Tag Archives: featured

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 Koyo Shikoku (Part 2)

Shiromine-ji (白峯寺)

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).


Kotohira-gu (金刀比羅宮)

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.


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.

==>Stay in Iya onsen hotel


===>  Part  3  ===>


JP 2018 July Hokkaido (Part 3)

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.


Lavender East

Arrived at Furano after lunch.  Headed to Lavender East, operated by Tomita farm. 




Drove slightly uphill to visit this farm again.


===>  Part 4   ===>


JP 2018 April Kanto (Part 1)

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.


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.



===>  Part 2  ===>


JP 2007 May Hida Road

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.

Hirayu onsen

Stayed overnight in Hirayu onsen.

Norikura Kogen

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.




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.


Fukuchi onsen

Another Hida-style onsen ryokan in Oku-Hida onsen-go. Fukuchi literally means “Land of Fortune”.

Takayama morning market



==> Rose garden in Gifu ==>



JP 2016 May Hokkaido (Part 1)

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.

Official website

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.

Official website


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

>> Part 2 ==>