Normally, there are two visual indicators that cherry blossom season has arrived in Japan. One, of course, is that sakura tree branches burst into beautiful bunches of pink flowers. The second is that underneath those branches you’ll see groups of people sitting on spread-out sheets having hanami, or cherry blossom-viewing, parties.
That second sign of spring has been largely absent from Tokyo for the past three years, however. With the pandemic hitting Japan in earnest shortly before sakura season started in 2020, the Tokyo municipal government, like many other cities, asked residents and visitors alike to refrain from having park hanami parties in the springs of 2020, 2021, and 2022. With coronavirus precautions continuing to be rolled back, though, the Tokyo government has decided that it will not be making that request for 2023, allowing the return of cherry blossom parties to some of the city’s most popular sakura spots.
Of particular note is the reallowance of hanami parties at Ueno, Yoyogi, and Inokashira Parks. The three parks all boast both an impressive number and large variety of sakura trees, and their ease of access by public transportation and proximity to nearby restaurant/bar districts make them attractive to groups who may want to keep their party going after they’ve already eaten and drunk everything they brought with them.
▼ Ueno Park during hanami season in 2019
There are still some rules to be aware of if you’re planning a hanami excursion, though. Staking out a space with your sheet but then leaving it unattended for hours until your group arrives is prohibited, and parties must end by 8 p.m. at Ueno, 10 p.m. at Inokashira, and 5 p.m. at Yoyogi (all of which are rules that were in place prior to the pandemic as well). In addition, sit-down hanami parties at Ueno Park will only be allowed in the clearing to the east of the main cherry blossom-tree lined pathway known as Sakura-dori, not along the path itself.
Another popular Tokyo sakura destination, the Megurogawa River, will be bringing back its nighttime cherry blossom light-up event for the first time since 2019. Due to being held along the sakura tree-lined streets on either side of the river near Nakameguro Station, sit-down parties have never been allowed here, and visitors are asked to help keep the flow of foot traffic moving by not standing in place for prolonged periods of time, adhering to one-way walking, and refraining from speaking loudly and eating or drinking while walking, so as not to disturb nearby residents. The light-up event will take place from March 18 to April 9.
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