Mar 17, 2017

Alternative hanami experiences in Japan: Events to look out for

Alternative hanami experiences in Japan: Events to look out for photo

Hamani takes on the fevered atmosphere akin to a national sport during spring time in Japan.  Or perhaps it's more like the preamble to a championship decider where a stadium carpark is swapped for a 'green' park and groups of friends gather, lay out the blankets, crack open the cans and make merry under the cherry blossom trees. Personally, this is one event in Japan that I really look forward to and enjoy yearly. Some of you may have already been there and done that a few too many times though, and are perhaps craving of an alternative hanami experience? To this end we present events in Japan that may rekindle your spirits during this sakura season.  Don't get me wrong, there will still be trees and cherry blossom at many of these, but they all offer something a little different from the typical hanami experience.


Flowers by Naked

Alternative hanami experiences in Japan: Events to look out for photo

What: A flower themed digital art event, laying claim to be "The earliest Japanese cherry-blossom viewing in Nihonbashi (Tokyo)."

The Flowers by Naked event promises a gorgeous, interactive display of flowers and light that will awaken all your senses. The floral display brings visitors through flowers of the four seasons, with a dedicated section for cherry blossoms.

Expect an installation of real and fake sakura trees, sakura shaped paper petals, combined with winds and smells that give the illusion of actually standing under a real canopy of cherry blossom. The bar in this section serves sakura themed drinks and snacks to round off the complete hanami experience.  All this without the cold and the looming possibility of rain.  Winning?!

WhereNihonbashi Mitsui Hall, Tokyo
WhenUntil March 20. 2017 / 10:00 - 22:00

Nihonbashi Sakura Festival

What: An event that pulls the tenants of the Nihonbashi area together for a total hanami experience. There are indoor installations, outdoor illuminations, traditional hanami food stalls, restaurants serving hanami inspired meals, and organized activities that look to bring an added hue to the cherry blossom experience for visitors. Some of Nihombashi's historical buildings will be lit up according to the season (Pink, perhaps?), creating what could be a magical atmosphere for some.

WhereCOREDO Muromachi, Nihonbashi, Tokyo
WhenMid March 2017 - Early April 2017

Tokyo Midtown Blossoms

What: This event takes place around the row of cherry blossom trees behind Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi. The avenue of trees will be illuminated to enhance the pinks and set the scene for a magical / romantic experience that is available for just one week, once a year.  Flowers can also be viewed from inside Tokyo Midtown itself. For a real touch of class, consider booking (yes, booking) a table in one of the restaurants facing the sakura trees or enjoy supping on some sake and eating sweets in the mall's atrium.  From today (March 17), the MARTINI Blossom Lounge will be open, serving the aforementioned Bond favorite and menu items from the Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo.

WhereTokyo Midtown, Minato, Tokyo
WhenMarch 17. 2017 - April 16. 2017 / 17:00 - 23:00

Rikugien Cherry Blossom

What: The much celebrated shidare zakura (weeping sakura trees) in this traditional Japanese garden are the focus of this hanami experience. The trees are worth taking in both during the day and at night, to experience their varying forms and the shadows they cast. In the evenings, the trees at Rikugien will be artistically illuminated, extending the gardens usually short opening hours. Not an actual picnic ground (and that's kind of the point), this beautiful spot provides an alternative hanami experience.

WhereRikugien Gardens, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
WhenMarch 16. 2017 - April 2. 2017 / 10:00 - 21:00
Web (park overview)http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/rikugien/

Toshimaen (Amusement Park)

What: This amusement park makes for a surprisingly alternative and convenient hanami spot. With the abundance of cherry trees in the area, the park sits in the middle of the pinkish landscape. In addition to the usual illuminations, the amusement park has organized a banquet area with tatami mats and kotatsu that visitors can reserve. If you are one of the lucky few to get a spot, you can enjoy the flowers in a far more civilised manner, with catered food adding to what could be a pleasant evening.

Perhaps an aerial view of the blooming trees is what you're after. Hop onto rides like the 'Eagle' or the 'Mini Cyclone' to get as high as 35 meters above ground to take in the scene.

WhereToshimaen, Nerima-ku, Tokyo
WhenMarch 24. 2017 - April 5. 2017 / 10:00 - 20:00
Web (Japanese)http://www.toshimaen.co.jp/

Sumida Aquarium Sakura Experience

What: The jellyfish area will be illuminated with sakura prints to give the illusion that the creatures are swimming in cherry blossom. Especially interesting is how the jellyfish adapt to the color of the illumination, providing a very magical pink experience.

At the largest penguin area in town, you can see the penguins swimming with the underwater sakura light imprints, making for a somewhat surreal experience. At the top of the penguin tank, the aquarium has reserved a deck for visitors to enjoy their penguin themed bento and enjoy the flowers blooming just beyond the deck.

