By Shereen Shabnam
Spring is when Tokyo is at its prettiest with cherry blossoms all around with the arrival of sakura (cherry) season and numerous festivals and events planned to celebrate the beauty of the flowers. It is the perfect time to stroll under canopies of flowers at Chidori-ga-fuchi Moat, have a picnic at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden or join in the many celebrations around the city.
One of the highlights of being in Japan is the food – Japanese food places a strong emphasis on seasonality. During spring, which symbolises a time of new growth, restaurant menus feature tender bamboo shoots, mountain vegetables, spring cabbage, satsuma mandarin oranges, asparagus, spring onions plus dishes with clams and fish.
Tokyo is a city that has a myriad of parks and gardens for fun, relaxation and tranquil reflection. Start your tour with a stroll around the grounds of Hibya Park, Japan’s first modern designed park or Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Then head to Kasai Rinkai Park or Komazawa Olympic Park or meet the locals at Ueno Park, Inokashira Park or Yoyogi Park, both famous as cherry-blossom viewing hotspots in spring and prime locations for people watching.
If you prefer Japanese-style traditional meticulously landscaped gardens with relaxation spaces, playgrounds, elegant teahouses and classic water features, head to Hama-rikyu Gardens, Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens and Rikugien Gardens. There are also temple gardens and shrine parklands depending on your preference..
Once you have explored the beautifully designed Japanese-style gardens, head to the peaceful Todoroki Valley in Setagaya City or to Meguro’s Rinshinomori Park, to wander among the trees and reconnect with nature as you explore the forests, grasslands, ponds and wetlands.
For families, Showa Kinen Park on the outskirts of Tokyo is perfect with age-appropriate playgrounds and a mini-train to zip you around, while Futakotamagawa Park has a toddler-suitable play area and great for family picnics. Nakano Central Park is also another picturesque setting with seasonal water fountains.
If you like events, there are plenty to choose from in Japan. Jindai Botanical Garden Spring Rose Festival features approximately 5,200 rosebushes representing around 400 different varieties. In this garden you can see a stunning collection of treasured roses and enjoy concerts.
The Ryogoku Nigiwai Festival event showcases Ryogoku as a neighborhood full of history and culture. One of the festival’s attractions is the Chanko Museum, where stalls compete to serve the best version of chanko-nabe, a one-pot dish that sumo wrestlers consume in large servings. Visitors can enjoy band performances, dances and a traditional orchestra.
There is also the Meiji-jingu Shrine Spring Grand Festival in the center of Tokyo where Japan’s most skilled artists perform traditional arts such as bugaku (a type of dance for the ancient imperial court), noh and kyogen theater, sankyoku chamber music, hogaku music, hobu dance and more.
If you happen to be in Japan in May, it is the start of matsuri festival where ornately decorated portable shrines are paraded on the streets. Mid-May, the Kanda Matsuri processions draw large crowds so plan your journey accordingly and we suggest you drop into sumo wrestling tournaments happening in May as well.