Spring in Japan + FREE e-book: Top 10 Cherry Blossom Spots in Tokyo

When I first arrived in Tokyo, it was the start of February. It snowed the day after we landed. We were sitting in a cafe in Nakameguro - the cafe is actually 2 stores in one, called Soaks / OK Doughnuts, and the doughnuts are better than "ok" - right by the Meguro River. As we were sipping on hot coffee (and perhaps some mulled wine), I spotted the first flakes of snow drifting down. It was so magical and exciting! I knew I wasn't in Kansas (or Sydney) anymore.

Close up of Cherry Blossom flowers in full bloom, Nakameguro, Tokyo. April 2015 | Photo by Shell, Kitty & Buck  [click through for more!]

Living by the river in Meguro gave me the opportunity to really embrace the concept of Spring. From that early moment when I got all teary-eyed about the beautiful snow, there were signs that winter was, in fact, on the way out, and spring was coming. Lining the Meguro River are hundreds of cherry blossom trees, and even then, you could spot the tiny buds just waiting for the warmer weather to arrive.

Perspective view of the Cherry Blossoms in bloom along the Nakameguro River, Meguro Tokyo April 2015 | photo by Shell, Kitty & Buck  [click through for more!]

Almost every day, I eagerly rushed to the branches of the cherry blossom to check out their progress. There were other signs that the blossoms were coming, too. The riverside received some structural upgrades and a new coat of paint, and pink lanterns were strung along the length of the river, as far as the eye could see.

Gotta catch 'em all! As the cherry blossoms float from the trees, it's tempting to scoop them up off the ground. Never pluck them from a tree, it's widely frowned upon to yank on the cherry blossom trees! | photo by Shell, Kitty & Buck  [click through for more!]
Pink lanterns adorn the Meguro River  in celebration of the Hanami festival (cherry blossom viewing). By day, it's a festive splash of color, by night, a magical blossom-y twinkly wonderland | photo by Shell, Kitty & Buck [click through for more!]

I chose this neighborhood for our initial residence, mainly because of it's proximity to one of the best cherry blossom spots in Tokyo. I really wanted the opportunity to enjoy them, as they only last around a week. As the blossoms exploded, so did the population of our front yard! It went from a normal Tokyo neighborhood to a top tourist destination overnight! There were thousands and thousands of people every day, strolling along the river. Food stalls set up with hot roasted dango, beer and champagne as well as more western food choices like giant french fries! The festival atmosphere was contagious. 

Mitarashi Dango, a delicious sticky rice dumpling drenched in a sweet soy based sauce. Cooked over over a charcoal mound, it's a popular roadside snack (now available in convenience stores everywhere! But fresh is best) | photo by Shell, Kitty & Buck  [click through for more!]

One of my favorite things about this particular location is that it stretches over such a large area. The riverside at Nakameguro is probably the most lively section, but you can walk for 3.8km and never emerge from the blossom canopy. There aren't really any seats to speak of, so the crowds are always on the move, making it easy to get around. Compared with Yoyogi Park, or Ueno Park, which are also really popular, Meguro River cherry blossoms had a more reflective celebratory atmosphere, rather than a full-on party vibe. The blue tarp picnics are not generally allowed along the river, so if you want to picnic, head to one of the larger parks! As we enter the winter season here in Japan, I'm going to remind myself that cherry blossoms are just around the corner.

Hanami (or "flower viewing") picnics are incredibly popular in Japan. Yoyogi Park in Tokyo is inundated with people, from company parties, to big groups of friends, to families enjoying the soft rain of petals. It's customary to bring a large tarp to share, throw in some food and drinks and spend an entire day in the park. As is typical in Japan, shoes must be removed when going inside - that means no shoes on the tarps! | photo by Shell, Kitty & Buck  [click through for more!]

Have you been to Japan during cherry blossom season? What was your favorite spot? I know a LOT of people are coming at the end of March and early April to enjoy the blooms, so I'm sure they'd appreciate the extra recommendations.