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    Spring in Tokyo: The ultimate experience of cherry blossoms and spring festivities

    By Sumire Yamada

    August 3, 2023

    Spring in Tokyo: The ultimate experience of cherry blos

    Hello there! I'm Sumire, just your ordinary Tokyo dweller with a sweet tooth and a love for all things local. As a host with City Unscripted, I've had the privilege of witnessing many a season pass by in this city that I call home. But let me tell you, there's nothing quite like spring in Tokyo. The air fills with a certain excitement, the kind that tickles your cheeks and brings a smile to your face, as Tokyo readies itself to be showered with the ethereal beauty of cherry blossoms, or Sakura, as we lovingly call them.

    And while I'm not here to personally take you on one of those popular Tokyo tours, I am here to share what it feels like to be amidst this vibrant spectacle. Picture yourself strolling under a canopy of pink, the sweet fragrance of sakura filling the air, while the city hums its springtime symphony in the background. The weather’s just right, the city buzzing with locals and visitors alike, all soaking in the heartwarming ambiance. Now, isn't that a sight to savor? So, let’s explore this together. Grab your favorite drink and a comfortable chair, and let's immerse ourselves in the captivating world of Tokyo during spring.

    When to visit: calendar of the spring season

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    There's something to be said about the gradual shedding of winter's cold; as February transitions into March, you'll notice the temperatures rising slightly. But it's not just the weather that changes. Our scenery transforms, too.

    Mid-February to early March marks the start of the plum blossom season, a stunning prelude to the main event - the cherry blossom season.

    If you find yourself in Tokyo during this time, make sure to visit parks such as Shinjuku Gyoen or Ueno Park, where these blossoms make their first appearances.

    As we roll into late March, cherry blossom season really starts to kick into high gear. Sakura trees dotting the landscape of Tokyo break into a riot of pink, a spectacular display that lasts until mid-April. And trust me, it's not just about snapping the perfect Sakura shot. It's also about immersing yourself in the hanami (flower-viewing) culture that captivates both local residents and international visitors. While cherry blossoms may be the headliners, let's not forget about the other stars of the season.

    Strawberry picking is quite the thing around this time, and Hitachi Seaside Park is a riot of colors, thanks to the blooming baby blue eyes.

    April transitions into the Golden Week, a week-long break for the Japanese people, packed with unique and local festivities. This includes everything from traditional events like the Sanja Matsuri and the fun-filled Children's Day to sampling seasonal foods at local food stalls.

    Tokyo's spring weather: A season of change

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    Now that we've talked about when to visit Tokyo during the spring season let's delve a bit into what you can expect from the weather during this delightful time. The spring season in Tokyo is known for its transformative charm. The leftover chill from winter starts to recede by mid-February, and that's when you begin to notice the first stirrings of the season.

    The transition of the weather is gradual. Temperatures start rising from the colder winter months, and by late March, there's no need for those heavy coats anymore.

    Spring in Tokyo is a comfortable warmth, the kind that invites you to spend time outside, exploring the cherry blossom viewing spots or trying your hand at strawberry picking.

    But don't be fooled by the warmer days, the evenings can still be cool. It's wise to keep a light jacket on hand when you're out and about, especially if you're visiting the parks after sundown or engaging in some early morning outdoor activities.

    As we move into April, Tokyo is often bathed in soft sunshine, just perfect for those planned trips to central Tokyo's parks or Hitachi Seaside Park. It's a time when cherry trees, sakura, are at their most beautiful, in full bloom, and when flower festivals are a common sight. The weather stays consistently warm through the Golden Week into early May, making it a pleasant time for both local residents and international visitors.

    The magic of cherry blossoms

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    Spring in Tokyo, to me and many others, is synonymous with the ethereal beauty of cherry blossoms, fondly known as Sakura. These delicate blooms aren't just any flowers. They bear profound significance, symbolizing the ephemeral nature of life and embodying a spirit of renewal.

    To truly experience this, there are a few spots that stand out amongst the city's landscape.

    Shinjuku Gyoen is a must-visit with its over a thousand cherry trees turning the park into a vast ocean of pink. Not far behind is Ueno Park, a local favorite where the tradition of hanami - flower viewing parties - comes alive.

    It's an atmosphere brimming with delight, with everyone savoring Japanese food from local stalls, participating in the seasonal festivities, and simply basking in the joy of spring.

    For a quieter yet equally mesmerizing spectacle, Sumida Park is my personal recommendation. Overlooking the Sumida River with a stunning backdrop of the Tokyo Skytree, it's a serene cherry blossom spot that offers moments of tranquillity in the bustling city.

    Regardless of where you find yourself in Tokyo during this time, the beauty of Sakura becomes a shared joy, a celebration that invites everyone to marvel at the fleeting magic of cherry blossoms.

