Popular riverside cherry blossom spot mixes the beauty of winter and spring.

Most people would say that winter is the worst time to go out and look at cherry blossom trees in Japan, and generally they’d be right. Their flowers won’t be blooming for several months, and since sakura trees lose their leaves as the weather gets cold, oftentimes in winter they’re just a collection of bare branches.

But there’s one very important exception, in that right now is a fantastic time to go check out the cherry blossom trees along the Meguro River in Tokyo. No, they don’t have special flowers that bloom in December, but they are incredibly beautiful at Christmas time, since the trees are decorated with pink, sakura-colored lights.

In what’s become an annual event, a stretch of the river between the Osaki and Gotanda train stations, where rows of sakura trees straddle the waterway, is lit up nightly between 5 and 10 p.m.

The area is a popular spot for hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties) in the spring, but the winter event entices families, friends, couples, and lone photographers to stroll along the river even when spring festivities are still far off.

The most dynamic views happen when you get a bit of a vantage point and can see both the lights themselves and their reflections on the water’s surface, giving you four rows of pink light.

The breathtaking display of over 420,000 LED lights is powered entirely by electricity produced from biodiesel fuel, itself recycled from cooking oil collected from neighborhood homes and restaurants.

And if you find the pink color scheme not quite wintery enough, you’ll be happy to know that at the edges of the lit-up areas there are trees in blue as well.

To reach the illuminated section, exit Osaki Station (on the JR Yamanote Line) and head north until you reach the river, from where the “winter sakura” stretch to the west. Alternatively, you can walk two blocks south from Gotanda Station (also on the Yamanote Line) and follow the river east.

The sakura illumination is going on now, and continues until January 8, so you can enjoy it either before Christmas or after, or both if you find it so beautiful you want to go back again.

Related: Meguro River illumination official website
Source, images: PR Times
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