This is Part 2 of our 5 part series on planning the ultimate trip to Japan during cherry blossom season. We will cover every aspect – itinerary, accommodation, packing – of planning an unforgettable trip to Japan during cherry blossom season
Read Part 1 – Visiting Japan during Cherry Blossom Season: An Itinerary (opens in new tab)
Read Part 3 – Choosing Accommodation for your trip to Japan (opens in new tab)
Read Part 4 – Packing for a trip in Japan during Cherry Blossom Season (opens in new tab)
Read Part 5 – Budgeting for a trip to Japan during Cherry Blossom Season(opens in new tab)
Tokyo – where do I even start? A bustling metropolis where the manic rhythm of urbanity perfectly melds with the serenity of Eastern rituals. A city break in Tokyo offers everything from endless shopping and sightseeing opportunities to culinary adventures and cultural experiences.
The city is perfect for a city break at most times of the year but there is no denying that it is particularly special during Cherry Blossom Season (Sakura). Spring is in the air and you will see pavements and sidewalks dotted with powder pink petals everywhere. But that’s not all. There’s a spring (see what I did there?) in the step of locals as winter coats are shed and the sun starts making a daily appearance. No wonder there are parties and picnics at every nook and corner and the sound of laughter reverberates in every restaurant and public parks 🙂
We suggest setting aside at least 4-5 days for a city break in Tokyo. Here is our guide to exploring Tokyo during Cherry Blossom season:
Getting into and around Tokyo City
Chances are you will land in Tokyo wherever in the world you are flying from. Tokyo has 2 airports (Haneda and Narita) – try choosing a flight that lands at Haneda as it is much closer to the city. We flew with Cathay Pacific Airways that offers great connections to Tokyo from all parts of the world.
Taxis are exorbitant in Japan and public transport is extremely efficient and punctual – so choose the either the monorail or Keikyu railways for getting to downtown Tokyo if your hotel is close to a metro station. A direct train from the airport takes visitors to the centre for around 540 yen (approx. £4).
Getting around in Tokyo is easy – all parts of Tokyo are well connected either by the subway lines, JR lines, or other railway lines. If you purchase a Japan Rail Pass, you can easily use that to travel within Tokyo. We got ours from Japan Experience and used it to travel within Tokyo for the 4 days that we were in the city.
Choosing Accommodation in Tokyo during Cherry Blossom Season
There is no dearth of accommodation to suit every budget in Tokyo. In you are in the city for a short time, we suggest staying in a central area close to a subway station as you will be using trains to explore Tokyo.
On reading several glowing reviews on Tripadvisor and readers’ recommendations, we chose Park Hotel Tokyo. The four star hotel is a 1 minute walk from Shiodome Metro Station and 5 minute walk from Shinshiba Metro and JR station. We chose one of their famous Artist Rooms. Each room on the thirty first floor has been hand-painted by a different Japanese artist. We were blown away by the amount of detail – we chose a kind room painted by Kiyoko Abe – the wall behind our bed had a majestic dragon conversing with a Japanese lady.
But that’s not all. We had petite ladies in kimonos painted at the dresser and a family dining together in a traditional Japanese home by the minibar. This level of detail at Park Hotel Tokyo amplifies the experience to something more than just a regular hotel stay – it is akin to staying amidst living, breathing art. As if this wasn’t special enough, our room offered an incredible view of the city of Tokyo! In fact, we could see the entire city of Tokyo stretched out in front of us everyday. On the first day we checked-in, we could see Mt. Fuji clearly from the comfort of our room 😀 We made sure we caught sunset from our room everyday because this was the view:
Love Tokyo’s skyline!
Spotting and photographing Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
There are dozens of opportunities to catch cherry blossoms in full bloom in Tokyo. Here are a couple of our favourite spots to photograph them:
- Shinjuku Gyoen is one of Tokyo’s largest parks and definitely one of the most popular spots for viewing cherry blossoms. Sakura here make for gorgeous photographs – just make sure you go early!
- Yoyogi Park in Harijuku is perfect for picnicking under cherry blossom trees. It is extremely popular with locals, so make sure you reserve your spot. Early mornings are the best to get photos sans the crowds 🙂
- Hamarikiyu Garden is ideal if you want something central. It is walking distance from the Shimbashi Metro Station and boasts of a lake rimmed by cherry blossom trees. But that’s not all. Hamarikiyu also boasts of a small rapeseed field, full of bright yellow flowers, within the garden premises.
- Kyu Shiba Rikyu Garden is another centrally located garden, ideal for viewing sakura. The ponds here make the experience even more special.
- Ueno Park can easily be combined with your visit to Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. The park houses many attractions including a zoo, temples, and ponds but its cherry blossom laden facade is what entices visitors to drop by during spring months.
