“Hanami” literally means flower viewing, but it is much more than that to the people of Japan. Hanami signals the end of another long winter’s chill, and besides simply enjoying the beauty of flowers, especially cherry blossoms (桜 sakura), it means time spent with friends and family outdoors with, especially by the younger generations of Japan, copious food and drink.
The practice is so popular that finding and securing a good spot in a popular park at peak season may require arriving the day before and essentially camping out on one. The experience is different depending on where you go and who you go with, but it feels a lot like the entire country is collectively casting off the winter in a sudden rush of energy.
Basically Hanami is a picnic, though with the flowers, and often lights and music, it is more like a picnic at a festival. If you can get yourself a spot, some gear and some friends with which to enjoy it all with, you are golden. Here is a list of things to bring and some basic rules, followed by the top five hanami spots in Nagoya!
Picnic spots are first-come- first-serve
Finding a spot can be challenging, especially in the most popular areas, or seemingly anywhere at “peak blossom.” Arriving early, literally with the birds at 5am, will help ensure you get something. The ONLY surefire way to get a spot is arrive early, spread your picnic sheet(s) and sit on them until your guests arrive. Leaving a sheet and a note is tempting, but risky.
Make sure picnics are OK
Be sure you are allowed to picnic there before you setup, the presence of cherry trees and blossoms does not mean you are allowed to use the area! Check first.
Pack out your garbage
In big popular areas you may find garbage areas setup for you, but most do not and despite what you may see drunken college students do, DO NOT leave your garbage behind; especially not your picnic sheet and beer cans!
Don’t mess with the trees!
I know the flowers are nice but DON’T break off a branch to take home, it is not appreciated.
Take your shoes off
A picnic sheet on the ground here is considered an inside area, and shoes are not to be worn, so wear shoes that are easy to take off and on!
Don’t be “that guy” or girl!
You know what I mean here! Just be cool, you can be cool right?
If you are looking for a spot to enjoy the blossoms you are in luck, there are plenty of options available to you in and around Nagoya. To get you started, here are the…
Okazaki Park includes Okazaki Castle, the museum, and many historical points. For 300 years Okazaki Castle has been honored as the birthplace of deified local historical figure Tokugawa Iyeyasu and cradle of the Tokugawa Shogunate. You can enjoy views of cherry blossoms and Japanese wisteria along the Oto River in spring nearly unparalleled in the region; Okazaki Park is listed among “Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots.” Another point to note are the “Great Iyeasu Kou Aoi Bushoutai” warlords strutting around the park to entertain tourists in their armor. You can get photos with them, or see their show.
While this park is about an hour outside Nagoya, you will find the scenery and relative peace of the park worth the trip out of town.
Okazaki Park 〒444-0052 愛知県岡崎市康生町５６１－１ (map link)
Inuyama Castle is located north of Nagoya in the city of Inuyama. The castle and grounds overlooks the Kiso River seperating Aichi and Gifu prefectures. This area has some great fireworks festivals in summer, and you can also see cormorant fishing, which is a very relaxing activity. Inuyama Castle itself is one of only a very few Japanese castles still in existence which were built before the Edo period, and is a national treasure.
Inuyama is also about an hour outside Nagoya. While less of a place to lay out the tarp and drink, the castle is an excellent place to walk around and enjoy the flowers. If you want to picnic, you can go just down hill to the river.
Inuyama Castle 〒484-0082 Aichi, Inuyama, 犬山北古券65−2 (map link)
You can find one of the best places in the region for cherry blossoms in a very convenient location, near Mizuho Undojo Nishi Station (on the Sakuradori Line), at Mizuho Park.
Just a bit of a walk from the station you will find more than 500 trees adorning a 2.5 km /1.5 mile stretch of the Yamazaki River between the park and the baseball / recreational fields. Strolling along this path is quite the experience, and is very popular, especially with couples.
Four Seasons Road at Yamazaki River is listed among “Japan’s Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots.”
Mizuho Park 瑞穂公園 愛知県名古屋市瑞穂区萩山町３丁目 (map link)
Another great spot for hanami along the river. This time, you can access the Gojo River and its 1400 trees via Iwakura Station on the Meitetsu Inuyama line.
You can find the trees just a short walk away, about 5 minutes. The official start/stop points are “between Meiji Bridge and Daiichiba Bridges,” but I have not been able to figure out which those are. Last time I visited this spot I walked from Iwakura to Ishibotoke Station and rode back from there.
Tsuruma Park (Tsuruma Koen)
Iwakura Station, Aichi (map link)
Tsuruma Park (often mistakenly called Tsurumai Park), is the oldest park in Nagoya. It was established in 1909. The park features a large fountain and gazebo constructed in a decidedly European style. Long time residents of Nagoya would be familiar with the park from the Nagoya Walkathon! While the 1200 trees themselves are certainly worth the trip, I include the park on our top five list only this caveat; only go here if you plan to get very drunk and have fun with a large group of people. It is the most popular spot in Nagoya to enjoy hanami…
The hanami party season here is packed with revelers and 90% of them are full-on-tossed. If a quiet day at the park is what you seek, this is not for you. Tsuruma Park is the happening spot amongs the party people of Nagoya, so get there early to get your spot, and plan to be cozy with the neighbors!
Tsuruma Park, near Tsurumai Station (map link)
Photo:Toyohara Chikanobu [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: 名古屋太郎 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons -Modified
Photo: “Okazakikoen” by Japandr (CC BY-SA 3.0) -Modified
Photo:Creative Commons “Castle in Inuyama” by ThorstenS (CC BY-SA 3.0) -Modified
Photo:Creative Commons “Yamazaki-River” by KAMUI (GNU Free License) -Modified
Photo:Creative Commons “Gojo Gawa” by Gnsin (GNU Free License) -Modified
Photo:Creative Commons “Cherry blossoms in Tsuruma Park” by アラツク (GNU Free License) -Modified