The first time I came to Japan, I planned to stay long enough to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Unfortunately, I had to go back home before then, and as soon as I arrived, my friends in Japan started sending me pictures of the beautiful sakura trees. It felt like such a shame; cherry blossoms were the one thing I most wanted to see on my first trip to Japan.
But the following year, I had the chance to come and live here. The very first time I saw this natural beauty, I shed tears of joy. I still remember that chilly afternoon when my partner and I went around the Imperial Palace. I even called my mom to tell her how beautiful the trees looked in full bloom. During those 3 hours, I must have taken hundreds of pictures. I felt like a child again, jumping around and feeling amazed at the view.
I know that I share this fascination with cherry blossom season along with millions of people, and how could anyone feel otherwise? The weather is great, the food is amazing, people picnic in parks, the city is painted in pink and you can feel immersed in the spring spirit with some of the most amazing sights. So if you’re around this season in Tokyo, here are some of the foodie events we recommend for you.
Hanami, Cherry Blossom Viewing
The main activity for this season is called Hanami (花見) or flower-viewing (hana/花 = flower, mi/見 = to see). People gather around parks and gardens to feast their eyes on the sight of the beautiful sakura trees in bloom. This is one of the most important social times in Japan, since companies, groups of friends, family, school mates, and anyone can go out to picnic together. People bring all kinds of foods and beverages to share, but one can also find street stalls selling different kinds of traditional Japanese festival foods around parks and gardens. If you would like to experience this for yourself, then here is a list of the most popular places around Tokyo:
Established by the feudal lord Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu in 1702, and literally meaning “6 poem garden”, Rikugien Garden is an Edo-style park that reflects 88 scenes from classical Japanese and Chinese literature with a pond, small hills, and many trees. It is considered one of the most beautiful natural gardens in Tokyo and was declared a natural landscape wonder in 1953.
People can enjoy the 3 tea houses spread around the garden all year long, but in the springtime, the main attraction is the 23 x 15 m weeping sakura tree. During the day, the sunlight enhances its beauty, and at night, carefully placed illumination lights bathe the tree in a soft glow. The park even extends its opening hours during this season so that visitors to enjoy it more.
Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival
Stalls and shops align the Meguro River offering traditional festival food and drinks inspired by the season, making it one of the most popular and famous areas to enjoy this wonderful time of year. Make sure to get a glass of pink champagne! If you want to make the most of your visit to the area, check out the Hanami special evening tour offered at Arigato Japan here: https://arigatojapan.co.jp/cherry-blossom-hanami-food-tours/
Nihonbashi Sakura Festival: A Digital Gourmet Wonderland
Immerse yourself in seasonal decorations, illuminations, and a treasure hunt event in one of the most traditional neighborhoods in Tokyo. During this 3-week event, around 190 shops in the Nihonbashi, Yaesu, and Kyobashi areas will offer sakura-flavored menu items. This way, you can enjoy the cherry blossom season with both sight and taste!
On the last Sunday of March, there will be the Cherry Blossom Festival at Ningyocho Amazake Yokocho where non-alcoholic amazake – a sweet, fermented rice drink – will be served. The festivities end when all the amazake is gone.
On the first Sunday of April, you can enjoy the Nippachi-kai Cherry Blossom Festival at Sakura-dori Street. Booths serving drinks and snacks will fill both sides of the street and entertainment includes live jazz performances.
Other important places to visit
Sumida Park Cherry Blossom Festival
Ueno Cherry Blossom Festival
Chiyoda Cherry Blossom Festival
Bokutei Cherry Blossom Festival
Edo Fukagawa Sakura Festival
Must-Try Sakura Food and Drinks
From small businesses to worldwide brands, everyone has their own way to be part of the sakura craze! These are just a few suggestions, but keep your eyes open long enough and you’ll find many others. A word of caution: sometimes products are only packaged in a beautiful sakura design, but contain no sakura-flavored food inside.