- Meguro River is a unique sight during spring because it is lined with over 800 cherry blossom trees on both sides. Walk along the river and absorb the beauty of these gorgeous flowers, which bloom only for a fortnight every year.
- Chidorigafuchi Park is one of the famous spots for Sakura viewing and can be easily combined with a visit to the Imperial Palace. During the cherry blossom festival, the pathways are lit and boat cruises are available to enjoy a unique view of the hundreds of cherry blossom trees that line the moat.
Things to do and see in Tokyo
Explore Asakusa and photograph Sensoji temple
Drop by Asakusa neighbourhood for a little taster of traditional Japan. The quaint neighbourhood is jam-packed with temples and little hole-in-the-wall eateries by the dozen. It is also home to the popular Sensoji temple, which is the perfect place to observe rituals that dominate daily life of locals. We suggest visiting the neighbourhood during the morning or afternoon as the hustle hustle does down during the early hours of the evening.
Absorb the madness at Shibuya
Shibuya is famous for being the busiest crossing in the world and it needs to be seen to be believed. Hundreds of thousands of people cross the road every time the light turns green. Visit during evening hours, absorb the chaos before head to the neighbouring alleys for a spot of dinner. Experiencing the (in)famous Shibuya crossing is a must – THOUSANDS of people cross the streets at once. You might want to drop by one of Tokyo’s infamous maid or robot cafes in Shibuya for an esoteric dining experience.
Harijuku is one of the quirkiest shopping districts and urban spaces in Tokyo. Take your time to explore its alleys and acquaint yourself with Japanese urban culture. Stop by Totti’s Candy Factory for rainbow cotton candy, binge on some extravagantly shaped waffles. Make sure you visiting the neighbouring Yoyogi Park or Meiji Shrine when you want a breather from the madness of Harijuku.
Visit Disneyland Tokyo
Visit Disneyland Tokyo for a day or two filled with fun and frolic. Famed for being the happiest place on Earth, Disneyland Tokyo offers an escape from the mundanity of everyday life. Here the day is all about Mickey shaped waffles and popsicles, fun rides, and colourful parades featuring your favourite Disney characters. A visit to Disneyland Tokyo is perfect if you are travelling in a large group or with young kids.
Rent a Kimono
If you are serious about cultural immersion, then make sure you rent a kimono for a day in Tokyo. We rented a kimono from Aki Kimono Rental – they have several branches in Tokyo but the one in Ginza was walking distance from our hotel, so it worked out well. Wearing a traditional Japanese Kimono makes for gorgeous photographs but is an also education in Japanese culture. It might look simple but there are a dozen different layers of cloth, elastic, and threads that go into putting the ensemble together.
Binge on Japanese food in Ueno or Shimbashi
There are so many incredible restaurants in Tokyo that the city’s dining scene is a subject of a separate article altogether. While we would recommend Michelin star eateries such as Sushi Tokami and Ginza Kojyu, we would highly recommend exploring the more local eateries known as Yakocho. There are dozens of these eateries concentrated in the areas around Shimbashi and Ueno Metro Stations. These tiny local restaurants, packed into bylanes in these areas, are frequented by salarymen. They are the perfect place to try Japanese delicacies such as sashimi, motsuyaki, and yakitori while sitting on a dinky table placed under oriental lanterns. Make sure you sample some sake, shochu, or hoppy (a beer flavoured almost non-alcoholic drink) along with your food. These down-to-earth yakochos provide a glimpse into a different side of Tokyo and provide a special something missing from trendy eateries in town.
Walk around Tsukiji Fish Market
The biggest wholesale fish market in Japan and one of the largest in the world, the Tsukiji Fish Market is an assault to the olfactory senses. It is also the site of a crazy tuna auction every morning. Tsukiji Fish Market makes for some amazing photos – isn’t that incentive enough to crawl out of bed super early one morning? 🙂
Shopping in Tokyo
Tokyo is a veritable shopping Mecca and there’s nothing you won’t find here. From high street gems to archetypal Japanese products, you’ll find it all. Here’s a list of a couple of our favourite stores and shopping areas in Tokyo:
Ginza has a variety of hot end shopping options. It’s the perfect place for all you your designer purchases. But that’s not all- there’s lots of high street stores such as Zar- and H&M and Japanese drugstores like Matsumoto Kimoshi. If you are into camera gear, then make sure you drop by BIC Camera for perusing everything from digital cameras and DSLRs to camera filters and tripods. It’s an electronic lover’s paradise.
Shibuya is high-street shopping paradise. You’ll find multiple outlets of stores such as Zara, Forever 21, H&M and Japanese fashion labels. There’s lots of amazing restaurants in the area and you can sample some excellent Japanese food between bouts of shopping.
