, I am surprised to see many cherry trees on the streets in Tokyo. These are exactly typical Hanami in the center of a big city: to see cherry blossoms with tall buildings in Shintomi-cho, East Ginza and Nihonbashi in the background. Workers of the companies near the park in the business district happily had an O-hanami lunch sitting on plastic sheets. They seemed to enjoy a short break for a change as they were busy working every day.

【02 Chuo Ward-Ginza】


In Ginza, cherry blossoms in the evening had a different charm from those in the daytime. As the night went on, only a few people were quietly walking under the cherry blossoms lit by streetlights. Ginza is located in the center of the city, but more cherry trees are planted than I expected. There are rows of Somei-yoshino, and rows of double-flowered cherry trees which bloom later than Somei-yoshino.

【04 Shinjuku Ward-Shinjuku Gyoen National Park】


In March 2006 (Heisei 18th yr), we happened to pass by Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and dropped in for the first time. It was originally Shinjuku Botanical Garden made in 1872 (Meiji 12th yr) in the former suburban residence of the Naito family, the lord of Shinano Takato Domain in the Edo period. After World War ll, it became open to the public. Somei-yoshino were not at their best yet, but some other kinds of cherry trees were in full bloom. Many people were enjoying picnics beneath the cherry trees. However, it was forbidden to take alcoholic beverages into the garden.

【05 Bunkyo Ward-Hikawa Shrine】


These are our beloved dogs’ common walking courses, around Myogadani Station, the Koishikawa Botanical Garden, Kyoiku-no-Mori and Hikawa Shrine in Bunkyo Word, Tokyo. In cherry blossom seasons we are happy to feel the beginning of spring and take a walk with light steps. Fuchan and Ohchan also look happy.

【05 Bunkyo Ward-Harima-zaka Slope】


In the first spring since we fully moved to Tokyo in 2009 (Heisei 21st yr), my husband and I went to Harima-zaka Slope with our dogs. Many people were having lunch boxes and drinking alcohol under the cherry blossoms. Harima-zaka, named after Kami-yashiki (a residence of the powerful feudal lord) of Matsudaira Harima-no-Kami, was paved and improved in 1960 (Showa 35th yr). At that time, about 120 Some-yoshino cherry trees were planted, and since 1971 (Showa 46th yr) Bunkyo Sakura Matsuri (the Since then cherry Blossom Festival of Bunkyo Ward) has been held every year from the end of May to the beginning of April.


At night cherry blossoms are illuminated and many people come to see Yo-zakura (night cherry blossom viewing) in Harima-zaka Slope. People who work in the nearby companies and live in this area enjoy food and alcohol in the promenade in the middle of the street which runs through the residential section. This is an O-hanami spot suitable for people who like to spend a peaceful evening in spring unlike Ueno Park.

【05 Bunkyo Ward-Rikugi-en Garden】


In 1695 (Genroku 8th yr), Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the fifth shogun, gave the land in the present Honkomagome, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo to Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu as his Shimo-yashiki (the second residence in the suburbs). Yoshiyasu Yanagisawa designed the garden himself and ordered his men to build it. The garden took as long as 7 years to complete, and it was named Rikugi-en. The illumination event of cherry trees is held in Rikugi-en from the end of March to the beginning of April every year. At the end of March of 2010 (Heisei 22nd yr), I went to see the event with my family. When we entered the gate, we first saw a great Shidare-zakura (a weeping cherry tree), a symbol of Rikugi-en. While enjoying viewing the beautifully illuminated garden, we had Japanese sweets and green tea at the teahouse.

【05 Bunkyo Ward-Koishigawa Koraku-en Garden】


In April of 2010 (Heisei 22nd yr), my husband and son went to Koishikawa Korakuen Garden in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo. Koishikawa Korakuen Park was created under an influence of Confucianism as a park of the residence of the Tokugawa Family of the Mito domain in 1629 (Kanei 6th yr). Blossoms of a famous 60-year-old weeping cherry tree were already past their prime. The timing of the full bloom of Somei-yoshino around the pond in the garden was 1 week later than the weeping cherry, so therefore, we enjoyed impressive pale pink flowers in full bloom.

【06 Taito Ward-Ueno Imperial-Gift Park】


I go to O-hanami with my family and friends in Ueno Imperial-Gift Park, Taito Ward, Tokyo almost every year. Ueno has been famous for cherry blossoms since the beginning of the Edo period. Tenkai, a bishop of Kanei-ji Temple, ordered cherry trees to be brought from Yoshino, because he loved cherry blossoms. There are currently about 800 cherry trees in the park. A total of about four million people visit this park for O-hanami every spring.


Parties of Yo-zakura (cherry blossom viewing at night) were livened up by drunken people in Ueno Park. Many people drank too much and cut loose. To make matters worse, some started fighting. The street where stalls were set up on their edges on either side was so crowded that I felt as if I was in a packed train. According to the rules of the park, O-hanami parties must end by 20:00 and the park is closed from 23:00 to 5:00. We should bring our garbage back to our home. If we have no choice but to dispose of garbage in a trashcan provided in the park, we must sort it out into burnable and unburnable items.

