Ohanami, the Flower Viewing in Tokyo

Cherry Blossoms in Toneri Park

Ohanami or the flower viewing is the most popular spring activities in Japan.  Unfortunately, this year 2020, due to the spread of the COVID-19, we are advised not to do flower viewing.  But we can still enjoy flower viewing on the website.

1. Ueno Park

Ueno Park must be the most popular flower viewing spots in all over Japan. Every year (except this year 2020:-(), people visit there and enjoy picnicking under the trees.

2. Asukayama Park

Cherry blossom viewing has been Japanese culture over the centuries.  But before the 18th century, this flower-viewing culture was only for the high society.  But Tokugawa Yoshimune, Shogun during the 18th century allowed the general public to enjoy cherry blossom viewing.  It became so popular that since then, this has become the popular annual event for Japanese people.  And it was Asukayama Park that Yoshimune planted 1270 cherry trees for the general public.  Ukiyoe painter, Utagawa Hiroshima made woodblock prints of Asukayama Park in 1856.

100 views edo 017 by Utagawa Hiroshige

View to the North from Asukayama by Utagawa Hiroshige

The park became the famous flower viewing spot so Meiji Emperor visited here in the 19th century.  Here is a woodblock work by Toyohara Chikanobu.

Meiji Emperor in Asukayama Park

The Emperor, Empress, Crown Prince and court ladies on an outing to Asuka Park by Toyohara Chikanobu

Today, there are about 650 cherry trees in this park.  The park has a picnicking area, a play ground and  museums.  (Please note that the museums are closed as of 4th April, 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19.)

3. Cemeteries

With some reason (I don’t know why, though), many cemeteries in Japan often have beautiful cherry blossoms.  Tokyo is not the exception.  During the flower-viewing season, cemeteries are covered with joyous atmosphere.

Yanaka Cemetery sits in the area called Yanesen.  This means Yanaka, Nezu and Sendagi.  And you will find many small shops that sell snacks or miscellaneous goods, antique shops, cafes and so on.  Lovely spots for walking.

The type of cherry blossoms in Tokyo are usually Somei Yoshino.  Somei Cemetery was in a village called Somei and the cherry blossoms were  named after the village.  So this place is the origin of Somei Yoshino.

4. Historic Sites

Because the history of cherry blossom viewing is long, the historic sites in Japan often have beautiful cherry trees.  If you visit such places, you can take photos of cherry blossoms with historic architecture.  Traditional Japanese gardens like Rikugien also have the flowers.  Rikugien and Higo Hosokawa Gardens both have beautiful autumn foliage.

I also put the photo of Myonichikan built in 1921.  This is a school building designed by renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  Slightly newer than other places, but still, it is a historic site where you can admire beautiful flowers.

5. Green Fields

Tokyo has a number of parks.  The cherry blossoms in these green fields attract many visitors.  This year, I visited Toneri Park in northern part of Tokyo.

6. Rivers

Rivers often have line of cherry trees along the stream.  The pink lines look goregeous but why cherry trees along the rivers?  There is a unique reason for this.  In old days, heavy rain often cause flooding because the river banks were not strong enough.  It is said that in order to prevent flooding, people started planting cherry trees.  Because during the cherry blossoms season, people gathered under the trees for picnicking, thus trod the banks underfoot.  That way, the banks became solid.

As you can see, the cherry trees are spreading the branches over the rivers. Usually, the branches in the lower part of the tree do not grow very much because the sunshine cannot reach there.  However, the reflection of the sunshine from the water can reach to cherry trees.  Therefore, even the lower branches can grow well if they stretch over the river.  This is how the nature works but because of this, the cherry blossoms over the river become very beautiful.

7. Streets

Many streets and avenues in Tokyo have cherry blossoms.  You can easily enjoy flower viewing while walking.  In 2020, the weather was very warm and the flowers started blooming on 19th March.  It was quite early.  But surprisingly, it snowed on 29th March.  It soon turned into rain but I could take a rare photo of cherry blossoms and snow.

8. Outside Tokyo

Japanese archipelago has thousands of flower-viewing spots.  Here are very small examples.  Both Yokohama and Abiko are near from Tokyo so the timing of the cherry blossoms is almost the same as in Tokyo.

In 2020, it was in Tokyo that the cherry blossoms first started blooming in Japan.  (Okinawa is the southernmost island but their cherry is different kind and blooms in winter.)  Since our archipelago stretch from south to north, the timing of cherry blossoms differs from region to region.  For example in Hokkaido, the cherry blossom festival is held at the beginning of May.  So if you would like to visit flower-viewing spots, please confirm when the flowers bloom.  But to tell the truth, it is quite difficult to know when.  Sometimes it is very early like this year 2020.  Sometimes it becomes late.  Only the nature knows.

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