Your Best Japan Sakura season starts early and takes planning. As soon as it becomes New Year stores were already out with sakura motifs. It feels like Japan is half momiji season and half sakura season. Winter and summer and just in the way.

And it’s coming soon. March 26th by some estimates. So without further ado here are my tips to make this season or your visit your best Japan sakura season!

Franceslovesyou in Inokashira Park for sakura

 

Understand any top rated sakura spot will be packed

Was this photo from a top rated spot? Nope!

If japan-guide or hanamiwalker or any other place has given it top rating, it will be super packed. Tokyo is overcrowded on a daily basis. Tokyo is absolutely unbearable for sakura season. Osaka and Kyoto are the same.

Tourism is one of the major industries of Japan. It’s incredibly cheap to get there from Korea and China and considered a once-in-a-lifetime trip for some to see the sakura.

You’re going to have to accept if you follow the guides online about sakura, you will be flooded. Especially on the weekend. Peak sakura season on a weekend is tragic. It’s also very drunk.


Appreciate the nearby sakura

One of my favorite parts of sakura season is actually enjoying the neighborhood sakura. Most schoolyards have a giant sakura tree. Some parks cement and all have a glowing pink tree. It’s still beautiful. It’s not a sea of pink, but appreciate beauty where you can find it.

Take all the walks around your nearby hotel or air bnb. It’s free and it’s a great way to not feel suffocated by people.

This was just a random bridge in Nakano in Tokyo. It didn’t cost anything, I didn’t have to be around a lot of people to get this shot. Daily life sakura is really enjoyable.

Same bridge, just different angle. By the way, the other previous photos except for Frances were ALL taken on a basic pedestrian bridge in Nakano.


Be willing to travel

Sakura are fickle and weak. You can follow every sakura forecast. You can book at the last minute. But one heavy rain and they’re wiped out. Seriously all it takes is a good rain if the blossoms are open enough. Hanamiwalker is excellent at keeping reports up to date. However in English only Japan-Guide is slow but easy to read.

But one of the good things about being in Tokyo or Osaka is there are a lot of elevations and places around that are two hours or less on train. Even if you got your full season (usually only a week) in Tokyo or Osaka you can take a quick train ride and still see more.

From Tokyo my top three quick trip destinations for more sakura are:

From Kyoto my top four quick trip destinations for more sakura are:


Pick river walks over parks

Parks trap people. Parks cost. Parks get all the love. But in all honesty river sakura are the best. Even if it’s crowded there there’s river space that makes you breathe a little. Also it’s easy to cut out people from a river photograph for more insta-worthy shots. Or include people for atmosphere like the Franceslovesyou photo.

This is Yasukuni Shrine for their Sakura Matsuri. Sure this is a realistic photo but not aesthetics.

This is the Chidorigafuchi Walking Path right next door to Yasukuni Shrine.

Such giant sakura, such impact. Even on a cloudy day.

In reality this is how it looked. But because it was a river walk you can take so many pleasing photos no matter the time of day.

 

I will do a post soon on top sakura walks in Tokyo, but just meander around your area, too!


Go early or stay for light ups

We all know what ruins an experience or a good photo: other people. So the best plan is to wake up and go early to wherever the top ranked viewing places are. There will still be other people, particularly old men with giant cameras. But you’ll get that perfect shot.

Or go at night, there will be a lot of people because light ups are popular. It’s impossible to avoid crowds at light-ups but it doesn’t feel so crowded. And your photos will be fine because darkness shadows out people. Light-ups also use pink light so no matter the blossom color you’ll always get a lovely pink glow. (Seen in my Himeji Castle sakura light up)

This photo was taken at the Roppongi Hills sakura light up


My recommended daily best Japan sakura season plan:

Morning – Head to one of the big popular spots that’s gotten the big stars or says its in full bloom via sakura-walker.

Afternoon – Choose your sakura walking stroll and then eat lots of sakura themed food.

Nighttime – After a lovely dinner finished off with sakura themed desserts. Head to one of the light-ups.

 

This is my side screw sakura tip: the cheapest, fewest people time to go to Okinawa is mainland sakura season. I did it through discount airlines Air Asia and Peach. I think my flight total was $200. We actually did a snorkeling boat tour that ended up being a private tour and it was only 1,000 yen a person. $10 for a private boat tour. The water is colder but it’s tolerable. I actually flew back into Osaka and got to see some sakura despite leaving for a second.

 

Absolutely none of these photos cost me any money to take. I guess I could also name this best japan sakura season planning for FREE!

