How do you find the best views of riverside sakura? In the river.

This weekend marked the peak of cherry blossom season in Japan. You’ve probably heard of hanami being best enjoyed from a tarp laid out in the park or walking down the side of Meguro River, but we found an even better way to see sakura. We decided to try a cherry blossom viewing cruise by SUP, or “Stand Up Paddle surfing.”

SUP offers you the opportunity to view cherry blossoms along the Ooka River in Yokohama from on top of the water. They aren’t the first company to offer sakura cruises, of course, but what makes SUP stand out is that it allows you to participate by standing on a surfboard.

▼ That means you can try it out even if you’re traveling solo!

The Ooka River SUP tour offers a beginner course and a separate course for those with a bit more experience. Our reporter Momo has some experience with SUP so she decided to try the latter, which cost her a total of 4,000 yen (US$35.92); 3,000 yen for the course itself and 1,000 yen for a wetsuit rental.

▼ We recommend the wetsuit to help fight off the chill of the water in case you fall in.

At the beginning of your tour, you’ll do some basic exercises to warm up your muscles.

▼ One, two, three…one, two three…we thought hanami was supposed to be relaxing!

And then it’s onto the surfboard you go! Momo chose the experienced course, so she was able to cruise for a total of eight kilometers (4.97 miles) with an absolutely stunning view of this year’s cherry blossoms.

▼ You don’t even have to be jostled around in a crowd trying to take photos, because you’re likely going to be one of the only people actually in the water.

Momo said she had a hard time getting used to the movements at first and changed directions a few times, but we guess it wouldn’t be so bad to collide with a beautiful cherry blossom tree, right?

▼ No crowds down where Momo is.

She said it was almost luxurious to be one of the only people in the river, watching the cherry blossoms go by.

▼ Her smile grew when she got close to some low-hanging branches.

Momo’s guide was very patient in leading her up and down the calm river.

▼ It’s not only a great workout for your arms – it’s also healing for your soul.

Since Momo had done a SUP tour in Hawaii before, she was able to participate in the experienced course. Yours may be different should you decide to take part!

▼ Helpful guides are there to show you the basics and lead you along.

The guides even go so far as to take photos for you, which is how we got most of the photos for this article.

▼ How’s that for customer service?

As you get used to the motions, you’ll gain more balance and more leeway to focus on the beauty around you. We do have to say, though, that it does use up a good deal of energy, especially since the course will last around two hours. But with the rare experience of seeing sakura from an angle that not many people get to see, along with the kind and patient guides at our SUP tour, is definitely worth it.

This particular tour is available until April 7 this year. If you can’t make it this year, then definitely keep it on your hanami bucket list for next year! We’ve provided details on where and when tours will take place, as well as the cost of each course. The tour is available only on certain days, so you’ll need to check their calendar for availability.

Hanami depends so much on the weather, so if it’s rainy or gloomy when you want to see cherry blossoms, there’s always the option to create digital cherry blossoms indoors.

Tour information
Ooka River Hanami SUP / 大岡川お花見SUP
Hinodecho 2-chome 163, Naka-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa
Tour times:
Early morning tour (for first-time SUP-ers) 7:30 a.m. meeting time, 7:45 a.m.-9:15 a.m. tour time
Morning tour 9:30 a.m. meeting time, 9:45 a.m.-11:30 a.m. tour time
Afternoon tour 1 p.m. meeting time, 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. tour time
Early morning tour 4,000 yen weekdays, 4,500 yen weekends
Morning tour 3,000 yen weekdays, 3,500 yen weekends
Afternoon tour 3,500 yen weekdays, 4,000 yen weekends

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