One of Tokyo’s most popular cherry blossom viewing walks is the path around the moat near Yasukuni Shrine, that passes Chidorigafuchi Cemetery and enters Kitanomaru Garden. A section of the path is also lit up at night.
If you take this walk, be sure to walk all the way to the back of Yasukuni Shrine. Most people are unaware of the lovely Japanese garden there that is surrounded by blooming cherry trees.
The starting point is Kudanshita Station (Toei Shinjuku Line, Hanzomon & Tozai Subway Lines), Exit #2 – Nippon Budokan.
Travel up the two long escalators to street level. At the top, continue walking straight (the moat will be on your left). Pass the Kitanomaru National Garden sign (on your left). At the Family Mart, you have two choices:
1) Cross the street, to your right, and visit Yasukuni Shrine. The grounds of the shrine are covered in cherry trees. Enjoy viewing the trees (and the shrine), then return to the Family Mart… *Although the atmosphere may be festive, do not forget that this is a sacred religious site.
2) Skip the shrine.
Next, turn left down the path just before the Family Mart. (There is a signboard with a large map on this corner). The moat will continue to be on your left and you’ll be walking under the cherry trees. The Embassy of India will be on your right.
Follow the path. When you reach the boat docks, you have three options:
1) Rent a boat and paddle your way around the moat under the cherry blossoms.
2) Turn right into the Chidorigafuchi National Cemetery. *Please note that this is an extremely solemn and sacred place. Talking should be kept at whisper-level and photo taking to a minimum (and none at the main altar, especially if people are paying their respects). It is not recommended that children visit the cemetery.
3) Continue along the path.
The path will soon run along the highway. Continue until you reach Uchibori-dori (dori = street), and turn left. Follow the sign you see here to Kitanomaru Gardens.
At the next light ‘Chidorigafuchi’, turn left. The moat will still be on your left. This is Daikancho-dori.
Walk straight. Just after you pass the stone castle walls, go up the dirt staircase to your left. There is a sign here that says ‘Kitanomaru Gardens 540m’. At the top of the stairs, go right, keeping the moat on your left.
Those with strollers, stay along the street. The path mentioned above ends back on Daikancho-dori. When the dirt path runs back into the street, a lovely Western-style brick building will be in front of you. This is the Crafts Gallery – National Museum of Modern Art. *Stop and check out the exhibit.
Walk across the walkway and enter the courtyard of this building. Then, continue to your right. This is the entrance to Kitanomaru Gardens. (There is a large statue of a man on a horse to your right). Walk straight. At the end of this path, turn left.
In front of you there will be three paths, one going left, one going straight, and one going to the right. Take the center path. There will be toilets, vending machines, and benches on your left.
Next, there is a large grassy lawn and a pond – also on your left. Continue straight. At the other end of the grassy lawn, there is another toilet and a rest pavilion to the left. There is also simple cafe behind it.
Continue straight to the large, Japanese-style green roofed ‘Budokan’, and turn left. Walk straight, keeping the Budokan on your right, a large parking lot will be on your left.
You’ll soon reach a giant castle gate, go through it, follow the path, and then go through a smaller traditional gate. Cross the moat, and turn right at the street.
The Kudanshita subway exit that you started from will be in front of you.
*Depending on your pace, how many stops you make, and how long you stay at each stop – this walk will take you between 1-3 hours.
*The first section of the path (near the Embassy of India) is lit up at night during the cherry blossom season. It is beautiful and is a popular ‘romantic’ place to bring a date.