Hidden Sakura Spots in Tokyo
As cherry blossom season draws nearer, one might notice many "where to see sakura" articles popping up. Many of them seem to list the same places, and these are the busiest places of all. Here are some alternative spots where you can see the sakura in Tokyo and even better, sit down and have a picnic under the blossoms (known as hanami in Japanese).
Harimazaka Sakura Namiki
About five minutes walk from Myogadani Station is a long street sloping down a hill, with a pedestrian-only path running down the middle of it. This path is lined with 150 sakura trees and looks rather impressive when they are blooming. There will be some market stalls lining the 500m stretch of trees, but it isn't insanely busy. From there you can walk to the Koishikawa Botanical Gardens, a very peaceful University garden which also has many sakura.
This makes for a lovely walk. Start in Asukayama Park at Oji Station. This park is famous for sakura and will be quite busy, but it's still not to be missed. Then head across the road to where you will find the Shakuji River. Walk along this river in the direction of Itabashi. The river is lined with sakura on both sides and is not particularly busy. There are many parks branching off the path so you can stop for a picnic at any one of them. If you are with kids, the playground in front of the Lycée Français International de Tokyo might be a good place to stop. You can continue this walk as long as you desire, the river runs a long way.
The Yanaka area is a historic, working-class part of Tokyo that has retained its Edo Period roots. The Yanaka Cemetery spans over 100,000 metres and has over 7,000 graves. In Springtime it is extremely peaceful and yet full of sakura trees. A rare combination in central Tokyo. One of our most popular tours takes people around "Yanesen" (Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi). If you come to see the sakura in Yanaka, I recommend taking a walk around Yanesen. It is also very close to both Ueno and the Sumida River/Sky Tree, so you can combine your day with any of these sakura spots too.
Ojima Komatsugawa Park
Ojima Komatsugawa Park belongs to both Koto-ku and Edogawa-ku and is very much "off the radar". The main area is a large green grassy field with ample shade provided by the many cherry blossom trees. This park is perfect for sitting on the lawn and picnicing, and it also has a pretty good adventure playground for kids. From the main field, you can walk further along the other sections of the park. The Kyu-Nakagawa River is on one side of the park while the Arakawa River is on the other.
Ogunohara Park is a very local park which attracts little-to-no tourists. It is somewhat of a green oasis set in a residential part of Adachi-ku. It has a large green lawn and a wildlife dragonfly pond where kids like to play and collect bugs. There is a small playground and a splash pool in summer. It is also a popular cherry blossom spot for locals and these beautiful trees encircle the park. They have many "willow sakura", a sakura tree that resembles a willow tree. This is another great option for a picnic, although there isn't much else in the area so it's best if you are already in the "shitamachi" side of Tokyo to begin with.
Nogawa Park and Nogawa River
Nogawa is a huge park running alongside the Nogawa River with tennis courts, a big athletic field and a playground. It has over 8000 trees, including sakura galore. The river is lined with grass, unusually for Tokyo. The park has a bird santuary, nature observation centre and a barbecue field too. A nice day out would be to start at Musashino Park and follow the river straight to Nogawa Park. It's such a large area that you can spend an entire day chilling out here.
Zenpukuji River and Zenpukuji Park and Wadabori Park
The Zenpukuji River winds its way through Suginami-ku before becoming a beautiful nature haven in the Zenpukuji Park and Wadabori Parks. Between the two parks there are about 700 sakura trees. This is the perfect place for families to spend their "hanami" as there are several playgrounds, along with the Suginami Children's Traffic Park.
Koganei Park is located in West Tokyo which is definitely the greener side of Tokyo. There are actually many large parks out West. Koganei is one of the best. For the kids it has a huge playground and astroturf sledding hill, while for the adults there is the Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum. During sakura season there are over 1700 trees in bloom, making for splendid photographs.
Sengawa River and Soshigaya Park
Another nice river for cherry blossoms is the Sengawa River. Head to Setagaya-ku, home of enormous mansions you don't usually see in Japan. You can start at Soshigaya Park and follow the trees in any direction. If you have time, walk all the way down the river to Kinuta Park, another large open space with grass, trees and flowers.