Bright blue sky lighting up the branches of cherry blossoms

Side Quest: Sakura Walk

It’s springtime once again, and that means it’s time for one of Japan’s favorite pastimes, hanami. The sakura burst to life after a winter slumber to signal the arrival of spring, but the frail petals only manage to hold on for about two weeks before the wind and rain claim them. So everyone clambers through crowds gawking at the fleeting beauty of cherry blossom trees.

Serial number or block number posted on a light poll in Meguro-ku

This time we head to the Meguro area to stroll along a particularly popular hanami route that follows a small waterway.

Arching trunk of a sakura with several building in the background

Sakura in front of a building with brilliant white flowers

Making our way towards Meguro river, cherry blossoms line the street, occasionally peeking out from behind buildings.

Elderly man up on a fence photographing cherry blossoms

An elderly gentlemen shows his enthusiasm for the sakura by climbing up a fence to get a better view.

Tour boat makes its way down the river

Thin strip of reeds below partially bloomed sakura

While the trees on this end of the route have not fully bloomed yet, there are still plenty of people out to catch a preview. That includes a fleet of tour boats chauffeuring groups down the river.

Tour guide on a boat wears a funny balloon hat

Some boats even include a lovely tour guide wearing a balloon hat.

Dad sitting his daughter on his shoulders to look at the sakura

Branch shadows cast onto a large light-green building

Woman walking along under the cherry blossoms

We follow the crowds along the river, taking in the abundant sakura in various stages of bloom. Young, old, and those somewhere in between take advantage of the sunny Saturday to shake off the cold and enjoy the scenery.

Bulldog riding on a special bike made for dogs and their owner

Even pets get in on the cherry blossom action.

Old love hotel shaped like a castle behind branches

They say that spring is the season of love, so it may be no coincidence that this love hotel is located this close to so many sakura. I’m not sure why it looks like a bad copy of Cinderella’s castle. But I guess I should be asking, why not?

A lantern with a confession of devotion written by its sponser

Speaking of love, hundreds of lanterns with little messages written on them line the walking paths, some of them professing an undying love or admiration for someone. Individuals or companies can sponsor these lanterns, and in return they can write something on it. Typically the notes are pretty generic, but sometimes they are a little more… personal.

Train stopped at the raised platform above the roadway

Large crowd crossing from the station

Once we arrive at Nakameguro, the crowds really pick up. This particular section of the waterway is a popular spot to take a gander at the sakura.

Street packed with people

In fact, the area is a little too popular. Hoards of people fill the streets and bridges around the river.

Security guard looks after the crowds

Security guards become a necessity to do a little crowd control.

Woman looks out of a second story window at the sakura

Locals take shelter in their homes, opting to look out at the sakura from windows and balconies.

Crowds of people stop[ing along a bridge with sakura in the background

Lots of people wait for a spot on the bridge to take pictures.

Two women rest their champagne on the bridge railing as they look at the sakura

Others take a more relaxed approach to this whole hanami thing with a couple glasses of pink champagne.

Branches peek out in front of a large brownish-orange building

Looking up at sakura in front a building and blue sky

Oodles of sakura branches drape over a waterway

You would be hard pressed to find a spot around here that didn’t have a sakura tree in sight. Nakameguro definitely lives up to its reputation as a great place to take in the cherry blossoms.

Sakura branches dangle in front of a red truss bridge that spans a small waterway

People crossing over a small red truss bridge flanked by sakura

A small red bridge signals that we are near the end of our route. Pedestrians make their way across the bridge to loop back around and stroll down the other side of the river.

Two blossoms sit at the tip of a barren branch

Having our fill of cherry blossoms, we head to a less crowded area back home.

Close up of sakura branches that have only partially bloomed

Even though we were a little early, the partially bloomed sakura were still beautiful. Next time we will have to check out Nakameguro at night for yozakara.