I got back from my holiday on Tuesday, and after downloading all my pictures and unpacking, I thought I would do one final blog entry to share my last couple of days in Japan.
I had hoped to catch the cherry blossom in Nikkō (where I was staying to the north of Tokyo) but I left just before it really started with only a few trees starting to bloom. My last day there was a misty, rainy one, with the clouds almost coming down the mountains to swallow the town whole. It was very beautiful and added an extra sense of mystery to the shrines and temples.
The next day was the final one of my trip, and a late flight meant the opportunity for a last bit of cherry blossom spotting in Tokyo. It was sunny and lovely and after my getting lost a lot on my second mission, I decided to brave Shinjuku again and head for Shinjuku Gyoen via Sedayaga – a station that’s right next door to this large park, hopefully making things easier on my terrible navigation skills. And my luck was in!
The Sendayaga entrance to the park took me straight into a grove of different types of cherry trees, some that were losing their petals and some that were just coming into bloom.
The falling petals drifted like snow in the sunshine and people were walking in and around the trees in a state of wonder, sitting underneath them and posing for photos. The atmosphere was really relaxed and friendly. I sat under a tree for a while with petals falling on me and pretty much felt like I was in heaven…
I explored the rest of the park, which was much busier in some areas – but even then it was so big it never felt crowded. It has to be one of the most lovely spots in Tokyo to see the blossom. There’s lots of space, and plenty of opportunities to get up close, sit under a tree and relax. It was also the first time on the trip I really could smell the sakura. I guess all the petals on the ground brought it closer – it’s a very subtle scent, but pretty well captured in the Sakura ball ballistic from Lush!
The different types of trees also meant that there was plenty to see, despite coming to the end of peak blossom time in Tokyo (I guess the park will have been busier the week before, during peak blossom).
The day was a perfect and gorgeous end to my trip.
Quite a few people have said that going to Japan for the cherry blossom is something that they have always wanted to do, and I can’t recommend it highly enough as a completely amazing and wonderful experience. It really was beyond what I expected, and the blossom in the big parks and areas with thousands of trees was spectacular.
For those planning a similar adventure, I here are a few tips and things that I learnt along the way…
Sam’s cherry blossom spotting tips:
- Here’s the 10 rookies mistakes to avoid link again.
- It is possible to wing it and go at the last minute to see the sakura in Japan, but it did limit where I could stay and made planning things a bit chaotic! I kept an eye on the cherry blossom forecast website, and when I saw that it looked like it would happen in Tokyo on the predicted dates, I just tried whatever I could to get there. However, there was no availability by then on organised tours, and finding hotel rooms in any of the big cities was pretty much impossible. When I saw that the blossom had started to open, I looked again and found a package to Nikkō with Low Cost Holidays – but the hotel I had wanted was full, so this ended up just being a flight with them and accomodation that I found myself through TripAdvisor.
- Nikkō worked pretty well as a base. It’s relaxing and a gorgeous place in its own right with some lovely areas to explore. Getting to Tokyo takes a couple of hours on the train (all being well!). If I was to do it again, I would perhaps either stay a bit longer in Nikkō so that I could enjoy the blossom up there, or move around more as Nikko isn’t all that big – the last minute booking made looking for more than one room a bit tricky, but I’m sure it would have been possible to find a couple of other interesting places to stay.
- Staying in Tokyo would probably have been a more sensible option if I had been able to find a room there, and Asakusa would be a great base in Tokyo I think – it’s easily accessible by train from Narita airport, feels pretty chilled and has some great sights including Sensoji temple and a lot of cherry blossom around the river. You can also do some really cool boat trips from there to see the trees. You can easily get out to explore places like Nikkō, Tochigi and Mashiko (see my last blog post) from Asakusa on the train.
- If you do end up being a bit late and catching the tail end of the blossom, it can still be spectacular – as the pics above from Shinjuku Gyoen show, the falling petals are an amazing sight. With blossom happening at different times all over the country, you have a good chance of catching it somewhere if you are able to move around and explore.
- You can find links and things for tours and package ideas on my Escape Dreams Pinterest Board here. There are loads of websites giving hints and tips on where and when to go – it’s certainly not all about Tokyo, there are some other really wonderful looking places to go and explore.
Some great places to see blossom in Tokyo include:
- Ueno Park – follow the crowds from the station to a busy park packed with people enjoying the blossom. Kind of a must see I think for how busy it is.
- Asakusa – There are trees on both sides of the river, and if you cross over from the side that the station is on, there is a nice little park that’s pretty quiet where you can sit on a bench and contemplate the blossom in relative tranquility.
- Chiyoda – You can get there on a nice walk via the Imperial palace gardens, through Kitanamaru park to the spectacular Chidorigafuchi moat with weeping willow trees. Join the crowds of people walking along the side of the water taking it all in. You can also hire a boat to row under the blossom and get lost in the petals… There’s then a market with a great festival atmosphere on the other side of the road on the walk up to the beautiful Yasukuni shrine, where you can see more trees.
- Rippongi – Visit the trees around the super slick Tokyo Midtown mall at night for a stunning spectacle of glowing pink illuminated trees. Quite a few of the cherry blossom sites are lit at night, but I don’t think they do it quite as well as this -with each tree lit individually from below to glow like a pink firework display.
- Shinjuku Gyoen – I recommend getting off at Sendayaga to access this huge and wonderful park, where you can easily spend a few hours getting rained on by petals whilst relaxing under a tree.
And finally, here’s a really interesting article from The Smithsonian covering some of the science behind cherry blossom and the Japanese trees in Washington, DC. Hmmm…maybe a trip to the states next spring then…?