Sakura Season // Naka-Meguro
Tokyo isn't generally considered to be a pretty place. But it has its moments - and sakura (cherry blossom) season is one of them. The onslaught of airy whimsical blooms are a welcome juxtaposition to the city's cold concrete facade, creating a dreamlike urban utopia. Cherry blossoms get a lot of hype in Japan, and I now count myself among the sakura obsessed.
At the start of April - seemingly overnight - a grey and dreary Tokyo is transformed into a breathtaking ethereal wonderland of pink and white blossoms. Enjoying this fleeting beauty, which comes and goes within a 2-week period, is taken very seriously by the Japanese. Hanami (flower-viewing) parties take place everywhere you look: bright blue tarps are carefully placed on the ground beneath blossoming trees, and friends pile on with their picnic baskets and sakura-themed cans of Asahi to revel in the official passage of winter. City parks explode with visitors looking to get in on the hamani action, which can make for a suffocatingly crowded viewing experience. A recent trip to Ueno-Koen, a popular hanami destination boasting over 1,000 cherry trees, had me convinced that all of Tokyo's 38 million residents were squeezed into one park. My advice? Skip the stress of staking out real estate for your picnic blanket and head down to Naka-Meguro, where you can stroll underneath the blossoms alongside a picturesque canal - with sparkling wine in hand.
With nearly 800 cherry trees lining the Meguro-gawa, a river that feeds into Tokyo Bay, Naka-Meguro isn't an unknown destination for hanami - but the experience is a little different. Food and drink vendors set up shop on the canal's stone-paved banks, offering everything from flutes of Moët & Chandon rosé to skewered meats and french fries doused in flavored mayonnaise. And while there are a few benches along the canal, Naka-Meguro's sakura is best appreciated on foot. Saunter below the blossom-laden branches and breathe a collective sigh with fellow sakura seekers as even the softest wind releases a snow-like shower of petals onto the river below. Come nightfall, the scene becomes achingly romantic as pink paper lanterns illuminate the canopy of blossoms overhead.
If you ever tire of hamani, Naka-Meguro is a neighborhood that beckons for exploring. Quaint cafes and stylish boutiques make this area a popular hangout for the artsy types. Wander into the lanes on either side of the river for a taste of this hip haunt.
// GETTING HERE //
Naka-Meguro Station is served by the Tokyu Toyoko Line and the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line. Once outside the station, cross the street keeping the train tracks overhead. Within one block you'll hit the tree-lined Meguro-gawa.
// GOOD TO KNOW //
Japan Guide publishes an annual nationwide cherry blossom forecast, in addition to recommended viewing spots and background on the different tree varieties.
Naka-Meguro is only a 10-minute walk from Daikanyama, a wander-worthy 'hood that's not to be missed! Check out my neighborhood guide and make a day out of exploring these off-the-beaten-path gems.