【07 Sumida Ward-Sumida Park】


In April of 2010 (Heisi 22nd yr), my son and his friends from his university went to Sumida Park for Hanami. There is the bronze statue of Katsu Kaishu (Samurai and a politician during the Late Tokugawa shogunate and the early Meiji period) beside the street from the Azuma Bridge to Sumida Park. My son and his male friends went to the park early in the morning to reserve a place with a blue plastic sheet, and his female friends made a delicious picnic lunch. Sumida Park with about 700 cherry trees was selected as one of Japan’s top 100 Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots. Tokugawa Yoshimune, the eighth shogun, ordered cherry trees to be planted here so that common people could enjoy Hanami. Since then Hanami in this park has been very popular among people in Tokyo, and some enjoy Hanami from the Yakata-bune (a roofed pleasure boat) in a cool and comfortable way.

【10 Meguro Ward-The Meguro River】


About 4km rows of 800 Somei-yoshino cherry trees along the Meguro River are one of the most famous cherry blossom viewing spots in Tokyo. Every year a cherry blossom festival is held along the cherry-tree-lined streets, which are very crowded just like a packed train. Some drunken people make a lot of noise even after the illumination of cherry blossoms is over. The streets along the Meguro River are a popular spot especially among young people due to stylish restaurants and shops, and there is a building of a famous entertainment production agency. However, this is a residential area as well, so the residents must be bothered by the noise, congestion and litter during the cherry blossom season.

【15 Suginami Ward-The Kanda River】


Every year Sakura-matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) is held along the Kanda River with rows of beautiful cherry trees, but this year it was postponed until the following week due to rain. It was raining on the cherry trees, which were in full bloom. A week later, it was fine, and the Cherry Festival was held, and there were various stalls and events such as singing and dancing. Unfortunately, the cherry trees had already lost almost all their blossoms.

【16 Toshima Ward-Komagome】


Somei-yoshino Sakura Memorial Park is right near Komagome Station of JR Yamanote Line. Cherry blossoms are beautifully in bloom every spring. Many gardeners used to live in Somei Village as well as in Sugamo Village and they regularly held chrysanthemum exhibitions. From the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period, they crossbred cherry trees of Oshima-zakura and Edo-higan and created a new hybrid cherry tree. Later it was named Somei-yoshino and became the most common breed in Japan. Trees of Somei-yoshino in Japan are clones from a single tree. I saw a monument of “the Birthplace of Somei-yoshino” in the park and a mailbox and a bus on which cherry petals were painted in front of the station.

【17 Kita Ward-Kyu-Furukawa-tei】


In April 2010 (Heisei 22nd yr), I went to Kyu-Furukawa-teien in Kita Ward, Tokyo. I walked along the Japanese-style mud wall, walked through the wooden gate and saw a European-style residence made of black bricks. This building was designed by a famous British architect, Josiah Conder and was built in 1917 (Taisho 6th yr). It still reminds us how prosperous the owner of the residence was in those days. There is a Western-style garden, a Japanese garden, waterfalls and a traditional teahouse in the site. People can enjoy the beauty of each season there. When I visited the garden, wild cherry blossoms were in beautiful bloom.

【17 Kita Ward-Asuka-yama Park】


After I left Kyu-Furukawa-teien, I went to Asuka-yama Park which is renowned for its cherry blossoms in Tokyo. In 1720 (Kyoho 5th yr), Tokugawa Yoshimune, the eighth shogun, ordered cherry trees to be planted here. And in 1737 (Genbun 2nd yr), the place was opened to the common people of Edo for Hanami. In the park, there are the Asuka-yama Museum, the Paper Museum, the old residence of Eiichi Shibusawa (a government official and great business person during the Late Tokugawa shogunate and early Taisho period) and his memorial museum.

【24 Musashino City-Inogashira Imperial-Gift Park】


In 1917 (Taisho 6th yr), Inokashira Imperial-Gift Park was opened on a vast site, about 40ha, extending over Musashino City and Mitaka City. In the center of the park is Inokashira Pond which is fed by a spring, and this pond was used for the water supply in the Edo Period. At this pond, there is a rental service of row boats, cycle boats and domed swan boats. However, there is an old rumor that couples who ride a boat on this pond will break up. Rumor has it that Benzaiten (a Japanese Buddhist goddess of music, eloquence, grace and kindness), enshrined in the shrine on a small island on the eastern tip of the pond, becomes jealous at the sight of happy couples and causes trouble between them. The park has Inokashira Park Zoo, the Ghibli Museum Mitaka, the Kitamura Seibo Sculpture Museum, a Japanese traditional garden, restaurants and shops.
The park is a familiar place of recreation and relaxation to people in Tokyo, and especially during cherry blossom season it is so crowded with Hanami people. 500 Somei-yoshino cherry trees and wild cherry trees are planted mainly around the pond, and the park is listed in Japan’s top 100 Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots.


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