Japan is famous for its 100 yen shops and they are everywhere. They’re a lot like dollar stores elsewhere in the world, only cuter, much cuter. No shopping experience in Japan is complete till you explore at least one Daiso or Don Quixote outlet. We promise you will come out with a range of Japanese snacks, adorable candy, cute stationery, and a range of odds and ends (everything from washi tape to paper straws) that you might not necessarily need but gotta have. If you want to visit just one 100 yen shop, then we suggest the Daiso in Harijuku.
Matcha is everywhere in Japan. Matcha lattes, matcha truffles, matcha candy, match cakes – you name it, they have it. Since we love always use matcha in our smoothies and salads, we were determined to pick the good stuff in Japan. But here are SO many matcha products in the market that it’s hard to choose which ones to buy. So we ordered a big bag of matcha and health foods delivered to our hotel in Tokyo from a website called Healthy Tokyo. It was recommended to us by a friend who lives in Tokyo. Healthy Tokyo source their organic matcha directly from farmers and we’ve really enjoyed using their products so far – perfect if you want english labels in order to know exactly what you’re paying for!
If you’re in a rush, then you’ll find Matcha powders and products in most supermarkets and convenient stores too. Just make sure you buy high-grade matcha because poor-quality powders can leave a bitter aftertaste in lattes and smoothies 🙂
Asian skincare has a cult following. There’s no better place to shop your heart out for toiletries, skincare, and makeup products than at Tokyo’s huge drugstores. I would suggest picking up drugstore gems which are only available in Asia such as biore or bifesta micellar waters, DHC lip balm, biore SPF 50 water essence, Shiesedo eyelash curlers, Heroine mascaras, or Peri Pera lip tints. Just make sure you keep a translating app handy because most products are Japanese and shop assistants, while helpful, aren’t fluent in English.
If you want to take a piece of Japan’s urban culture back with you, then Harijuku is the place for it. Pick up fashionable clothes, bags, sunglasses, or accessories which are currently trending with the youth.
That’s it – all our favourite sites and sounds in Tokyo. What are yours?
52 thoughts on “A Guide to Tokyo (during Cherry Blossom Season and otherwise!)”
Fabulous guide. Now I know where to look to plan my trip to Japan! 🙂
Awww Chaitali, thanks so much for your appreciation. We are glad our post will help you plan your trip to Japan.Try to go there in the Cherry Blossom season-we assure you, its going to be magical!!
Wow Tokyo looks amazing! You’ve taken so many gorgeous pictures! x
Yes Stephanie ,Tokyo is very amazing, more so during the Cherry Blossom season. Your words make us feel good-thanks so much for liking what we clicked.
Hey really appreciate ur efforts to write all ur experiences in such manner.. They are of great help in guiding us to explore new places.. Me & husband have been to Bali, ubud was magical (it was wonderful experience) & last month we went to Dubai. On ur recommendation we went for dessert safari & spice & gold souk. Had Soo much. Thank you for putting it up Soo well.. Now we are planning for going on cruise vacay. I wanted to know is it possible to book our (holiday/cruise) package from travelzoo in India.??
Hey Jasleen – So happy you enjoyed Dubai and Bali. I don’t think it’ll be a problem doing that. Have fun on your cruise. Cheers
This is one place that is high on my bucket list – everything looks so colourful and exciting!
Yes Deborah, it indeed was a magical trip for us…to see all those trees full of cherry blossoms was a surreal experience-had always wanted to do it!
Such a helpful guide ☺️ You’ve got me lusting after a Japan trip in a future Sakura season!!
Yes Adele, a trip to Japan during the Cherry blossom season is something that needs to be ticked off your travel list.We are sure you will love it as much as we did 🙂
It looks like a wonderful place to visit with so much going on and plenty to keep you occupied. I really would love to go there with my husband it looks like somewhere I’d enjoy visiting.
Yep Melanie, our trip to Japan was actually magical-did not feel like leaving the place. You must make it a point to visit it during the Cherry Blossom season if possible.
How I’d love to go to Tokyo one day. In fact .. my brother and his wife went last year and couldn’t stop talking about it. I’d love to see the pretty cherry blossoms and have a view of the city like the one you had from your hotel. A little bit of paradise right there!
Dear Ali Rost, our trip to Japan was actually an out of the world experience. We enjoyed it like we have enjoyed very few other places. Like you said it was “a little bit of paradise right there”
Looks magical, unique and exciting…love the wall mural in the hotel room, s cool 🙂 x
Japan like i have always said was a dream come true for us.We had always wanted to go there during the Cherry Blossom season and we literally loved everything about it- the place, the people, the food….the list could go on and on.
I think that Japanese kimonos are beautiful and it would be a lovely way of immersing yourself in the culture! Also I like the cherry blossom trees x
Ana,everything about Japan seemed like a dream come true. The kimonos are very comfortable and look so pretty too.I loved wearing them while I was there.
