Category Archives: Sakura

Sakura is one of key seasonal festivities in Japan

JP 2019 April Sakura Miharu Takizakura

From Tokyo we took Tohoku Shinkansen and alight at Koriyama station in Fukushima Prefecture.  Picked up rental car and visited Miharu Takizakura and Nihonmatsu in a day.

 

Miharu Takizakura (三春滝桜)

It took less than 30min to arrive at the huge parking lot (free), via national roads in light traffic. A top 100 sakura spot and one of three most famous sakura trees in Japan.  It is a Benishidare-zakura (ベニシダレザクラ)  belonging to the Edohigan (エドヒガン) family.

It was estimated to be more than 1000 years old, at a height of 13m+ and span over 25m.  Taki in Japanese means waterfall and indeed it looks so.

Though it was crowded, everything was in good order. We stayed for an hour and on the way back to the parking lot bought some Okashi (sweets) and somen (noodles) made of sakura ingredients.

 

 

 

Uchidenosakura  (内出のサクラ)

Next we headed north to Nihonmatsu in less than 30km away.  Dropped by this Uchidenosakura, of 220 years old, at a height of 19m. It belongs to a rare variety of Ubahiganzakura.

There were no other visitor when we arrived. Stayed for about 15 min.

 

Nihonmatsu Kasumigajo Park (霞ヶ城公園)

arrived at the final top 100 sakura spot of this trip – Kasumigajo in Nihonmatsu city.  Had lunch in local restaurant serving lunch sets opposite to park.

It’s famous for its 2500 sakura trees – akin to a sakura forest when viewed from a distance. Luckily they were in full bloom.

 

 

Rengeji Shidarezakura (蓮華寺 シダレザクラ)

There is a small visitor centre in the parking lot of Kasumigajo. The friendly lady handed some printed info on nearby sakura trees. So on the way back to Koriyama we dropped by this temple for this Shidarezakura of 300 years old, also belonging to the Edohigan family.

 

 

Dinner in Komakata Dozeu (駒形どぜう)

Upon returning to Tokyo/Ueno by Shinkansen, headed to nearby Asakusa for this 200-year old shop (from Edo era) serving Dozeu (pond loach). While seats were on the floor (by tradition) on 1F, we preferred table seats and were led downstairs, where there were more diners.

We ordered 2 portions of どぜうさきなべ  (dozeu stripped of bones). The dozeu were served on nabe (heated plate on charcoal). On the side came plenty of chopped spring onions. It was delicious with spices like Sansho to serve with rice, while lighter than Unagi (river eel).  On top I ordered a dozeu-jiru (soup) to try, it was quite thick.

Though whale meat (くじら) is on the menu, we always avoid it.

 

 

On the next day we returned home in Hong Kong. That was the end of another fabulous sakura trip 🙂

 

*************      T H  E       E  N  D    ***************

 

JP 2019 April Sakura Akagi Senbon zakura

From Tokyo, went for a day trip in Gunma Prefecture for sakura.  Took Joetsu Shinkansen and arrived at Maebashi via Takasaki.  Bought a (temporary) retro bus day pass to Akagi Senbon zakura and Gunma Flower Park. Took about 50 min to arrive at former.

Akagi Senbon zakura (赤城南面千本桜)

Another top 100 sakura spot in southern Mt Akagi with thousand sakura trees.

When we arrived it was almost 11am and crowded as expected (on Sunday). The sakura tunnel was more than 1km and on either side there were plenty of food stalls.  In an open area there were fields of rapeseed flowers which was photogenic. Stayed for about 30 min and took retro bus to next stop.

 

 

Gunma Flower Park

A fairly large flower park in southern Mt Akagi. Entrance fee of JPY700 was included in the bus pass. Not crowded.

Apart from tulips, there were some late sakura bloomers including the pink Yaebeni-Shidarezakura and a rare reddish Yohohamahizakura (ヨコハマヒザクラ).

 

 

Had soba noodles for lunch  inside a Japanese landscape garden.  Returned to Tokyo afterwards.

 

Wooden characters inside JR Takasaki station

 

Dinner back in Tokyo – Kaiten sushi from Kanazawa

 

 

 

===>   Miharu Takizakura   ===>

 

JP 2019 April Sakura Arakurayama Sengen Park

On next morning it was a sunny day with Mt Fuji showing up over  Kawaguchi-ko  :))

 

 

Arakurayama Sengen Park (新倉山浅間公園)

Checked out hotel after quick early breakfast and drove to parking lot. As it was a Saturday the closest parking lot at base was full (at 8am+) and were told to park in another lot (about 2km away) and change free shuttle bus (or on foot).

Despite long (but orderly) line for shuttle bus we finally arrived at the Sengen Park (after climbing almost 400 stairs) at 9am+.  Ultimately, our efforts were rewarded with sakura in full bloom, with blue sky and Mt Fuji as backdrop. 

