One of the questions I frequently get from friends planning to visit Japan is when and where to see cherry blossoms. Thankfully, I work in the travel industry and one of the perks of which is getting to know what tours are out there. So I’ve picked up a few products that I would personally like to recommend to friends, family and of course, the readers of Tokyo Past 3.
Why Join Tours
As someone who goes seeking adventures on her own, you might be wondering why I’m recommending tours. Of course, nothing beats the freedom of exploring a place on your own, but first-time visitors to Japan may find this quite challenging, considering the complex transportation system and the language barrier. Tours also come with a guide, who can give further insight about the spots you are visiting as well as answer questions you may have. And then there’s also the fact that some of these tours are discounted, and who wouldn’t want a good deal, right?
So if you’re planning to visit Japan during cherry blossom but don’t want the hassle of making your own itinerary, or if you’re a foreigner in Japan like me whose friends and family keep asking you about sakura, here’s a convenient list for you.
February Cherry Blossoms
Yes, cherry blossoms bloom as early as February. They’re a specific type called “kawazu sakura” named after the region in Shizuoka Prefecture where they can be found blooming in abundance.
The sightseeing spots for kawazu sakura are actually outside Tokyo, but there are convenient tours that can take you these places.
Kanagawa (Yokohama and Miura)
I went to Miura twice during cherry blossom season last year using the Misaki Maguro Pass, which you can read about here. The tour below is a good alternative because it goes to both Miura and Sankeien, a well-loved garden in Yokohama.
One other thing I like about this tour is that it takes you to see not only sakura, but also nanohana (canola blooms) and plum blossoms. Personally, I love the dreamy combination of pink and yellow. They make lovely photos as well.
February Cherry and Plum Blossom Tour from Tokyo
Runs weekdays from Feb 18-28.
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The rows of sakura trees blooming along the banks of Kawazu River is among my must-see’s this year. They bloom together with nanohana, which as I’ve mentioned plenty of times, my favorite flower.
The tour below takes you strawberry picking, then to a restaurant with a rather tasty-looking lunch, and finally to the coveted spot where an enchanting sight awaits. One good thing about this tour is that it goes to Kawazu River in the afternoon, which means you’ll have a chance to take photos during the golden hour.
Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival and Strawberry Picking Bus Tour from Shinjuku
Runs from Feb 12-28.
Cherry Blossom Tours within Tokyo
Tokyo does not lack cherry blossom spots, and there are popular ones as well as off the beaten path. Sightseeing spots within central Tokyo are mostly accessible, but if you want to see many of them in one day, joining tours might be more efficient. Some of the tours below also combine sightseeing and gorging on local delicacies. Mention the word “food” and I’d join in a heartbeat.
Shinjuku, Showa Kinen Park, and Tokyo Tower
Shinjuku Gyōen is a lovely place to be for the most part of the year, but it is especially known for its gorgeous cherry blossoms. If you’ve watched Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words (言の葉の庭), you’ll also be pleased to know that this was the location used for inspiration in the film.
Showa Kinen Park would probably take a whole day to explore given the spacious grounds, but if you’re only after cherry blossoms, an hour and a half should be enough.
And who wouldn’t recognize the iconic Tokyo Tower? People who grew up to CLAMP manga and anime have probably seen illustrated/animated images of Tokyo Tower with sakura petals dramatically falling in the background plenty of times. This is is one good chance to turn those images into reality
The tour below visits all three spots and is highly recommended for people who want a jam-packed itinerary.
Tokyo's Best Cherry Blossom Viewing Bus Tour with Tokyo Tower Admission
Runs from March 20 to April 14
If you want something a bit more relaxed, a visit to Tokyo’s retro neighborhood would probably be your cup of tea. Yanaka is lined with small shops selling local delicacies and various items of interest, including personalized stamps and goods with cat designs. (The neighborhood is known for stray cats.) The tour below includes snack and sake tasting, with stops by shrines with cherry blossoms in the latter half.
Tokyo Cherry Blossom Viewing in Yanaka with Local English-Speaking Guide
Runs on weekdays from March 18 to April 12
I went to Meguro during cherry blossom season last year and IT. WAS. CROWDED. The good thing about being a tourist in Japan, though? You get to go on weekdays, which means residents will be busy working and you can enjoy the cherry blossoms without the long queues. The tour below is also held at night, which means you can see the pink blooms all lit up—romantic!
Evening Meguro Cherry Blossom Viewing in Tokyo with Local Guide
Runs on weekdays from March 18 to April 12
Mount Fuji Cherry Blossom Tours
Anyone who has worked in the Japan inbound travel industry for the past five years would probably agree that English-speaking travelers cannot get enough of Mt. Fuji. It is, after all, among the most recognizable symbols of Japan, if not the most popular one. Pair it with the equally loved and raved about cherry blossoms, and you’ve got a formidable pair.
Mt. Fuji sakura are enjoyed in two forms—cherry blossom trees, the ones that many people are familiar with, and shibazakura, moss that carpets the ground with pink, purple and white blooms.
For this post, I’ve focused on cherry blossom trees only, and below are the tours that I recommend.
Oshino Hakkai, Shiraito Falls, and Sengen Shrine
There are many spots where one can capture Mt. Fuji at its most majestic form, and the above-named spots are among them. For romantic views that include natural wonders and the distinct aesthetics of Japanese architecture, this tour is the one to book.
Mount Fuji Tour and Natural Beauty Sights from Tokyo
Runs until April 26th, optimal viewing dates for cherry blossoms are from mid-March to mid-April
Lake Kawaguchi and Strawberry Picking
Strawberries! Pair cherry blossom with all-you-can-eat strawberries and you’ve got a tour to beat. Not to mention Lake Kawaguchi is hauntingly beautiful whatever the season may be. The tour below also visits a Hina doll display. Some people find them cute, others creepy—I like them either way.
Mt. Fuji Cherry Blossom Viewing with Strawberry Picking Tour from Tokyo
Runs from April 1st to 20th
A Few More Reminders Before You Go
- The optimal viewing dates for cherry blossoms are based on forecasts. Nobody knows when exactly the peak season will be.
- Remember to layer your clothing. Temperatures tend to drop at night so bring a jacket that you can put on or take off accordingly.
- No, this is not a sponsored post. I just wanted a list that I can easily send to people asking for cherry blossom information. But yes, at the time of writing, I do work at the portal site that sells the tours you see on this post. Two birds, one stone.
And that’s my list so far. Here’s to a wonderful spring. Cheers!