 

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I have walked away from doing Japan walking tour type photo posts but I miss simply showing photos. I’m also very happy to show photos around the Nagano area. It’s my favorite place in Japan and I do hope to live there one day. This special walk was from the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Matsumoto Museum of Art to Matsumoto Castle.

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Sometimes you go walking and discover a weirdass wooden scultpure of a what is known in JP wikipedia as a “Samurai stature”

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One part derp one part hideous it’s a frog statue of a Frog Samurai riding in on a…frog? Matsumoto’s old shopping street’s mascot is the frog. A pun on kaeru (to return) and frog (kaeru). They even have a Frog Matsuri in June. It looks like a childrens fun event.

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The beginning of Nawate Dori (なわて通り) it’s only a walking street no bikes or cars. Check out that side derp. There’s another concrete frog on the right.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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There’s such a cool balance of architecture in Matsumoto. And of course always beautiful mountains in the distance. Despite being a small town (population 227,392) it’s really a thriving town lately.

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On such a pretty day lots of Matsumoto citizens were out enjoying the scenery. Except for the castle and coming down from the mountains in Nagano it doesn’t get a lot of tourist hype which is one of the reasons I try to recommend it.

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I’m forever a sucker for an old building and a weepy sakura
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Matsumoto is mostly a car city and there’s lots of lanes. It makes the city feel a bit more open.

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The Matsumoto manhole covers remind me of Yayoi Kusama’s dots. It is her hometown.

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The street looks mostly filled with small snack shops and little classic stalls. Not really the typical souvenir items either. Some used stores with just about everything inside as well.

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A vending machine advertising the Japan Basketball League or B-League. Nagano prefecture was originally called Shinshu (信州) so many Nagano things (food, culture, sports) are called Shinshu. The Brave Warriors are on the B2 or bottom level of the two tier B-League system.  Side note: It’s nearly impossible to get B-League swag. As a Basketball stan I would fully rock the apple yeti mascot merchandise.

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All throughout Matsumoto lots of pretty rivers run in the main part of town. There’s a lot of walkable space on each side.

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I’m always in love with how many tiny plants and ecosystems Japanese places can fit on such a small place. Where else to find a pond but in the corner of an Okonomiyaki place?

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Matsumoto castle in one of its best seasons. I previously blogged about Matsumoto Castle and the sakura when I visited in 2015. But I feel I got even better shots of the castle at golden hour.

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Since castle grounds are free lots of people walking their dogs in the area. Shiba alert!

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Casual hanami and coverage was great!

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Matsumoto’s sakura as always lovely.

I’ll have more Matsumoto and “Shinshu” posts because I really love the area.

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In the past years I’ve been down on Tokyo sakura viewing. I mean when you can have a gorgeous castles in the background, see sakura on a mountaintop viewing regular sakura seems a bit boring? My mind really changed about how pretty Tokyo sakura viewing can be last year. One of my favorite spots was Nakameguro (中目黒). Nakameguro is famous as a destination for sakura because of its beautiful Meguro river that flows through it. The sakura drip over and its truly a gorgeous sight.

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The quintessential Nakameguro Sakura View (TM) and people free!

 

Nakameguro is a sought out place to live in Tokyo because of its hip but laid back vibe. It’s right next to fancy Daikanyama but not as expensive, so a lot of younger people live in the area.

Reasons I like Nakameguro Sakura:

Because it’s a river walkway you may be put off by the concrete of it all and lack of proper Tokyo sakura hanami viewing space, but these two things put off people so it’s much less crowded than places like Ueno Park, Yoyogi Park and Inokashira Park that get tons of drunk rowdy people. And it serves alcohol and lots of places to eat unlike Shinjuku Park. It’s also free unlike Shinjuku Park. If you can get a bench along the river it’s easy to spend several hours gazing and chatting.

 

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Sakura suits the river so well. I do think the Tottori river sakura are more beautiful but for central Tokyo sakura these are hard to beat. I headed out with Nicola and Linda.

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During a weekday the crowds are manageable and we were able to snag seats.

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The sakura do really cover all of Meguro river. Because of the shade and temperature differences theres a wide range when you can see sakura on just this one walkway.

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When we finally got seats this was our view. Pretty special right? The river really makes the crowds feel not so crowded. You can see one of the food trucks parked across the river. There were lots of tasty food options.

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The strawberry champagne was a big seller.

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We also got a bottle of pink sparkling wine to celebrate the season. Instagram worthy!

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Bonus! This super cute poodle we saw while enjoying an impromptu hanami.

 

Visiting Nakameguro for Sakura viewing:

Sakura season is finicky but even with buds or falling off the Nakameguro Matsuri is lovely to see. They do a light up as well for those seeking out a sakura light-up. It’s also an easy walk if you just want to put in an hour to view but not the whole day.