 

 

Chureito Pagoda

Had to line up for 75 min but worthy – sakura in full blossom + Mt Fuji + blue sky

 

 

Kawaguchi-ko

Back to the photogenic spot for Mt Fuji over Kawaguchi-ko. Sakura was around 10-30%  along the northern lake rim wheras those along the food stalls were around 50-70%.  Overall, it was much better than 2 years ago and we were grateful 🙂

 

 

After lunch, returned car in Otsuki and took JR express train back to Shinjuku in 1 hour.

Had dinner in one of our fav izakayas and most fav sake. Stayed in Tokyo for the next 3 nights.

 

 

 

===>   Akagi  Senbon zakura   ===>

 

JP 2019 April Sakura Takato Castle Ruins Park

Takato Castle Ruins Park (高遠城址公園)

2nd visit since 2017 when sakura started blooming when we visited 2 years ago.

Though I had timed my visit (in this season) based on the local sakura forecast in early March, it was a few days – probably 3 to 4 days prior to full bloom.

Checked out from onsen hotel in Suwa-ko and headed to Takato Castle by car. It was a sunny day (after the low depression system had moved away), though with snow on roadside.

After about 30min we arrived at a dyke in Ina city – 六道の堤 . It was grateful to be back after 2 years with sakura in bloom 🙂

 

Finally, in another 20min arrived at the Takato Castle at around 10am.  The closest parking lot was almost full.  Loads of tourists were subsequently ferried in by tour buses after our arrival.

There were 1500 sakura trees of Takato-Okohiganzakura (タカトオコヒガンザクラ). A top 100 sakura spot. In the featured photo was the famous Ounkyo (桜雲橋) – literally Sakura cloud bridge, at around 30-50%.  Due to snow, entry was forbidden beneath the Ounkyo.

 

 

To our surprise, the sakura outside the southern gate were almost at full bloom, as reported on its website. And there was a sakura tunnel beneath the Takato Arts Museum.

 

Though there were other famous sakura spots and trees around the Castle Park, most were less than 50%.  Sticking to my original plan, we headed to Fuji 5-lake. Picked up a car in Kofu. Dropped by Takeda Jinja before heading to onsen hotel in Kawaguchi-ko.

 

Takeda Jinja (武田神社)

Sakura had passed peak and petals were falling inside the Jinja, though the sakura boulevard in front of the entrance looked gorgeous from a distance.

 

 

===>   Fuji 5-lake  ===>

 

JP 2019 April “Snowy” Sakura Matsumoto

Visited Japan for sakura in mid-April for 1 week.

  • Matsumoto Castle and Takato Castle Ruins Park by car from Suwa-ko.
  • Arakurayama Sengen Park and Kawaguchi-ko by car
  • Akagi Senbon-zakura, Miharu-Takizakura, Nihonmatsu as day trips from Tokyo.

 

 

Matsumoto Castle

Right after landing in Tokyo/HND, headed to Suwa-ko by JR express train via Shinjuku. Prior to our arrival, snow was forecasted in Nagano Prefecture, apart from Tohoku etc on that night. Indeed, it had been snowing the entire night and on the next morning, the lake rim was covered in snow. 

 

The Matsumoto Castle was not in my original plan. Due to sunny day being forecasted on the next day, decided to postpone the Takato Castle Ruins Park till then.

Visited the former after picking up car from Suwa-ko and drove very carefully – less than 50km/h and kept longer distance away from vehicles ahead. It took about 1 hour while snowing along the way.

Luckily some sakura trees were already in full bloom inside the castle park, including Shidare-zakura (weeping sakura) trees. While this was our 3rd visit to this castle, it was the first time when it was covered in snow – together with sakura  🙂

 

 

Apart from sakura, Ume (plum) flowers too were covered in snow.

 

It’s good to have warm soba noodles for lunch after leaving the castle park when temperature was around 1-2C.

Snowfall had stopped and on our way back we dropped by the Harumiya (Spring Shrine) – one of two Shimosha and nearby Manji stone buddha in Shimosuwa town.

ps. visited the Akimiya (Autumn Shrine), the other Shimosha 2 years ago in another sakura trip.

Suwa Taisha

Manji stone Buddha

 

Had a coffee break with nice macha (green tea) roll cake in a small local cafe  – we were the only customers.  Headed back to onsen hotel and dropped by one of my fav local sake brewery – Masumi (真澄) from Suwa. Though sake tasting was offered, had to pass due to driving.

 

 

Stayed in a 100-year old onsen hotel on the lakeside. Ordered Masumi (sake) for 2 nights during Kaiseki dinner 🙂

 

===>   Takato Castle Ruins Park  ===>

 

JP 2018 May Sakura Matsumae Castle

On the next morning, picked up a rental car and headed to Matsumae Castle about 100km away from Hakodate. As there was no expressway, it took about 2 hours to reach there.  Dropped by Cape Shirakami (白神岬) at the southern tip of Hokkaido.  Had lunch in Matsumae road station which was crowded with locals visiting the same destination 🙂

Another top 100 sakura spot, the Matsumae Castle was renowned for having 10,000 sakura trees in over 200 sakura varieties.  Most of the sakura in full bloom was pinky Naden (南殿), which is an early blooming species, with many other sakura trees yet to be blooming.