    Plum blossoms: The harbingers of spring

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    In Tokyo, plum blossoms are often regarded as the harbingers of spring. These blossoms make their grand entrance in mid-February, a time when the city is still shaking off winter's cold. The arrival of these delicate flowers signals the beginning of a shift in the city's rhythm and a change in scenery. While cherry blossoms often steal the limelight, plum blossoms have a beauty that's understated yet equally enchanting.

    These flowers serve as the curtain raiser to Tokyo's spring flower festivals.

    Each plum blossom is a splash of color - from whites and pinks to vivid reds - a delightful contrast to the winter grey.

    Visiting plum groves during this time is nothing short of magical. Whether you're walking in the parks of central Tokyo or making a visit to the Imperial Palace grounds, the sight of plum blossoms in full bloom against the backdrop of a clear, blue sky is a sight to behold. The fragrance of these blossoms also fills the air, adding to the charm of this season.

    In fact, these blossoms are not just visual treats but are also incorporated into Japanese food, particularly in traditional sweets and pickles.

    As we transition into March and head towards the Golden Week, these plum blossoms slowly give way to other flowers, like the much-anticipated cherry blossoms. But even after they're gone, the memory of the plum blossoms remains, a delightful reminder of the early spring days in Tokyo.

    More than just Sakura: Other flowers in bloom

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    While Tokyo's spring season is synonymous with the iconic cherry blossoms or 'sakura', the city's floral offerings are not limited to these pretty pink blooms. Other flowers also take their turn to shine during the spring season, creating a vibrant and constantly changing tapestry that adds to the allure of Tokyo in spring.

    Take, for instance, Hitachi Seaside Park, a must-visit on your Tokyo trip. Here, the Baby Blue Eyes, a petite flower with a stunning azure hue, steals the show. From late April to mid-May, this park transforms into an ocean of blue under the clear spring sky.

    Another visual treat is the gorgeous wisteria tunnels in bloom at Kameido Tenjin Shrine in Central Tokyo during Golden Week. The heavenly sight of the wisteria flowers draping down is something you wouldn't want to miss. Spring in Tokyo also witnesses the celebration of the vibrant flower festivals where you can see these flowers blooming in all their glory. A visit to Japan in spring gives you the opportunity to witness this amazing spectacle, as well as to participate in exciting events and special festivities that coincide with this flowering season.

    In early May, as the cherry blossoms begin to fade, azaleas burst onto the scene, painting the city in shades of pink, red, and white.

    You can catch these vibrant blooms in many parks across Tokyo, including the Imperial Palace Gardens. Then there are the colorful carp streamers flying high in the sky for Boys' Day, creating a spectacular view against the backdrop of blooming flowers.

    Springtime festivals and events

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    It's no secret that Tokyo in spring offers an array of vibrant festivals and exciting events. The city pulsates with an infectious energy that makes everyone want to join in on the fun.

    Beginning in early April, you'll find yourself caught up in the dazzling whirl of cherry blossom festivals. They are more than just a celebration of the blooming sakura trees; they signify the advent of new beginnings in the fiscal year and bring people together in a way that's heartwarming to witness.

    Moving into mid-April, the festivities hit their stride. One of the biggest events is the Sanja Matsuri, held in the bustling district of Asakusa.

    Celebrating the three founders of Senso-ji Temple, this festival showcases Tokyo's Edo period history and tradition with grand processions, traditional music, and energetic performances.

    In contrast, Children's Day, celebrated in early May, is a colorful spectacle that fills the sky with carp streamers, symbolizing the hope for children's healthy growth. The event has activities designed for all - from watching horseback archery to participating in various outdoor activities. You'd also be remiss to not try the seasonal foods available during these events. The Golden Week, towards the end of April, combines several national holidays into one long celebration, featuring special events not only for the Japanese people but also for international visitors.

    Flower viewing: A quintessential spring activity

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    In Tokyo, spring isn't just about warmer weather and blossoms appearing on trees. It's also about a cherished tradition we hold dear: Hanami or flower viewing. This isn't just about seeing the stunning views of cherry blossom in parks and along avenues, but it's also a time for us locals to slow down, spend time outdoors with family and friends, and appreciate the fleeting beauty of Sakura, the cherry blossom. It's a tradition rooted in the Edo period that continues to captivate Japanese people and visitors alike.

    Now, onto some of my favorite cherry blossom viewing spots!

    In central Tokyo, Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen are absolute must-see destinations for Hanami. Each year, by mid-April to late April, these parks transform into a paradise of pink with their Sakura trees in full bloom.

