Sakura 桜

26 05 2010
Pink and White Sakura

Pink and White Sakura

Sakura 桜 (Cherry Blossom) are the iconic Japanese flower.  They bloom for a short period (about a week) around the last week of April and first week of May in Tokyo.  Although short-lived, they are prolific, and trees seem to be covered in masses of blooms which makes me think of pink snow.

No matter where you are in Japan, if you are here in Sakura season, a well-known and beautiful place to view the blossoms won’t be far away.  Although this is only a short list, these places are my pick for Sakura in Tokyo and Saitama.

Ueno Park, Tokyo

Ueno Park in bloom

Ueno Park in bloom

One of the most famous places in Tokyo for Hanami (literally flower viewing) parties.  Always busy during Sakura season, but with good reason!  More than 1000 Sakura trees line the pathways through the park, and many groups reserve their spots under the trees from early in the day.  Although I have never attended a Hanami party here, almost every season I go for a walk mid afternoon just to soak up the atmosphere.  Not a place for quite contemplation of the blossoms, but perfect if you want to get a feel for the party side of the season.

From the JR Ueno Station, take the Park exit and walk straight ahead over the road into the park.  Most of the blossoms are on the paths to the left, but all of Ueno Park is quite interesting, with shrines and museums, if you want to wander around (and don’t mind the crowds).

Chidorigafuchi, Tokyo

Chidorigafuchi Boat Pier

Chidorigafuchi Boat Pier

Chidorigafuchi is right in the middle of Tokyo with the Imperial Palace.  In fact, part of this walk is through the Kitanomaru park, and other parts use the moat and other structures of the Imperial Palace as back drops, so it’s quite scenic.  You can even hire a rowboat for 30 minutes and have a paddle in the moat under the blooming trees.  From here it’s also just a short walk to Yasakuni Shrine, where the tree used to announce the official Sakura season start in Tokyo resides.  Not really a place to go for Hanami parties, but a very nice afternoon stroll, even in other seasons, with a few places to stop, sit and admire the blossoms.  A Sakura Festival and evening illumination is also held every year, see this page (in Japanese) for details.

From Kudanshita, on the Hanzomon, Shinjuku, and Mita Metro lines, take exit 1, and head towards Yasukuni Shrine.  You can either turn left into the Kitanomaru park, or continue on to Yasukuni Shrine before doubling back to turn down Chidorigafuchi alongside the moat.

Kita Koshigaya, Saitama

Kita Koshigaya river and sakura

Kita Koshigaya river and sakura

And lastly, my favourite Sakura viewing place – Kita Koshigaya.  There are a few reasons why this is my top pick.  It’s really close to where I live (only a few stations), it isn’t nearly as crowded as anywhere in Tokyo even in its peak, you can easily find a spot to have a picnic on the grass, and the contrast with the green grass, blue river and pink blossoms is beautiful!  The Sakura trees line the river for about 2km, and there are well over 300 trees.  During the season there is also a festival on one of the weekends, and there are a few stalls set up selling food and drinks.

To get there, take the Tobu Isesaki Line to Kita Koshigaya, and head out the west exit.  You can either turn right or left, and just follow the road next to the railway until you reach the river.  From there just follow the path alongside the river under the trees.

More photos of Sakura coming soon!

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two weeks in tokyo

13 05 2010

Finally I’m almost finished blogging about Lauren’s visit.  We really did fit a lot into 2 weeks!  So this post is devoted to miscellaneous things.

The first weekend that Lauren was here was all shopping.  I’m pretty lucky that I have the largest shopping center in Japan only 30 minutes from my house, so after meeting Lauren at the airport and forwarding her bag to my house, we went there.  We walked around for a few hours before deciding to head home and crash on the couch for the evening.  Wayne’s World 1 was watched, and then quoted numerous times over the next 2 weeks.

The next day was spent in Akihabara, and Lauren managed to get the majority of her souvenir shopping done.  She also bought a new video camera, and I bought a new compact digital camera.  My new camera, a Nikon Coolpix S570, isn’t the latest model, but I’m really happy with it.  It takes really great portraits, I think the automatic face detection software softens the face (always a plus).

Next was our trip to Hakone, followed by the Cat Cafe and Yokohama.  On the 27th of March, we actually attended the YouTube Hanami party in Yoyogi park, which accounted for our slight hangovers on our trip to the snow.  The Hanami party was lots of fun, but I got far too friendly, and the lines for the toilets were really really long.  In the evening the party moved from the park to the Hub in Shibuya, but we were only able to stay for a few hours since we had to be up early to catch the train the following day.

After we arrived back from the snow, we needed a bit of a sleep in and easy day, so we went to the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku for high tea.  The Park Hyatt has the hotel bar that is featured in Lost in Translation, but personally I went for the food (big surprise there…).  I’ll be doing a blog about that next (^-^)v

A full day at Dinsneyland was next on the agenda.  We spent 14 hours there that day, and it was lots of fun.  Of course being the school holiday it was really busy, but we got to ride most of the ‘big’ rides, and a few of the classics.  It was also interesting as, for the first time, they were holding Easter celebrations.  So the decorations were really nice.

Disney's Easter Wonderland

Disney's Easter Wonderland

By this time, the cherry blossoms were starting to bloom, so we went to Ueno to see the flowers (and the crowds!).  Ueno is one of the most popular places to have hanami, and it’s super crowded all the time.  However, you can understand why, as it’s very pretty.

Ueno park in bloom

Ueno park in bloom

Ueno park was actually just a stop on our way to Alkatraz ER in Shibuya, a medical dungeon themed Japanese bar.  I do love going to themed bars in Tokyo, but this place was a bit of a let down.  There were some cool and weird things, like drinks served out of severed heads, drinks with banana’s that looked like… well…  and then there was the vibrator drink…  Where the waitress (in short nurses uniform complete with g-string) mixed the drink with a vibrator while moaning (0_o)….  But overall it was over priced, as we had to order the all you can eat and drink menu, and they neglected to inform us that drinks from the special drink menu weren’t included in that deal.  Next time I would prefer to go to the Lockup.

Our last couple of days were spent wandering around Costco (Japan is all about shopping at American stores…), singing karaoke, and looking at the local cherry blossoms.

Check out my album on flickr for all my photos, and of course, check out Lauren’s YouTube channel for all of her videos!

Pink and White Sakura

Pink and White Sakura