 

 

The huge park extended slightly uphill. We walked around it and arrived at the northwestern corner where there were temples with 300-year old sakura trees.

 

 

Kozenji (光善寺) with early blooming 300-year old Ketchimiku-zakura (血脈桜), and Meoto-zakura (夫婦桜) literally husband-and-wife – a pinky Naden sakura fused with Somei Yoshino.
 

 

Left after 3pm. Heading to Shiriuchi onsen ryokan for overnight stay.

===>  Hakodate outskirts  ===>

 

JP 2018 April Sakura Hakodate

Took Hokkaido Shinkansen to Hakodate through the undersea Seikan tunnel for the first time.  As it was a Sunday and the beginning of the golden week, it was quite crowded.

 

Hakodate Park

Sakura was in full bloom in the park, at the foothill of Mt Hakodate. Locals were having a good time there enjoying with family and friends.

 

Goryokaku (五稜郭)

Visited this top 100 sakura spot in full bloom with 1600 Somei Yoshino trees.  Went up to the tower observation levels for panoramic views of the city and the park below.  When we first visited in 2004 we bumped into sakura blossom at about 50%  but this time it was gorgeous and more crowded as expected. 

 

Tea time in former British Consulate for the third time

 

===>   Matsumae Castle   ====>

 

JP 2018 April Sakura Hirosaki

After 2 days in Morioka, we headed to Aomori and stayed there for another 2 days.  Took about 2 hours to reach Hirosaki with a connection in Shin-Aomori.  The local train was very crowded and we had to stand for about 30min.  Outside the station, a temporary express bus took visitors direct to the Hirosaki Castle in about 15min.  Though we took the first Hayabusa Shinkansen train leaving Morioka before 9am, we arrived at Hirosaki Castle at around 11:30.

 

Hirosaki Castle

It was a sunny day with temperature at high teens. Sakura was again in full bloom in this top 100 sakura spot while the outer moat was covered in sakura petals !  Only then we noticed we were lucky to visit Hirosaki Castle on its 100th Sakura festival 🙂

We crossed the outer moat into the garden area, which was huge and planted with various varieties of sakura trees.  It was crowded even on Friday.  As we had been to other top 100 sakura spots in the last few days, we picked the historical sakura trees, such as the Otakizakura (big waterfall) to focus. There were plenty of food stalls selling cooked food, snacks and drinks.   Took a break and had a quick yaki-udon bento.

Entrance fee was required in order to enter into the Honmaru area – where the Hirosaki castle was relocated few years ago for renovation.  Lined up for about 20min to enter the small castle.  Nice views of distant Mt Iwaki and sakura up there.  Left around 3pm.

 

===>  Aomori   ====>

 

 

JP 2018 April Sakura Kakunodate

From Morioka, visited Kakunodate as a day trip by Akita Shinkansen in less than 1 hour direct.

Kakunodate is famous for the pink Shidarezakura, whose shoots were brought over from Kyoto more than 300 years ago.

Kakunodate Samurai houses (角館武家屋敷)

Top 100 sakura spot.  Took a taxi from station which would otherwise be a 30min walk.

Sakura was in full bloom. There were about 400 trees spread out in the former Samurai houses.  Though it was still cold at 11-12C, it was cloudy, less windy,  and with sunshine from time to time.

 

 

Hinokinai River Dyke (桧木内川堤)

After about 1.5 hours, we headed towards the river dyke, about 15 min on foot from the Samurai houses. 400 Somei Yoshino sakura trees were planted along this 2km river dyke.  Apart from adults, small kids led by teachers were having picnic lunch along the dyke.

 

 

Inaniwa Udon and Akita dog

Had lunch in an udon shop serving famous Akita Inaniwa udon by former Samurai family.  It was so delicious ! 

After lunch we strolled around and bumped into a gentle Akita dog. He was a 4-year old dog and had previously served in the local police. 

 

===>  Hirosaki   ===>

 

JP 2018 April Sakura Morioka

After leaving Hanamaki onsen, we headed north to Morioka by Tohoku Shinkansen in about 10 min.

 

Ishiwarizakura (石割桜)

After dropping our luggage in Morioka hotel in the city centre, we visited the Ishiwarizakura (stone-splitting sakura) of 350 years old. It’s amazing that it could split up a core of granite rock in the middle.

 

Takamatsu-Koen  (高松公園)

Top 100 sakura spot – about 1200 sakura trees were planted around a small lake.  Though sakura was in full bloom, it was not crowded.

As temperature was hovering around 10C with occasional strong wind and drizzle, we stayed for about an hour.

 

 

Morioka Castle Ruins Park  (盛岡城跡公園)

About 10 min on foot from our hotel we visited this park. While sakura was in full bloom, there was so much petals on the ground as if it had snowed.  From time to time, petals were swirling in the wind as if it was snowing – a beautiful Hanafubuki scene (花吹雪).

 

===>   Kakunodate  ====>