It is the hanami season again! Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, traditional hanami parties are sadly not the best idea this year. However, this does not mean we cannot enjoy the spectacular views, if we take precautions and avoid crowds. Here, I have chosen three of my favourite sakura tree-lined hanami walking courses in the Tokyo area. To get the best views and minimize crowds, I would suggest coming early in the morning or on weekdays.
A hanami walking route merging tradition with modernity: Sumida River
Sumida River is one of my absolute favorite spots for a hanami walk. It is located a right next to the Asakusa Station and provides an opportunity to experience both the traditional and the modern sides of Japan. From the Taito Ward bank, you can enjoy the spectacular views of the Sky Tree surrounded by white blossoms. The throngs of yukata-clad tourists that congregate to photograph each other with the sakura trees add a colorful touch. If you feel adventurous, you can try out a kimono or yukata at one of the many shops in the Asakusa area. If you cross to the Sumida Ward side, you can relax at the Sumida Park, or walk under the 300 trees that line this bank of the river.
One of the best ways to enjoy the views (in a non-COVID year) is from a yakatabune (a restaurant-ship) or the water bus. There are also various sakura-viewing river tours available.
If you are not comfortable with boats, head to the Sakura Bridge for the next-best photo spot.
1 Chome-3 Mukojima, Sumida Ward, Tokyo 131-0033
7 Chome-1 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo 111-0032
About 5 minutes walk from the Asakusa Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line and Tobu Lines and about 7 minutes walk from the Honjo Azusabashi Station on the Toei Asakusa Line.
A hanami walking route for the avid walker: Shakujii River
If you like long walks, Shakujii River won’t disappoint you: the hanami walking route is about 5 km! Lined by over 900 sakura trees, my favourite stretch of the river starts near the Oji Station. The river itself is narrow, so the branches of the cherry trees extend over the water, forming a tunnel. Shakujii River is usually much less crowded than the Meguro River down south, so I would recommend visiting if you are looking for a quieter hanami walk.
Near Oji Station you can find the quiet and picturesque Oji Shrine and the Asukayama Park, a large family-friendly green space on a hill with a short monorail (!) instead of an elevator.
Further along the river, there is the Kannon Bridge, with a large statue of Buddha (Yatsu Daikannon) sitting right on the riverbank.
10 Tokiwadai, Itabashi Ward, Tokyo 173-0011
4 Chome-15 Takinogawa, Kita Ward, Tokyo 114-0023
Otonashi Water Park:
1 Chome-1 Ojihoncho, Kita City, Tokyo 114-0022
About 3 minutes walk from the Oji Station on the JR Keihin Tohoku line and Tokyo Metro Nanboku Line
About 6 minutes walk from the Naka Itabashi Station on the Tobu Line.
Zenpukuji River, a hanami walking route recommended for families
About 700 sakura trees line the 4.2 km stretch of Zenpukuji River. My favourite part of this hanami walking route is the section between the Ozaki Bridge to the Sekirei Bridge. Along the river, there are various parks, rest areas, sports facilities and playgrounds. Smaller children would definitely enjoy the Suginami Children’s Traffic Park, where they can rent a bicycle and go around a simple course with working traffic lights and zebra crossings.
If you are looking for a bit of tradition, visit the Omiya-Hachimangu Shrine. It has about 900 years of history and is a shrine devoted to childbearing, childcare and romantic relationships. The grounds include a bamboo grove and a very picturesque large red Torii gate.
Suginami Children’s Traffic Park:
1 Chome-22-13 Naritanishi, Suginami Ward, Tokyo 166-0016
2 Chome-3-1 Omiya, Suginami Ward, Tokyo 168-0061
About 15 minutes walk from the Nishi Eifukucho Station on the Keio Inokashira Line or the Minami Asagaya Station on the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line
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Photographer and explorer with 10 years of experience leaving and working in Japan