Nakameguro Station is a small station that can get super crowded during sakura season it’s on Tokyo Metro Hibiya and Tokyu Toyoko lines easily accessible through Shibuya. If you’re going at night or during the weekends I suggest getting off at Daikanyama Station of the Tokyu Toyoko Line (8 minute walk) or Ebisu Station on the Yamanote Line (14 minute walk) and walking to Nakameguro both of which are nice walks. Daikanyama has tons of cafes and cute food options in case Nakameguro gets too busy.

 

 

My first Sakura post of the year! I have more planned. I really got to enjoy sakura last year and I unfortunately can’t visit this year so hopefully posts on the blog turning pink will cheer up.  :hearts3:

 

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Sakura Foods in Japan is back with another edition. I love these posts!! It gets me so excited for eating more of them. Pink delicious food it’s a venn diagram of what makes me happy. And a lot of them were eating during traveling within Japan which makes me ultimate happy.

For the past two years other than my time in Japan and moving (to sample Atlanta’s good sweet spots), I’ve spent my life sugar free. I don’t eat fruit other than berries, I only use stevia in baking. That’s it. My eyes love sugar, my body hates it. I do tend to go crazy in Japan, but the rest of the time I abstain.

And for you sugar haters this sakura foods post actually includes some savory sakura items because I’m not picky when it comes to sakura food! Actually some of my favorite sakura foods haven’t been sweet.

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Top pick of most delicious sakura food. This sakura udon handmade at Hanamiyama in Fukushima. There is a light floral pickled taste to it.

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Sakura muffin picked up at Saitama on our way to Matsumoto Castle.sakura-foods-in-japan-ootoya-sakura-parfait

Sakura shows up in unexpected places like Ootoya (previous post on healthy eating in Japan here). And it lists its calories (along with allergies!). That whole thing for 380 calories seemed solid.

sakura-foods-in-japan-ootoya-sakura-parfait-closeupThe real deal wasn’t as cute, but it was tasty and for the Sakura-nesss you got sakura mochi AND a real sakura blossom on it. And if you don’t know this about me yet, I will eat every wa sweet in site. Red beans and matcha? I’m THERE!

So many layers. The sakura cronut at my favorite bakery chain Pompadour. This was my man’s favorite sakura food or at least he ate it most days it was available. :smiley:

Sebastian Bouillet macaron’s from Ikebukuro Seibu. Clockwise: Frambroise, Pina Colada, SAKURA and Shikuwasa (a Japanese citrus).

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Sebastian Bouillet is a confectioner based in Lyon and Tokyo. Makes very interesting macarons if you’d like to branch out from Laduree.

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Sakura fish? Yup it’s common in fancier restaurants. Chaya Macrobiotic in Shinjuku Isetan is one of my favorite healthy places to eat in Tokyo. Since Macrobiotic eating centers on seasonal it’s lovely they added some pickled sakura and other flowers to their fish. Although it’s a fancier place their lunch is only 2,160 yen ($18.00) so it’s not going to break your budget.

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Can’t pass up sakura season without a jaunt to Floresta Donuts. Last year was a cat sakura donut, the year before that was bear and chick. I’m curious what this year will bring. Love Floresta!

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Sendai Sweets went overboard with their Sakura Daifuku. Check out all that multi-mochi levels and fresh cream.

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They were selling strawberry cream daifuku, but who wants strawberry when you can go for sakura?

sakura-foods-in-japan-sendai-sweets-sakura-daifukuNot the best photo, but #trainlife. Another Sakura production by Sendai Sweets (last year’s sakura foods post had Sendai Sweets sakura).

Unexpected sakura! I ordered some matcha from the excellent matcha shop in Sendai called Ocha no Igeta (お茶の井ヶ田) it’s a must stop for me in Sendai, but the sakura tea dessert was delicious and unexpected.

That 3-d sakura *Homer drooling*

 I actually have a few more sakura foods to talk about but I’m holding them back for Sendai and Nagano posts. So stay tuned for the glory of Sendai foods and Nagano foods. This year I’m already planning to eat more of sakura foods and thus far this year it looks like there’s a lot more choices than usual. Franceslovesyou and I have booked some fancy teas with sakura themes this year so you’ll see some fancier sakura foods too. And I’ll probably take up the challenge to eat the First Kitchen sakura burger because I am a fool.

Previous Sakura food posts:

Sakura Foods in Japan (2015)Sweets Forest in Jiyugaoka – Sakura themed desserts | Q-Pot cafe in Harajuku with Sakura tasting | A collection of Sakura foods (2013) | A few Sakura foods (2011)

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