– Starbucks: every year, they offer a special seasonal drink with sakura flavor, plus a bunch of sakura-themed tumblers and mugs. Many other coffee shops like The Botanist, Cafe de Crie, Lindt Chocolat Cafe, and Key’s Cafe will also have their own special drink for the season.
– Sakura collection
Release date: 15 February 2019
Price: Sakuraful Milk Latte (Short 440 yen /Tall 480 yen/Grande 520 yen/Venti®:560 yen)/Sakuraful Frappuccino: 580 yen
– Chilled cup series (available in convenience stores too)
Release date: 12 February 2019
Price: 219 yen (180 ml)
LINDT CHOCOLATE CAFE
– Spring Limited Sakura Menu
Release date: 16 February 2019
Lindt White Chocolate Sakura Iced Drink: 772 yen
Lindt Délice Sakura & Sakura Leaf: 302 yen
– CocaCola: releasing a new sakura design on their special collectible bottles.
Release date: 21 January 2019
Price: 125 yen (250 ml)
– Hotel Chinazo Tokyo, Sakura Afternoon Tea: this high-end hotel opens its doors to sakura flavor lovers and prepares a delicious tea time special.
Location: 2 Chome-10-8 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo City, Tokyo 112-8680
Date: February 15th – April 7th, 12:00 – 18:00
Price: 3,800 yen
– Mister Donut, Sakura Donuts: one of my personal favorites, all 6 of their different donut types taste great, and they all celebrate the flavor of the season.
Release date: 1 March 2019
Price: 129~140 yen
– ANA InterContinental Tokyo Sakura Afternoon Set: another hotel that joins the craze and brings this beautifully created tea set for sakura lovers.
Location: 1-12-33 Akasaka, Minato City, Tokyo 107-0052
Date: 15 March to 26 April 2019
Hours: Weekdays: 12: 00 ~ 18: 00 (2 hours)
Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays: 3 division system
11: 00 ~ 13: 00/13: 30 ~ 15: 30/16: 00 ~ 18: 00
Price: 4,900 yen + tax and service fee
Hinamatsuri: Girls Day, March 3rd
On this day, families set up special altars with different platforms where they display a set of ornamental dolls. These dolls represent the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians in traditional court dress of the Heian period, going from top to bottom in order of importance in the court. This is set up before March 3rd and the tradition was to remove it no later than the next day, but nowadays, some of these displays stay the whole month. The dolls are normally passed down to the the youngest girl in the family until she becomes 10 years old, and then they are passed on to next girl in the family.
Why not celebrate the princess of the house with another girl’s favorite flavor? These strawberry buffets will blow your mind:
– Hilton Tokyo, All-You-Can-Eat Strawberry dessert buffet: inspired by the romance and elegance of ballet, Marble Lounge’s most popular strawberry buffet comes adorned in pink. Enjoy up to 30 selections of strawberry desserts, cotton candy, a chocolate fountain, and fresh strawberries.
Location: Marble Lounge, Hilton Tokyo
Date: 26 December 2019 to 11 May 2020
Hours: 14:30~17:00 (Weekdays) / 15:00~17:30 (Weekends)
Price: (Tax fee + Service fee not included)
Weekdays 4,050 yen (adult), 2,400 yen (4-12 year-old)
Weekends & Holiday 4,450 yen (adult) , 2,500 yen (4-2 year-old)
– Keio Plaza: Jurin, Strawberry x Chocolate Buffet: strawberry pound cakes, strawberry and cherry cupcakes, cakes patterned after Japanese dolls, strawberry tarts, strawberry roll cakes, strawberry and cherry pies with sweet Japanese beans, three colored jelly, strawberry mousse, strawberry and matcha green tea parfaits, and shortcakes are just some examples of what you will find.
Location: All Day Dining Restaurant “Jurin”, 2nd Floor
Dates: February 1st to March 31st (Sunday), 3:00p.m.-5:30p.m. (Last Order at 5:00p.m.)
