Heading downhill we arrived at Shiromine-ji – #81 temple where koyo was at peak. It was also the tomb of Sutoku Emperor (崇徳天皇白峰御陵).
next we dropped by Kotohira-gu, which is the main shrine of Kompira shrines in Japan.
Climbed several hundred stairs to reach the main hall. Nice views of Kotohira town and Sanuki-Fuji in the distance.
Asahi-hall in the middle
Kotohira town below
Lunch in a modern restaurant operated by Shiseido at the foothill.
Iya valley (祖谷溪)
After leaving Kotohira-gu in Kagawa prefecture, drove via a narrow and meandering mountain road for an hour into Iya valley in western Tokushima prefecture.
peeing little monk
Minami (southern) Furano
After checking out from Shikotsu-ko hotel, headed to Minami-Furano in about 2 hours.
First lavender field in this visit, with view of Kanayama-ko.
Arrived at Furano after lunch. Headed to Lavender East, operated by Tomita farm.
Drove slightly uphill to visit this farm again.
Mt Tokachi was shrouded
After visiting the Hitachi Seaside Park and Ashikaga Flower Park, we headed to northern Tohoku for sakura in late April as per original plan.
The first stop was Kitakami in Iwate Prefecture – a top 100 sakura spot. Arrived from Tokyo by Hayabusa Shinkansen train in about 2.5 hours direct. The venue was along a 2km river dyke on the other side of a river. We took a temporary boat service crossing the river in 5min, landing in the middle of the venue.
There were well over 1000 sakura trees – mainly of Somei Yoshino, of which 500 of them were over 90 years old. Sakura was in full bloom with temperature in low teens – about 10C cooler than in Tokyo. As usual, the pink Shidarezakura (weeping sakura) attracted more crowds.
Though there were more sakura trees to the south of the venue where lots of temporary food stalls were selling cooked food, we left the venue after 2 hours.
Kitakami Tenshochi (北上展勝地)
horse carriage – a rare scene in sakura matsuri
Koi-nobori hanging over the river
Hanamaki onsen (花巻温泉)
After late lunch in Kitakami station, we headed to Hanamaki onsen where we stayed for 2 nights in 1 of 4 onsen hotel premises belonging to the same group. According to its exhibits, some of the premises were nearly a century old and the Japanese royal family members had stayed.
Just opposite to our onsen hotel there was an indoor rose plantation, while sakura was in full bloom. Roses were totally unexpected in April.
Daily performance after dinner – local folk dance, traditional singing and sanmisen performance.
Samisen – common instrument in northern Tohoku
leaving Hanamaki onsen
Visited Japan for 25 days in April for Spring flowers in Kanto region, followed by sakura in northern Tohoku and Hakodate. Returned to Tokyo during the second half of golden week for a break. Visited western Izu, the Open-Air Museum in Hakone and Fuji Shibazakura Park before leaving Japan.
Hitachi Seaside Park
In our original plan we had intended to visit in early May. But in this year temperatures have been warmer since late March so sakura and other spring flowers have reached full bloom 7 to 10 days earlier than average. Based on the blooming status, we made last minute changes in early April to stay in Tokyo for few days. This has turned out to be a right call.
While based in Tokyo, we visited this park for blue nemophila in full bloom. Though it was on a weekday, it was quite crowded. The park was huge and the 4.5 million nemophila were grown in Miharashi-no-oka (a small hill) of 35,000 sqm. Though we have seen the same in other Tokyo parks, nothing compares to its scale and density.
view from the top of small hill
Next we headed to the tulip fields which were gorgeous as well. Luckily we visited in mid-April otherwise they would have pelted in late April.
Visited Nagoya > Takayama > Norikura Kogen > Kamikochi > Rose garden in Gifu in late May.
Visited Takayama 2nd time since 2000. Strolled in the old town area with many cool local shops. The Hida Kokubunji and the thousand-year old Ginkgo tree should not be missed.
view from room
local sake shops with new sakes for the year
Old Ginkgo tree of over 1000 years
used in Takayama festival
Stayed overnight in Hirayu onsen.
JP Alps in the distance
Went up to Tatami-daira @2700m in Norikura Kogen. While Mt Norikura and trail was covered in snow, hiked up to Fujime-dake @2800m. From the summit, Kamikochi and the Japanese Alps could be seen in the distance.
on Fujime-dake @2800m
Kamikochi in the distance
3rd visit in Kamikochi. While we were on the way trekking to Myojin-ike drizzle turned into heavy rain, so we did not stay long nor take any photos and had to return to bus terminal.
On Tashiro bridge
Another Hida-style onsen ryokan in Oku-Hida onsen-go. Fukuchi literally means “Land of Fortune”.
photos of large rotenburo
Takayama morning market
Visited Hokkaido in May for the 2nd time for Shibazakura and Tulips before end May. We were lucky to catch the Lilac Festival in Sapporo on the last day before we left.
4th stay in onsen ryokan there right after landing and before embarking on long road trip. Clear views of mountains surrounding the lake this time.
Tulips in Takino-Suzuran Park
This park is in the southern outskirts of Sapporo. The park is huge and we only covered the central area where the tulips were grown, and pansies from locals for exhibition. Weather was in low 20C for few days – warmer than normal, thus some tulips had pelted.
Nanohana in Takikawa
2nd visit since May 2006. Stopped by before arriving at Asahikawa for an overnight stay.
Shibazakura in Takinoue Park
Visited Shibazakura 10 years ago in Higashi-Motoko Park. The Takinoue Park is to the north east of Asahikawa, almost reaching Monbetsu. Unlike the Higashi-Motoko Park which was privately managed, this is operated by the Takinoue Machi Government. Size is about 100,000 square metre, according to its official website. The Shibazakura here has more pink and violet whereas the other in white and pink.
Tulips in Kamiyubetsu
Kamiyubetsu is less than 100km from Takinoue. Based on its historical reports I had decided to visit before end May and that proved to be a correct call. Spoke to a staff and she mentioned that some tulips had started to pelt prior to our arrival due to warmer weather for several days. The tulip park was huge and we spent probably 3hrs including lunch.
Tulip Park Official website