WhereSumida Aquarium, TOKYO SKYTREE, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
WhenJellyfish light show:  March 15. 2917 - April 28. 2017

'Penguin Picnic': March 15. 2017 - May 7. 2017 / three time daily 10:15, 14:00, 16:30
Web (News release - Japanese)http://www.sumida-aquarium.com/news/2017/03/10news-3.html

Tokyo Happo-en Sakura Illumination and Music Event

What: Happo-en (八芳園) is usually quiet and serene, providing the best place for a pleasant hanami experience. The restaurants in the garden will cook up special cherry blossom-themed dishes with the best spring ingredients, allowing you to not only to satisfy the eyes, but also the nose and the taste buds.

For a limited time during the bloom, Happo-en will transform into a music and dance haven for those who want more than to just sit and drink (although bar counter will also be set up during the party, it could well be standing).

WhereHappo-en, Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo
WhenMarch 18. 2017 - April 9. 2017 (Happo-en opens at 10:00)

Restaurants start serving at 11:00

Night illuminations end at 22:30

Takanawa Cherry Blossom Festival

Alternative hanami experiences in Japan: Events to look out for photo

What: The cluster of hotels in the Takanawa area (near Shinagawa Station, Tokyo) will join forces during the sakura season to draw in visitors to admire the abundant cherry blossom in the area. In addition to sakura viewing, the hotels are offering Japanese cultural experiences for visitors. There will be traditional Japanese music and dance performances under the trees, platforms with kotatsu, and specially prepared meal courses can be ordered together with the seating. Visitors will also get traditional green tea and Japanese sweets to complete the hanami experience.

WhereThe Prince Sakura Tower Tokyo, Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa, Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa
WhenMarch 19. 2017 - April 9. 2017 / 17:30 - 23:30


Alternative hanami experiences in Japan: Events to look out for photo

Kanagawa Sagami Lake Flower Festival

What: The Sagami Lake area is famous for its massive illumination display over the winter season. Extending the same grandeur into the spring time, this festival can be enjoyed both during the day and at night, with each providing a different experience amidst thousands of cherry blossom trees in bloom.

During the day time, frolic amongst the 2,500 sakura trees spread out on the undulating landscape of the Sagami Lake area. In addition, a specially constructed walkway (~400 m) under the canopy promises the illusion of walking in the Milky Way. In the evening, an illumination display involving said 2,500 sakura and 6 million balls of light should lay on some, 'Wow!', factor to say the least.

WhereSagami Lake Resort Prefecture Forest, Sagamihara City, Kanagawa 
WhenMarch 25. 2017 - April 30. 2017 / 9:00 - 21:00
Web (English available)http://www.sagamiko-resort.jp/

Alternative hanami experiences in Japan: Events to look out for photo

Matsumoto Castle Night-Time Sakura Viewing

What: Imagine an evening spent at one of the most beautiful castles in Japan. With cherry blossom. Matsumoto Castle will extend its opening hours for a limited time at the peak of the bloom, for a very memorable hanami experience in the castle grounds. There will be hot miso soup with pork (tonjiru), sweet rice dumplings, Japanese tea, traditional musical performances of the koto, the flute, and gagaku music to accompany a relaxed evening under the cherry blossom canopy. This is definitely an experience fit for warlords.  Civilized ones!

WhereMatsumoto castle, Matsumoto, Nagano
When3 days after initial bloom for 8 days / 17:30 - 21:00 (management to make announcement)

Kyoto Nijō Castle Cherry Blossom Banquet

What: Again, a Naked (as in the illumination specialists) event, but this time at the World Heritage-listed Nijō Castle in Kyoto. The castle itself is also one of the best sakura viewing grounds in the area but the event will definitely heighten, and add an alternative hue, to your hanami in Japan experience. A beautifully choreographed light display will map the cherry blossom motifs throughout the castle, sometimes bringing the reflections of the blooming trees onto the ground, providing an almost overwhelming display to take in. Food and drink will be served inside, presumably 'banquet' style.

WhereNijō Castle, Shimonomiya, Kyoto
WhenMarch 24. 2017 - April 16. 2017 / 18:00 - 21:00
Web (castle overview)http://www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp/bunshi/nijojo/english/index.html

Craft Sake Week in Roppongi and Hakata

What: Essentially a craft sake appreciation event, in conjunction with the cherry blossom season. An impressive installation by renowned architect Fujimoto Sousuke and plant hunter Seishi Nishihata, involving a thousand cherry trees that will be set up in the art space in the respective venues, as a backdrop for the sake and food event. Craft sake can be tasted in special glasses, paired with food from Michelin-star rated restaurants in the vicinity.  


Roppongi Hills Arena, Minato-ku, Tokyo

JR Hakata Station, Fukuoka

WhenRoppongi Hills: April 7. 2017 - April 16. 2017 / 12:00 - 21:00

Hakata: March 21. 2017 - March 26. 2017 / 12:00- 22:00

Roppongi Hills

JR Hakata Station

If you've got any ideas for an alternative hanami experience where you are, let us know in the comments.

For something more traditional ... 

Hanami in Japan 2017: The most popular hanami spots across Japan

The best places for cherry blossom & 'hanami' in and around Tokyo

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Flowers by Naked / Takanawa Cherry Blossom Festival: PR TIMES



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