    Ueno Park, for instance, has more than a thousand cherry trees, and during Hanami, the park truly feels like a festival. Shinjuku Gyoen, on the other hand, offers a more peaceful atmosphere, perfect for a pleasant time under the blossoms. But remember, Hanami is not just about cherry blossoms. It's also a fantastic opportunity to experience some traditional Japanese activities. From horseback archery exhibitions to children's day celebrations, there are many special events and national holidays that fall within this period. Plus, it's the best time to sample some seasonal foods. Don't forget to try the spring cabbage, it's absolutely delicious!

    So, if you're planning to visit Japan in spring, make sure to experience Hanami. It's the essence of Tokyo in spring, a tradition that will surely create wonderful memories of your visit to our lovely city.

    Spring delicacies: Seasonal foods and food stalls

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    Ah, we've reached one of my favorite topics to share - food tours in Tokyo! Tokyo's spring season is a time of renewal, not just for the flora around us but also for our palate.

    Spring cabbage, a Japanese variety that's sweeter and more tender than its counterparts, makes its way to the markets and kitchens. Its sweet crunch is a welcome addition to many dishes, but it's also fantastic enjoyed simply sautéed with some butter and a sprinkle of salt.

    But spring cabbage is just the start. The season brings with it a host of other seasonal foods that you won't want to miss.

    And if there's one place to sample these seasonal delicacies, it's the numerous food stalls that pop up during our spring festivals. Every festival becomes a food paradise, with stalls lining the streets offering a variety of dishes, each more tempting than the last. Whether it's grilled yakitori skewers, fresh takoyaki, or sweet mochi treats, there's something to satisfy every craving. But remember to save room for dessert! There's nothing quite like ending a fun day of festival hopping with a delightful strawberry-filled daifuku, a classic spring sweet. These food stalls not only serve up mouth-watering dishes, but they also offer an authentic peek into Japanese cuisine and culture. Whether you're a seasoned foodie or a curious traveler, diving into Tokyo's spring delicacies is a must-do during your visit.

    Spring activities: From fruit picking to horseback archery

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    When it comes to spring activities in Tokyo, there's no shortage of fun and engaging experiences to immerse yourself in. One of the most popular things to do during the spring season is fruit picking. Strawberry picking, in particular, is an absolute delight. It's a bit of an adventure, really! You get to visit local farms, walk among rows and rows of fruit-laden plants, and hand-pick ripe, juicy strawberries. The taste of these freshly-picked strawberries is a joy unto itself. They are incredibly sweet and flavorful, a true testament to Japan's dedication to cultivating high-quality produce.

    Moving on from the tranquility of the farms, let's shift gears to something more energetic and traditional – horseback archery events.

    These events, known as Yabusame, are a sight to behold. They are usually held at parks or shrines and are part of the numerous spring festivals happening throughout the city.

    Picture skilled archers galloping on horseback, aiming at targets with precise concentration and skill. It's a thrilling spectacle that gives you a peek into the ancient martial arts of Japan. You might find yourself holding your breath as the archer draws his bow, only releasing it as the arrow finds its mark.

    Golden week: A peak of spring fun

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    Golden Week in Tokyo is not just a holiday; it's a social and cultural phenomenon that beautifully highlights the city's vibrant spirit. This week-long celebration in late April to early May creates an atmosphere of joy and excitement, with a series of national holidays giving everyone a reason to join in the festivities. Even the quieter streets and neighborhoods burst into life, each offering its own unique ways to celebrate.

    The influence of Golden Week on Tokyo's social and cultural life is significant. It's not uncommon to find families planning get-togethers, friends organizing outings, and entire communities participating in local events. Tokyo's residents take this opportunity to enjoy and express their cultural heritage.

    Traditional music can be heard flowing from homes and local festivals, while special art and cultural exhibits often pop up in various parts of the city.

    If you find yourself in Tokyo during this time, you'll notice a camaraderie that transcends age and nationality, a sense of community that makes anyone feel at home. What's more, many businesses and shops often have special Golden Week sales and promotions, so it's also a fantastic time to shop for unique souvenirs or try out restaurants you've been eyeing. By the time Golden Week concludes, you'll not only have enjoyed the festivities but also gained a deeper insight into Tokyo's cultural richness and unity.

    Why spring is the perfect time to visit Tokyo

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    Experiencing Tokyo during spring is a unique journey, a blend of cultural richness, stunning natural beauty, and vibrant festivities. From the breathtaking view of Sakura trees in full bloom to the lively energy of Golden Week, Tokyo in spring unfolds like a beautiful story filled with colors, sounds, and experiences that you will carry in your heart forever. But as much as I try to encapsulate it in words, the real magic lies in experiencing it first-hand. So pack your bags, bid goodbye to the heavy coats, and come visit Tokyo in spring. The city awaits you with its stunning cherry blossoms, cultural festivities, and warm sunshine. Your adventure in Tokyo is a story waiting to be written, and I can't wait for you to start penning your own chapter!

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