Chapter 1: Cherry blossom viewing spots

When it is best time for hanami, we go to famous cherry blossom viewing spots all over Japan. Even in the Edo period, people went to famous spots like we do today. This chapter introduce the highlights in Edo and its suburbs with nishiki-e in the NDL.


In the Edo period, many guidebooks were published which introduced the highlights of cities. In Edo, the largest city in Japan, there were many famous spots, and Ueno especially was one that the guidebooks were sure to include. In this period, the entire area of the hill in Ueno was the grounds of Kan’ei-ji temple, one of the two funeral temples of the shoguns. Ueno was one of the most popular spots in Edo, as it is so today now that the hill is opened as a public park.

Cherry blossoms at Kiyomizu Hall in Ueno, by KEISAI Eisen

Toto Hanagoyomi Ueno Kiyomizu no sakura

Ueno became a cherry blossom viewing spot when TOKUGAWA Iemitsu (1604-1651), the third shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, planted cherry trees in Kan’ei-ji temple to make this hill like Mt. Yoshino (in present-day Nara Prefecture), one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots near Kyoto. Since Ueno was close to the city center of Edo, many people went to see cherry blossoms. However, people made loud noise drinking, beating drums and playing instruments, so the Tokugawa shogunate sometimes banned hanami.

Hanami at Kiyomizu Hall in Ueno, by Hiroshige

Toto Ueno hanami no zu: Kiyomizu do


Hana no kumo
Kane wa Ueno ka
Asakusa ka
(The blossoms look like clouds
Is the bell ringing from Ueno?
Or Asakusa?)

Just as MATSUO Basho (1644-1694) wrote this haiku, Asakusa was well known as one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots in Edo alongside Ueno.

Hanayashiki garden in the precincts of Senso-ji temple in Asakusa, by Hiroshige

Asakusa Kinryusan okuyama Hanayashiki

Since Ueno was the mausoleum area of the shoguns, the gate was closed at 6 pm and people were kicked out. Unfortunately, people couldn't enjoy yozakura, hanami at night time, in Ueno, but they could enjoy it at other viewing spots such as Asakusa, like the nishiki-e below.

Cherry blossoms in full bloom at Senso-ji temple in Asakusa, by Toyokuni

Senso-ji sakura hono hanazakari no zu


Gotenyama is a hill located in Shinagawa, and planted with many cherry trees by Tokugawa Yoshimune (1684-1751), the eighth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, to create a cherry blossom viewing spot. From Gotenyama, which was not far from the city center of Edo, people could see ships sailing in the bay and hear the bell from Zojo-ji temple, another one of the two funeral temples of the shoguns, in Shiba, so it was crowded with many people there to enjoy the wonderful scenery. However, the Tokugawa shogunate demolished the hill to build an artillery battery after the U.S. fleet commanded by Commodore Matthew C. Perry (1794-1858) visited Japan to force the opening of ports. After that, unfortunately urban development has further reduced the viewing spots in Gotenyama.

Hanami at Gotenyama with an open view of Shinagawa, by Hiroshige

Toto meisho

Feast under the cherry blossoms at Gotenyama, by Hiroshige

Edo murasaki meisho Genji: Gotenyama hanami

Is the party about to start? A woman opens a jubako, a box used to transport food, under cherry blossoms.

Banks of the Sumida River

Originally, cherry trees were planted along the Sumida River during the rule of TOKUGAWA Ietsuna (1641-1680), the fourth shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate. TOKUGAWA Yoshimune increased the number of cherry trees around about 4 km from Mukojima to Senju on the east bank of the Sumida River, so that spot came to be known as a cherry blossom viewing spot.

Cherry blossoms in full bloom on the bank of the Sumida River, by Hiroshige

Koto meisho: Sumidagawa hanazakari

On a boat on the Sumida River on their way home from hanami, by Keisai Eisen

Hanami gaeri Sumida no watashi

As shown above, people crossed the Sumida River by boat when they went back and forth between the west bank on the side of the city center and the opposite bank planted with cherry trees. Since the pier on the west bank was close to Shin Yoshiwara, the largest geisha quarter in Edo, some people took the geishas and female servants on boats and enjoyed luxurious hanami with them.


