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Tokyo Sakura Story: Pockets of Spring in an Urban Landscape

Pops of pink in Tokyo's cityscape signal the arrival of peak sakura season. Many of the sakura species date back to the work of Edo-period horticulturalists.



Sakura in early spring (early March) in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. (© JAPAN Forward by Hidemitsu Kaito)

More than 300 sakura varieties bloom in Japan at various times of the year. In Tokyo, you can even enjoy sakura species from different parts of the country. For some of their names and when they bloom, check out the "Tokyo Sakura Story" series on the JAPAN Forward Instagram page.

Somei Yoshino trees in Shinjuku City: A familiar sight for the Japanese people. (© JAPAN Forward by Hidemitsu Kaito)

Some sakura evolved naturally from wild species native to Japan. Others are ornamental cultivars that have been produced through cross-breeding.  

During the Edo period in the mid-1600s, the Arakawa River bank and the area around the Sumida River saw rapid sakura cultivation. This resulted in the emergence of many new sakura species.

One example is the well-known Somei Yoshino, a species developed in the late Edo Period. They spread throughout Japan and are now the most common variety of sakura. The Japan Meteorological Agency observes Somei Yoshino trees to forecast the sakura season.

The pink petals of Yōkō and the white petals of the Somei Yoshino create a mesmerizing collage at the Shinjuku Gyoen. (© JAPAN Forward by Hidemitsu Kaito)

Urban Sakura

Sakura blossoms come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. You are bound to encounter a sakura tree simply by walking through the streets and parks of Tokyo. But they can also be found in unexpected places, such as "tree-planting zones" around office buildings. 

If you don't have time to wander through Tokyo's streets, take a stroll in Shinjuku Gyoen. Located in central Tokyo, the park offers 60 types of sakura that bloom at different times of the year. Some bloom until early May, while others begin to bloom in autumn or winter

But peak sakura season begins in March. If want to see the flowers in their full glory, don't wait too long. Remember that one of the allures of the sakura is its transience — emblems of spring that unveil their beauty in short bursts of life.

Iconic yellow blossoms of the Ukon sakura tree at Shinjuku Gyoen. (© JAPAN Forward by Hidemitsu Kaito)


Author: Hidemitsu Kaito

(Read the article in Japanese.)


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