Have you decided on where you would like to view the beautiful and delicate “Sakura” blossoms in its full glory? Consider Ueno Park located in central Tokyo! Approximately 1,200 cherry trees will flourish with pink magical flowers at the 133-acre park. And an estimated 2 million people will visit to experience “Hanami” or cherry blossom viewing while picnicking directly beneath a tree.
Sadly, the blossoms are only in bloom for a brief two-week window. Therefore, many will flock at once to secure a spot at the park or to simply admire the natural beauty along the paths and take photos. Conveniently located across the street from JR Ueno Station, entry to the park is free.
There is a variety of cherry trees at Ueno Park, with the most common being Somei-Yoshino cherry lined within the center of the park. When is it a good time to go? Well, Japan considers a region to be in bloom when at least five or six flowers can be counted on its cherry trees. When 80 percent of the trees' flowers have opened, typically a few days later, an area is officially designated as in "full bloom," prime time for blossom gazing and revelry. To get a better idea of when flowering is expected in an area, you can also check the Japan Weather Association website.
There are a few things you need for the complete hanami experience. At your nearest 100 yen store, you can purchase a large plastic picnic sheet (or tarp) to spread on the ground to reserve your space, bright and early. But, don’t just leave it there by itself. You’ll have to assign an able body to stay put with the tarp to secure the most coveted party space until the rest of your friends and family arrive.
Next, familiarize yourself with the surroundings, especially the location of the toilets and trash bins to determine easy access among the thousands of visitors. Fortunately, Ueno offers convenient recyclable & garbage receptacles including English translation for user-friendly separation.
And finally, be sure to bring enough food and drink like onigiri (rice balls), bento lunch boxes, cheese & crackers, and sake or wine, to last you through the evening. Because when the sun sets, about 1,300 lanterns light up to extend hanami into the moonlit sky. Oh, and don’t forget to bring a blanket or jacket for the chilly spring nights!
Lastly, if you’re lucky, you’ll encounter geisha adorned in their beautiful, colorful kimono and extravagant obi. It is usual to find them among the hanami parties performing various Japanese arts such as classical music, dance and games. So, have your cameras ready at all times to capture some spectacular photos you will cherish forever. Happy Hanami’ing!