Price: ¥ 4,300 for adult, ¥ 2,600 for child (Age of 4-12), including drinks
– The Strings Omotesando, Strawberry Holic Barbie x Ichigo Collection: delicious and Instagram-able dessert buffet to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Barbie. Over 25 desserts and savory items will be served with cute and colorful decorations.
Location: Gramercy House
Date: January to May (on selected days)
March: 1*, 8, 15*, 20, 21*, 22*, 28*, 29*
April: 11*, 12*, 19*, 25*, 26*, 29*
Hours: 11:00~12:30 / 13:30~15:00 / 16:30~18:00 (only on *)
Price: 4,500 yen (adult), 2,250 yen (child)
As an artist, I believe that, with the correct argument and background, anything can be art. Ayako Suwa is an artist who creates experiences that engage the five senses, aiming to tap into your most intimate and primitive sensations. Her statement is a beautiful piece of poetry that will make you want to visit this special event:
“To eat is to live;
To taste is to evolve.
Humans evolved because of their desire,
because they couldn’t restrain their appetite.
A curiosity for unknown tastes and food that stimulates
the five senses.
Color, shape, texture, aroma, taste, temperature, moisture,
how it feels in your mouth and how easily it can be swallowed,
let the feeling melt into your body, as the memory lay asleep
deep within your brain.
It all becomes a taste that rocks your very emotions,
releasing your true instincts
A taste of irrepressible joy;
A taste of sudden bursting anger;
A taste of embarrassment and jealousy; A taste of sadness…
A taste of emotions, enjoyed by the senses.
It is neither a source of nutrients nor a source of energy,
nor a gourmet of gastronomical delight.
This is a provocative taste that awakens our lost desires…”
Tokyo Ginza Shiseido Bldg B1F, 8-8-3 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Dates: Weekdays, 11:00 – 19:00 hrs
Sundays and national holidays, 11:00 – 18:00
Closed every Monday including holidays on Mondays
The National Museum of Nature and Science will open its doors to this yummy exhibit that will take you through the wonders of Washoku (和食/ Japanese food, wa/和 = Japanese style or tradition, shoku/食 = food). Added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2013, Japanese cuisine has became one of the most sought-after foods around the world, not only for its amazing flavors, but also for its tidiness, beautiful colors and its incomparable “umami” (うま味), the 5th flavor. This term was coined by professor Kikunae Ikeda and literally means “delicious flavor” (coming from umai/うまい = delicious, mi/味= flavor). It stands out from the other flavors for its soft but long-lasting taste, giving the tongue a velvet-like aftertaste and increasing salivation in the mouth.
The exhibit will consider other distinctive Japanese culinary styles such as yoshoku (Western-inspired) cuisine from the Meiji Era. It will also feature a wide range of 100% natural Japanese ingredients, preserved through fermentation and other preservation techniques. As an interactive exhibit, visitors will have the chance to sample some of the ingredients featured in the show.
National Museum of Nature and Science
7-20 Uenokoen, Taito City, Tokyo 110-8718
March 14th – June 14th
9:00-17:00 (Till 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays)
※Also till 20:00 on Sunday 26th April, Wednesday 29th April, and Sunday 3rd –Tuesday 5th May; and till 18:00 on Monday 27th-Tuesday 28th April, Thursday 30th April, and Wednesday 6th May.
※Last entry 30 minutes before closing.
Closed most Mondays, Thursday 7th May, and Tuesday 19th May.
※Monday opening on 30th March, 27th April, 4th May, 18th May, and 8th June.
※The dates and times of opening are subject to change.
General / University student: 1,700 yen (same day), 1,500 yen (advance ticket)
Elementary / junior / high school students: 600 yen (same day), 500 yen (advance ticket)
※Check out for the special set prices that include a small special merchandise from the exhibition.
We hope you enjoy these amazing events and stuff yourself full with cherry blossom and spring craze! Don’t forget to check out our seasonal tours on our website for making delicious sakura memories!!!