How to Enjoy Tokyo’s Seasonal Sensations Like a Local

Top picks and places to enjoy the seasons of change

Japanese people have a strong appreciation of the changing seasons, cherry blossoms in particular have been deeply loved since ancient times. Whilst cherry blossom season is a standout in Tokyo there are highlights throughout the year showcasing other blooms and foliage events.

Discover some of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets, seasonal delights cherished by locals and why missing the cherry blossoms does not mean missing out.

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Tokyo Seasonal Highlights – Where to See Local Guide

Tokyo Tourism refers to a calendar of just 4 seasons but the ancient calendar in Japan had 24 distinctly named seasons, each with its own natural features, cultural links and associated festivals. Tokyo locals continue to celebrate the seasonal changes.

Here are some of the top picks and places to enjoy the seasons like a Tokyo local.

Plum Blossom (Ume): Flowering February – March

The plum blossom heralds the changing of the season, an emergence from winter and the hope of spring ahead. Plum blossoms can be seen all over Tokyo, at many temples, shrines, parks and gardens.
Don’t miss: The Bunkyo Plum Festival at Yushima Tenmangū Shrine

Plum Blossom | Credit: Yoshi0511/Shutterstock

Cherry Blossom (Sakura): Flowering Late March

The much anticipated and cherished blossoms are only in full bloom for about a week. The fragile blooms are the symbol of spring and the source of much excitement and celebration as the national pastime of ‘hanami’ (flower viewing, referring to cherry blossoms) gets underway. Viewing locations and festivals are too numerous to mention. Learn about the sakura season in the complete ‘Hanami Guide’ here.

Cherry Blossom © Axel Schwab

Wisteria (Fuji): Late April – Early May

Cascading blooms of purple with sweet scent that fills the night air. Thanks to the way the wisteria vine grows it can be trained across arches making tunnels of sweet blooms to stroll through.
Symbolising long-life and immortality, the abundance of the vine signifies our own expanding consciousness. During the wisteria flowering period some locations have night-time light ups.

Wisteria | Credit: photoNN/Shutterstock

Don’t miss: Fuji Festival Kameido Tenjin
The Fuji Festival at Kameido Tenjin is lit from sunset to very late.

Azalea (Tsutsuji): Flowering Early April – Early May

Across Tokyo giant mounds of azaleas bloom, red, pink and white like tapestries of colour.
Don’t miss: Bunkyo Azaela Festival (Tsutsuji Matsuri)
Hands down best viewing this festival has been held continuously at Nezu Shrine since the Edo era. The month-long festival in the shrine’s spacious grounds has festival stalls and traditional performances including a taiko drumming exhibition.

Azalea | Credit: Yoshi0511/Shutterstock

Iris: Flowering May-June

There are 3 different types of irises that are native to Japan with different names. The flower is generally known for its purifying elements.
Don’t miss: Meiji Shrine Inner Garden
One of Tokyo’s best-kept secrets is a garden inside the forest that surrounds Meiji Shrine. Known as Meiji Jingu Gyoen as the rainy season starts 150 different kinds of iris planted here by the Meiji emperor for his empress explode into bloom.

Iris | Credit: Yoshi0511/Shutterstock

Hydrangea (Ajisai): Flowering Early June – Mid-July

The generous full blooms of the hydrangea represent gratitude, grace and beauty.
Don’t miss: The Bunkyo Hydrangea Festival Asukayama Park Hakusan Shrine
This is one of five flower festivals of Bunkyo Ward along with the plum trees, cherry blossoms, chrysanthemum, rhododendron. Over 3,000 hydrangeas burst into bloom from Hakusan Shrine to Hakusan Park.

Hydrangea | Credit: zu kuni/Shutterstock

*For big fans of Hydrangeas, we also recommend making a day trip to Kamakura’s Hase Temple or to Hakone Lakes where thousands of blooms can be seen.

Lotus (Hasu): Flowering Mid-July – Mid-August

A symbol of purity, the lotus is revered in Japan for its ability to rise from muddy waters to bloom into a beautiful flower. Often associated with the Buddhist achievement of enlightenment.
Don’t miss: Shinobazu Pond at Ueno Park. A sea of lotus in flower during summer.

Lotus | Credit: MI7/Shutterstock

Chrysanthemum (Kiku): Flowering September – Mid-November

A much-lauded flower in Japanese culture the Chrysanthemum is the symbol of the imperial family in Japan and is known to represent royalty, longevity, and rejuvenation. It also appears on the cover of Japanese passports.
Don’t miss: Yushima Tenmangū Shrine 2000 blooms are displayed; visitors can view from 6am until sunset.

Chrysanthemum | Credit: Daniela Constantinescu/Shutterstock

Golden Gingko leaves (Icho no ki): Peak viewing – Late November

The leaves of the Gingko trees turn golden in Autumn.
Don’t miss: Icho Namiki in Meiji Jingu Gaien
The 300-metre-long tree lined avenue is one of the best spots to enjoy autumn in Japan. Expect street performances and food stalls selling festival treats and local fare.

Golden Ginko Leaves © Guitar photographer/Shutterstock

Red Maple leaves (Momiji): Peak viewing – Late November, early December

Autumn colours known as ‘koyo’ are a treat in Tokyo the red maple is a spectacular site across the city in many parks, gardens, temples, and shrines.
Don’t miss: Rikugien Gardens (with evening illuminations) day trips to Mt. Takao in Tokyo’s west are also recommended for those wanting to immerse themselves in nature.
See Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Autumn foliage guide.

Red Maple leaves | © Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Winter Peonies (Botan): Flowering Late November – February

These are the ‘king of flowers’ representing fertility and nobility, peonies normally flower in April and May. Winter Peony is grown in special conditions and covered with little straw roofs. The winter peonies are a spectacular site especially when it snows.
Don’t miss: Peony Festival Toshogu Shrine in January and February

Winter Peonies | Credit: Masajla/Shutterstock
Tokyo Seasonal Highlights Guide - Click the cover to view the eBrochure

Tokyo Tourism has created a quick reference seasonal highlight calendar with some of the best places to view.

Note: All flowering periods are given as indicators for optimum viewing and are subject to change according to nature and climatic conditions.

Good to Know: Japanese language of flowers – Hanakotoba

In Japanese culture flowers play a vital role and this is expressed through ‘hanakotoba’ literally meaning ‘flower words’. Most flowers have a symbolic meaning to Japanese people and can communicate subtle yet powerful messages. From protecting from evil, expressions of joy, friendship even signs of death, it’s especially good to know if you are gifting someone with a bunch of flowers.
Check this chart for a quick reference.

Please visit the Official Tokyo Guide for COVID-19 updates.

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