I have always wanted to visit Tokyo, it looks so pretty in cherry blossom season! 🙂
Japan was actually like a fairyland during the Cherry Blossom season-we fell in love with the place and did not want to leave. Do plan a trip there for sure:)
I really want to go to Tokyo very soon! Im glad you both had such an amazing time!
Dear Candice hope you have a wonderful time in Japan.Our trip was absolutely magical.Happy travels to you:) 🙂
Wow what an amazing trip!! It looks incredible. I’d love to visit one day. It looks like there is so much to do and see!!
Yes Lottie, our trip to Tokyo would just have to qualify as one of our best ones ever!!We had a magical time there-amazing city, beautiful people and yummy food.
No rply in my comment ?? That’s Soo rude of you !! ?
We’re always on the go – it’s not Always possible to respond to comments on the same day!
Wow that was so awesome and magical experience to read about your trip. I am moving to Japan soon for work and I know what to explore when I am there 🙂 You both look great together and keep writing about your fantastic travel experience… this is so inspiring ?
Thanks so much dear Shruti, you just managed to light up our day- we love it when our readers enjoy what we post.Happy travels to Japan and we are sure you are going to love it as much as we did 🙂
Thank you Savi Vid! If you guys plan any meet up in Mumbai please let me know, would like to meet you both, else I look forward to your next Japan trip ?
Hi Shruti, we just had an awesome meet up in Mumbai on 5th May-it was one of our best so far.But we hope to be there some time again in the future, so see you soon:) 🙂
Beautiful photos, I’d love to visit Tokyo – especially in Spring for the Cherry Blossom! xo
Thanks so much Rachel for liking what we clicked. Yes you must visit Tokyo and like you said during the Cherry Blossom season.It looks like a dream come true!
What an amazing detailing about Tokyo!!! You guys are true inspiration. I am extremely excited to visit Japan in October this year.I wanted to read through the other parts to this article but the titles above do not seem to be hyperlinked for clicking. I could not even find the other parts on your whole website.
Can you please navigate me through those other links if published
Look forward to visiting every place on your list
Hey Kevti – those articles are coming soon. We will publish all 5 by next week 🙂 You’ll have the best time in Japan
Visiting Japan is very high up on my bucket list so this was a great read 🙂
I didn’t actually realise there was a Disneyland!
Hi Dani, Japan is a beautiful place to visit-it was one of our best trips ever.You must go there soon but try going there during the Cherry Blossom season -its purely magical at that time. Happy travels and have fun!!
Hi Vid & Savi. I too have a travel & adventure blog. I just started 3-4 months back.While I read your blogs & Instagram posts, I get highly inspired to travel more & better my blog. I would like it very much if you could take a look at my blog & give me any recommendation. Here is the link: theoutrageousgirls.com
Thanks a lot for your comment – we’ll surely check out your blog 🙂
All the very best for your endeavour 🙂
I haven’t been in tokyo and this is one of my bucket lists, I love to go there soon and try their food go to the beautiful spot there.
Sure Angela, you must plan a trip to Japan and try going there in the Cherry Blossom season, like we did. Its purely magical at that time!!
Great Read before planning trip to Japan. Tokyo looks amazing in your pictures. Amazing guide. Great stuff shared by you.
Hi Nitin, we are glad you found our post on Japan helpful. Hope you have as amazing a time there, as we did. Happy travels:)
What beautiful photos guys! Cherry blossom makes everything look so magical, and it looks like you soaked up Japanese culture in the best ways possible! I was in Hong Kong about half a year ago and loved the chaotic beauty and contrast of the high-rise buildings with the local markets. Tokyo is next on my list!
If you loved Hong Kong, you’re going to have a great time in Tokyo 🙂 Loved the organised madness in this beautiful city 🙂 Hope you make it there soon!
whole heatedly Thank you for giving out valuable information
You’re welcome 🙂
Hi Savi & Vid,
The Japan series of posts have been incredibly helpful in planning our trip to Japan next year (April 6, 2018 to April 23, 2018). I can’t thank you two enough. Hoping to experience the magical Cherry Blossom season while we are there. Our itinerary is almost similar to yours except we were interested to explore Hiroshima/Miyajima instead of Hakuba.
That’s so good to hear 🙂 Hope you have an amazing trip. Hiroshima sounds like a great alternative 🙂
I am planning a trip to Tokyo in few months. Was language a problem over there?
How did you guys manage?
No – with Google Translate and English, you’ll be fine 🙂
Hey Savi and Vid..great great itinerary and tips. How readily is vegetarian food available in Japan? And how expensive can it get?
Hey Sayalee – you can find vegetarian food in Japan but it does tend to be expensive, especially in cities like Tokyo