Asukayama is a hill located in present-day Oji, Kita-ku, and was also planted with thousands of cherry trees by Tokugawa Yoshimune to create a cherry blossom viewing spot. This hill was farther from the city center than the other spots introduced above, however it overlooked wonderful scenery as shown in the nishiki-e below. A flower viewing spot guidebook, Edo yuran hanagoyomi (Oka Sancho (Hasegawa Settan, paineted), 1837. [特1-1952]), said that Asukayama “has a panoramic view of the wide plain fields of the Adachi district (part of Saitama Prefecture today), … and there is no other words for it than ‘wonderful view’” (leaf 74). This hill is still a popular cherry blossom viewing spot today as Asukayama Park, although unfortunately we can’t see the same wonderful view because of urbanization.

North view from Asukayama, by Hiroshige

Meisho Edo hyakkei: Asukayama kita no chobo

People could see Mt. Tsukuba, which has a characteristic appearance with two peaks, when they looked north from the peak of Asukayama. As you can see in another picture shown in Chapter 3, people could also see Mt. Fuji when they looked west.

As a popular attraction at Asukayama, people enjoyed a game called “kawarake nage.” This game is simple and like a sport, throwing small plates called kawarake from the top of the cliff. Since Edo was one of the most overcrowded cities in the world, people were living stressful lives. They may have relieved their daily stress by relaxing and playing in Asukayama with its expansive view.

Kawarake nage at Asukayama, by Hiroshige

Edo jiman sanjuroku kyo: Asukayama nage kawarake

Shin Yoshiwara

Shin Yoshiwara was a quarter located in what is now Senzoku, Taito. Although flowers were not usually planted on the main street of this quarter, in spring, cherry trees were temporarily transplanted, and removed after the cherry blossom petals fell, so it was a cherry blossom viewing spot for a limited time. The guidebook Edo yuran hanagoyomi ([特1-1952]) said that “even if the petals start to fall and young leaves sprout, many people are crowded under the cherry blossoms” in Shin Yoshiwara (leaves 17-18). It makes us understand how popular it was.

Cherry blossoms in full bloom in Shin Yoshiwara in April, by Hiroshige

Toto meisho: Shin Yoshiwara Gochocho yayoi hanazakari zenzu

Oiran (highest ranking geisha) and their servants paraded under the cherry blossoms in full bloom illuminated by lanterns in the evening. It seems that people could enjoy such a fantastic and extraordinary scene, only in Shin Yoshiwara.

Main street of Shin Yoshiwara, by Hiroshige

Yoshiwara Nakanocho


When Tokugawa Yoshimune made his vassal KAWASAKI Heiemon (1694-1767) develop agricultural fields in the suburbs of Edo, Kawasaki and his associates planted cherry trees for about 6 km around Koganei Bridge on both banks of the Tamagawa Aqueduct. Koganei became a cherry blossom viewing spot. However, since it is about 30 km away from the city center of Edo, it was a spot to stay overnight and enjoy hanami, instead of a day trip.

Views of cherry blossoms and Mt. Fuji from Koganei, by Hiroshige and Hiroshige II

Musashi Koganei

Toto Koganei sakura

The picture on the left above was painted by Hiroshige (1797-1858), and the other one on the right above was painted by Hiroshige II (also known as Ryusho. 1826-1869). Both pictures depict a large cherry tree on the left side and Mt. Fuji in the background, but the one on the left has a unique composition, looking at Mt. Fuji through a hole in a tree.

Scenery around Koganei Bridge illuminated by the evening sun, by Hiroshige

Edo kinko hakkei no uchi: Koganeibashi yusho

Further Information

The map below shows the locations of the spots introduced in this chapter. Please see the map to get an idea of their approximate positions.
Our digital exhibition “The Meiji and Taisho Eras in Photographs” also shows photographs of the spots after the Meiji Restoration.


Next Chapter 2:
Varieties of cherry blossoms

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