Crowd of people eating outside during the cherry blossom season

Spring in Tokyo

If you’ve always wanted to visit the Japanese capital, plan a springtime trip.

November 2016

Spring is the season to visit Tokyo, and now is the time to start planning your adventure. Cooler temperatures and no summer crowds make April and May the ideal time to visit—but the most compelling reason to travel during springtime is the stunning beauty of the cherry blossom blooms. Come for the flowers, but stay for the dining, shopping and culture.

Hanami festivals

The magical cherry blossom season is extraordinarily significant to the Japanese. Weather forecasters, agriculturalists and party planners alike carefully track the climate to predict when the delicate pink petals will bloom—and when the hanami parties begin. Hanami means “flower viewing,” but the culture of hanami parties is closer to flower honoring. To the Japanese, the cherry blossoms—known as sakura—symbolize the ephemeral beauty of the human life.

From elaborately decorated soirees to impromptu lunchtime picnics, hanami parties are an annual celebration of Japan’s national flower. Partygoers lay blankets beneath the canopies of the trees and hang paper lanterns for nighttime viewing. They pack individual hanami bento boxes full of fish cakes, sushi and tofu, or prepare shared dishes of grilled octopus, fried shrimp, rice balls and pickled vegetables. Sake, seasonal beers and hot and cold teas are served, and music and dancing soon follows.

The cherry blossoms typically bloom from late April to early May, and it’s worth scheduling your whole vacation around this peak. Gazing up at the fluttering, blush-colored petals is like entering a dreamy watercolor painting.

Beyond the cherry blossoms

Springtime dining will beckon you away from the parks and toward the cafes. Japanese menus change with the seasons, and the spring palette frequently includes bitter dishes along with mainstay umami flavors like soy, seaweed and miso. Try bamboo shoots paired with rice, sweet strawberry mochi and hot green tea. Tokyo restaurants take plating seriously, so each dish you order should look beautiful and fresh.

After a meal, visit the posh shopping district of Ginza for global brand names, sophisticated department stores and high-end boutiques. Check out trendy Harajuku for youthful, fashion-forward finds or the Ameyoko Arcade for an outdoor market offering everything from spices to souvenirs.  

Finally, no trip to Tokyo is complete without some cultural outings. Visit the Samurai Museum or the National Art Center, or score tickets to the Kabukiza Theatre for a traditional Japanese Kabuki performance, dramas known for outlandish makeup and elaborate choreography.