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Tokyo: Blossoms Opening

Enjoying the blossoms near Shinobazu Pond in Ueno Park

In line with Sam's predictions last Friday, this seems to be the week to see the cherry blossoms in Tokyo. After a relatively cold spring which seemed to delay the 2017 sakura season, finally temperatures are starting to warm. As a result it seems that Tokyo's buds are about ready to flower.

The warmer weather has also lead to cities all across western Japan officially confirming the start of their sakura season (kaika). On the 31st Kyoto was declared open, as Raina reported, and just today Kobe and Nara made similar announcements.

In Tokyo, the forecast looks warm and rain-free this coming week, which leads me to expect that most of the classic blossom viewing (hanami) locations will be at their peak before the end of this week. For a complete nationwide forecast of the 2017 sakura season, click here.

Ueno Park: Approaching Full Bloom

The blossoms at Ueno Park, perhaps Tokyo's most popular hanami spot, had advanced considerably since last week. The trees along the main walkway through the center of the park were between 50-70% in bloom and looked beautiful. Of course, this also meant that the park was completely packed with visitors. It was such a popular destination that there was a long line just to out of the train station. The sakura around Shinobazu Pond were slightly behind those of the main promenade, and I expect they will be in full bloom this weekend. If you plan on seeing the sakura at their peak in Ueno Park, I recommend visiting this week, or at the latest this weekend, and be prepared to wade through dense crowds. Lastly, the park will be turning on lights to show off the blooming sakura from 5:30pm to 8pm every night until April 9th.

Massive crowds clog Ueno Park's main path to see the nearly full bloom sakura trees
Almost full bloom
Shinobazu pond is a few days behind
Slightly less congested around Shinobazu Pond
The large crowds waiting just to get out of Ueno Station

Shinjuku Gyoen: Blossoms Opening

There are so many varieties of sakura trees in Shinjuku Gyoen that almost anytime you visit during spring some of them be photo worthy. This was the case today. The back half of the park near Sendagaya Gate was nearly at full bloom and looked marvelous. Some early blooming trees like the weeping Shidarezakura were even starting to lose some of their pedals. Meanwhile, although the lawns of the English Garden near the main gate were packed with hanami-goers, the Somei Yoshino sakura here were still only at about 30% developed. Given the warm forecast, I predict this area will be in full bloom by the weekend.

Even though the trees are a few days from full bloom, the hanami-goers are still enjoying the English Garden section of Shinjuku Gyoen
Getting close to full bloom now
The Mode Gakuen building with a few particularly advanced branches in the foreground
The sakura trees near the Sendagaya Gate are nearly at full bloom
The weeping Shidarezakura pedals are starting to fall
The weeping Shidarezakura will still look good through the weekend most likely
Huge crowds lined up to enter Shinjuku Gyoen through the main gate

Asukayama Park: Blossoms Opening

My last stop of the day was Asukayama Park near Oji station. This hilltop park is interesting to visit not only for its beautiful cherry trees, but also because it has been a hanami spot for sakura enthusiasts as far back as the Edo era. Today the blossoms were starting to show themselves, but were still only about 40% open. I expect they will be in full bloom by the end of the week.

Nonetheless, the grounds were dotted with tarps and people having flower viewing parties. In contrast to the congested and chaotic atmosphere of Ueno, Asukaya Park felt much calmer and peaceful as visitors enjoyed picnics and admired the trees. The one exception was the playground area which was buzzing with kids running around, screaming a lot, and generally having a wonderful time. If you have children, this seems like a good place to bring them for a family hanami party. Also, every night until 9pm during the sakura season, the park will be lit-up so visitors can enjoy the illuminated cherry blossoms.

The Asukayama Park grounds were dotted with hanami gatherings
It will be probably be full bloom in Asukayama Park by the end of the week
Some areas of the park had more blossoms than others
The playground area filled with kids
Lanterns that light up at night