The Amazing Cherry Tree Forest in the North of Tokyo
Omiya Park is a large green space located in the central and eponymous ward of Saitama City, in the north of the Japanese capital. Renowned for its numerous blooming cherry trees in spring, this beautiful urban park is one of the best spots to celebrate hanami near Tokyo.
The Park opened to the public in 1885, and was initially named "Hikawa Park" due to its location close to the great Hikawa-jinja shrine. It was renamed Omiya Koen, that is to say "Omiya Park" after WWII.
Many activities and visits available
The park continued to widen throughout the years and extended on the neighboring lands over time. Now of a total superficies of about 68 hectares, the park is divided in three different areas:
- Daiichi, or Number 1, encompassing the surface of the initial park,
- Daini, for Number 2, the second extension; and,
- Daisan, for Number 3, the latest addition.
Thanks to its sports and culture facilities, Omiya Park is very attractive for the locals, but also for the tourists who would extend their visit of the capital up to Saitama. Interesting visits complement this walk in the fresh air, such as:
- Hikawa-jinja, one of the oldest and largest Shinto shrine in the Kanto area,
- Gokoku shrine, that honors the victims of war since the Toba-Fushimi Battle in 1868,
- Saitama Prefectural Museum of History and Folklore; and,
- A small free zoo and a children’s fairground with roundabouts.
An ideal place for hanami
Regarding the soft pink sakura 🌸 blossom profusion, Saitama’s Omiya Park does not lose in comparison with Tokyo’s popular Ueno Park. There are no less than 1,200 Japanese cherry trees, as many as in Ueno, but gathered on a smaller superficies. It gives the surprising impression to be walking in a flower forest in early spring.
Under this generous flower canopy, that scarcely let the blue sky see through, people come in couples, families or groups of friends to celebrate hanami. Once they have secured a spot on the ground and with a generally very good logistic and planning ahead, they settle under the cherry trees with a hearty pic-nic and all necessary items to spend a good time (tarp, outdoor games, camera 📷, etc.). They enjoy their day while taking the time to contemplate the sakura blossoms, joke, have fun and relax.
In the park’s Number 1 Daichi grounds, the large plaza named Jiyu Hiroba, or the "place of liberty", is the center of the cherry trees viewing. There is also a Clock Tower and a few shops to buy a snack or a drink on the go.
The stroll on Omiya Park’s beautiful shaded alleys provides various changes of scenery. One can walk around Funayu Pond and through the century-old forest Hyakunen no mori, home to majestic and impressive trees. Lastly, and before the sakura season, from mid-February to early March, about 650 plum trees (or Japanese apricot) are in bloom in the Number 2 Daini area of the park.