Travel SOS: Best blooms in Tokyo

Q. Andrea
I’ve always wanted to go to Tokyo to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. But I’m worried I’ve missed the flowering for this year. When is the best time to plan a trip to Tokyo to enjoy the beautiful blooms?

Read: Stunning images of Japan’s cherry blossoms

A. Whilst cherry blossom season is a standout in Tokyo, there are highlights throughout the year showcasing other blooms and foliage events.

We refer to a calendar of just four seasons but the ancient calendar in Japan had 24 distinctly named seasons, each with its own natural features, cultural links and associated festivals.

Tokyo locals continue to celebrate the seasonal changes. Here are some of the top picks and places to enjoy the seasons like a Tokyo local.

Plum Blossom (Ume)

Flowering February to March.

Plum blossoms can be seen all over Tokyo, at many temples, shrines, parks and gardens. Don’t miss the Bunkyo Plum Festival at Yushima Tenmangū Shrine.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura)

Flowering late March.

The much anticipated and cherished blossoms are only in full bloom for about a week. The fragile blooms are the symbol of spring and the source of much excitement and celebration as the national pastime of ‘hanami’ (flower viewing, referring to cherry blossoms) gets underway. There are numerous viewing locations and festivals.

Read: Ishikawa is blossoming

Wisteria (Fuji)

Late April to early May.

Cascading blooms of purple fill the night air with a sweet scent. Thanks to the way the wisteria vine grows it can be trained across arches making tunnels of sweet blooms to stroll through. During the wisteria flowering period, some locations have night-time light-ups. Don’t miss the Fuji Festival Kameido Tenjin.

Azalea (Tsutsuji)

Flowering early April to early May.

Across Tokyo giant mounds of azaleas bloom, red, pink and white like tapestries of colour. Don’t miss the Bunkyo Azalea Festival (Tsutsuji Matsuri).

Hydrangea (Ajisai)

Flowering early June to mid-July.

The generous full blooms of the hydrangea represent gratitude, grace and beauty. Don’t miss the Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival at the Asukayama Park Hakusan Shrine. More than 3000 hydrangeas burst into bloom from Hakusan Shrine to Hakusan Park.

Chrysanthemum (Kiku)

Flowering September to mid-November.

A much-lauded flower in Japanese culture, the Chrysanthemum is the symbol of the imperial family in Japan and is known to represent royalty, longevity, and rejuvenation. It also appears on the cover of Japanese passports. Don’t miss the Yushima Tenmangū Shrine where 2000 blooms are displayed.

Golden Gingko (Icho no ki)

Peak viewing is in late November.

The leaves of the Gingko trees turn golden in Autumn. Don’t miss the Icho Namiki in Meiji Jingu Gaien. The 300m long tree-lined avenue is one of the best spots to enjoy autumn in Japan. Expect street performances and food stalls selling festival treats and local fare.

Read: Travel SOS: Seven days in Japan

Red Maple (Momiji)

Peak viewing is in late November to early December.

Autumn colours known as ‘koyo’ are a treat in Tokyo, and the red maple is a spectacular site across the city in many parks, gardens, temples, and shrines. Don’t miss the Rikugien Gardens where the evening comes alive with illuminations. Day trips to Mt. Takao in Tokyo’s west are also recommended for those wanting to immerse themselves in nature.

For more seasonal highlights and the best viewing spots, download the Tokyo Seasonal Highlight Guide.

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Written by Ellie Baxter

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