Archive for April, 2015

Drawing Inspiration: Cherry Blossom Hunt Part 4

Posted on: April 11th, 2015 by samdrawsthings No Comments

drawing inspiration by Sam Goodlet -

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.

Nikko in the mist by Sam Goodlet


Nikko in the mist illustration by Sam Goodlet

Nikko shrine in the mist by Sam Goodlet

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…

Shinjuku Gyoen by Sam Goodlet DSC_0432

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.

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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.

Cherry Blossom Tea by Sam Goodlet

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…?

Cherry blossom words by Sam Goodlet


Drawing Inspiration: Cherry Blossom Hunt Part 3

Posted on: April 8th, 2015 by samdrawsthings No Comments

drawing inspiration by Sam Goodlet -

To take a break and be a bit more rural in my blossom spotting after my last two ventures into Tokyo, I decided to explore the area around Nikkō a bit more.

On the recommendation of the tourist information office, I pottered off on the train to Tochigi, a small-ish town on the line between Nikkō and Tokyo.  There were a few trees to spot, including some in and around the shrine area in a gorgeous little garden.

shrine sakura by Sam Goodlet

The most exciting thing about Tochigi though was the fish! The river is full of large, dark carp and above one stretch of it are strung hundreds of multi-coloured fish windsocks/flags.  The effect is really arresting and was a really lovely thing to come across.

tochigi by Sam Goodlet Tochigi fish by Sam Goodlet

I also went on a little mission on the bus and train to Mashiko, a town home to a pottery museum and more shops selling wabi sabi/rustic folk style pottery than you could possibly imagine.  There were a few cherry trees around and on the way, and quite a few of the pottery pieces featured gorgeous sakura flowers or petals designs.

Wabi sabi cup by Sam Goodlet

Having recharged my batteries a bit, I headed back to Tokyo for more of the big parks and the more spectacular cherry blossom sites.

This turned into one of the most incredible days of the trip (and quite possibly my life…)  and I really can’t find enough words to express how completely beautiful it all was…. so many trees!  Petals everywhere…

I started at the Imperial Palace gardens, which had quite a few trees and some lovely wide open spaces for playing and pic nics. It was pretty quiet and felt very relaxed.

Imperial gardens by Sam Goodlet

I then walked through another park to the super busy Chiyoda area, where there are hundreds of trees along the river and a huge festival on the way to the Yasukuni Shrine, where there was also a grove of cherry trees.  The petals were just starting to fall, and the river in some areas was a sea of pink, as people rowed under the trees…

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To wrap up the day, I then went to Roppongi to see the Midtown Blossom.  This very slick and modern area was transformed into a magical sight as evening fell and the blossoming trees were each individually illuminated with pink light….

Midtown blossom by Sam Goodlet

I was so excited on the train into Tokyo in the morning my inner labrador dog was very much in action!  And after such a stunningly wonderful day I was in something of a post cherry blossom glow on the way back… The day exceeded my dreams.

Tokyo exploring by Sam Goodlet Sakura labrador by Sam Goodlet

I keep trying to find ways to explain or capture how the blossom looked (and failing miserably) but that day they made me think of soft pink explosions…

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Drawing Inspiration: Cherry Blossom Hunt Part 2

Posted on: April 2nd, 2015 by samdrawsthings No Comments

drawing inspiration by Sam Goodlet -

On a slightly cloudy day yesterday, I headed back into into Tokyo from Nikkō on my second cherry blossom hunt.  I had all sorts of plans and a list of places to find, starting in Shinjuku.  This is one of the more built up, crazy busy areas of the city – the kind of Lost in Translation/Blade Runner type bit – all huge buildings and neon signs.  There are (allegedly) some parks and places for sakura spotting there but…  I got spectacularly lost around (and at one point IN) the huge station (yeah, I know, don’t laugh…).  I asked directions a few times, and some very sweet people stopped to help me when they saw my puzzled face and massive map…. Bless them all, it was to no avail and after a couple of hours of feeling like a bit of an idiot, I surrendered.

As I plodded about, I’d been thinking about what I really wanted from my cherry blossom spotting – having been to the very busy Ueno park on my first mission, I suspected that opportunities to actually sit on my own under a cherry tree and contemplate the blossom would be few and far between at the big parks on my list.

On the train on the way in, I had caught glimpses of smaller parks and streets where there were loads of trees and less people.  Places that weren’t official hanami (cherry blossom watching) spots, but looked really appealing.  I decided to head back towards Asakusa and a place I’d seen from the train.

I had to change at Ueno anyway, so on my way back I braved the crowds and headed for the park again.  I’m so pleased I did – it started to gently rain and the combination of multicoloured umbrellas, pink cherry blossom, falling petals and grey skies was completely hypnotic…

sakura and umbrellas - sam goodlet

After taking far too many photos, I got back to Asakusa and crossed the river to find a quiet little park to sit under a bench under the trees.  It was magical, peaceful and just really lovely.  One of the bridges across the river takes you over at cherry tree height, and it’s a great view.

Sakura in Tokyo - Sam Goodlet

My illustrations and sketches are never really about just physically representing things (that’s what photos are for), but even bearing that in mind, I’m struggling to do any kind of justice to these beautiful trees.  Instead I’ve been focussing a bit on how they make me feel…

cherry trees - Sam Goodlet

sakura haiku - Sam Goodlet

Sakura self portrait - Sam Goodlet


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