Although Japan's most famous gardens are not in Tokyo, most of the places listed in this guide use principles of Japanese landscaping and give visitors at least an idea of the scope and style of these gardens. More information on parks and gardens is available at www.tokyo-park.or.jp.
Cherry-Blossom Viewing in Ueno Park -- If you happen to come to Ueno Park during that brief single week in late March or early April when the cherry blossoms burst forth in glorious pink, consider yourself lucky. Cherry blossoms have always been dear to the Japanese heart as a symbol of beauty, fragility, and the transitory nature of life.
Ueno Park, with its 1,000 cherry trees, has been popular as a viewing spot since the Edo Period. Today, Tokyoites throng here en masse to celebrate the birth of the new season. It's not, however, the spiritual communion with nature you might think. In the daytime on a weekday, Ueno Park may be peaceful and sane enough, but on the weekends and in the evenings during cherry-blossom season, havoc prevails as office workers break out of their winter shells.
Sending underlings to stake out territory early in the day, whole companies of workers later converge on Ueno Park to sit under the cherry trees on plastic or cardboard, their shoes neatly lined up along the perimeter. They eat obento box lunches and drink sake and beer; many get drunk and can be quite rowdy. Still, visiting Ueno Park during cherry-blossom season is a cultural experience no one should miss.
Other good bets for viewing cherry blossoms (Japan boasts more than 300 different varieties of cherry trees) include Shinjuku Gyoen, Chidorigafuchi (the outer moat of the Imperial Palace), Sumida Park in the Asakusa district, and both Aoyama and Yanaka cemeteries. More than likely, you'll be invited to join one of the large groups -- and by all means do so. You'll all sit there drinking and making merry, seemingly oblivious to the fragile pink blossoms shimmering above.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.