March means it's cherry blossom time, so get your picnic baskets and blankets
ready for hanami (cherry blossom viewing picnics).
This article will list five of the best day trips from Tokyo to see the sakura.
What could be better than cherry blossoms in the countryside? How about cycling
around the cherry blossoms in the countryside!
Tsukuba is located in Ibaraki Prefecture, not too far from Tokyo. It is known for being a science centred city, with a big focus on the Tsukuba Space Center. Mount Tsukuba is also a popular hiking spot in the Autumn. During Spring, the highlight is of course the sakura.
Take the train to Tsuchiura Station, from where you can rent bicycles for the day. From there you can cycle to Tsuchiura Castle,
said to be one of the "100 finest castles in Japan". Next is the Tsukuba Ring Ring Road, an unmissable experience during cherry blossom season.
Tsukuba Ring Ring Road is a special cycling road which follows the former Tsukuba Railway Line. The road is lined with sakura trees on either side, so you will feel like you're cycling through a pink tunnel of blossoms. There is also a stunning view of Mount Tsukuba from the path. Along the way there are plenty of sights to see such as the ruins of Oda Castle, or the Hojo Pond, a pond with sakura all around it. Directly accessible from the cycling path is the Mount Tsukuba Hill Climb Course, if you fancy some hiking.
See a sample course at: https://www.ringringroad.com/english/t-course1/ including a cherry blossom spot map.
How to get there: Take the JR Joban Line Rapid from Ueno to Tsuchiura.
Odawara is in Kanagawa Prefecture, not too far from Yokohama.
It is a city with an ancient history, having flourished under the ruling Hojo Clan from 1467-1603.
Odawara Castle was an important strategic point for the Clan before it fell and was lost to Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1603.
Odawara itself served as a post town along the Tokaido Highway which linked Edo to Kyoto.
Odawara also makes the perfect day trip during the spring. As well as entering inside the castle and the castle museum, you can go up to the top of the castle and enjoy a bird's eye view of the 300 sakura trees in the grounds below. Many people picnic in these gardens, and you will find many food and drink stalls dotted around. During the festival, the castle is open late and the trees are illuminated at night time, making a very festive atmosphere.
Cherry blossoms are not only found in the grounds of the castle, but all around Odawara City. In fact, many people like to stroll around the city while wearing a kimono to check out the rest of the city.
If you fancy making a night of it, Odawara is the perfect gateway to the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park where you can find many excellent onsen-ryokans to spend the night in.
How to get there:Take the JR Tokaido Main Line from Tokyo, or the JR Shonan Shinjuku Line from Shinjuku or Ikebukuro.
Gongendo Park in Satte City, Saitama is a flower paradise, featuring daffodils, cherry blossoms and rapeseed in spring, hydrangeas in the rainy season,
sunflowers in summer and spider lilies in autumn.
The park is divided into three sections, number 1, 3 and 4. In spring, over 1000 cherry blossoms can be found in section number 4. The best thing about this park is the startling combination of pink sakura next to bright yellow rapeseed flowers. Walk along the cherry tree lined path, then head down the hill to see the rapeseed. There are many food and drink stalls during the festival, along with a cafe and local produce store near the carpark.
How to get there: Take the Tobu Nikko Line to Satte Station then take the Asahi bus bound for Goka Machi Yakuba to "Gogendo".
Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine
Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine is almost 1,500 years old, and is known for granting love-related wishes.
Visitors come to pray for love and purchase matchmaking charms.
The most famous charm is a red pencil which symbolises a string of fate - the shorter the pencil gets, the closer you are to meeting your soulmate.
The shrine is very popular in spring as the Shingashi River runs behind the shrine and is the setting of well-known idyllic spot.
Green grass lines either side of the river while pink sakuras bloom above them.
When the petals start falling, the whole scene becomes even more splendid as the river itself turns pink.
The night time scene is just as stunning as the organisers illuminate the trees in celebration.
This spot is famous also for the traditional paddle boats steered by a man in a traditional happi coat who people like to watch and take photos of. Usually on one day each year the public can ride in this boat, but recently this has been cancelled due to Covid-19.
Two kilometres away from the Hikawa Shrine is another 500-metre stretch of sakura trees which grow from the Benten Bridge to Chotokuji, where you can see sakura and rapeseed flowers growing together.
Finally, Kawagoe itself makes a great day trip from Tokyo, being only 30 minutes by train. You can stroll the old streets which retain the clay-walled warehouse buildings from the Edo Period and visit the famous Kita-in Temple.
How to get there:Take the Tobu bus bound for "Shinmeicho Shako" to "Kita-cho" (from Kawagoe Station) and walk 5 minutes. Or walk 20 minutes from Hon-Kawagoe Station.
Shimizu Park is located in Noda City in Chiba Prefecture and is an amazing place for families.
This is because it has many facilities such as a giant maze, a water maze, pony rides, a park and a rose garden.
The highlight is the athletic course which has a water section and land section and can entertain both kids and adults for hours.
The park contains about 2,000 sakura trees and is a popular place for the locals to do "hanami". There is one revered tree called the "gosho no sakura cherry tree" which is over 100 years old. If you wish to have a BBQ, they have facilities but you need to reserve it in advance.
How to get there: Take the JR Joban line to Kashiwa and then take the Tobu Noda Line to Shimizu-Koen Station and walk 10 minutes.
These are five spectacular spots to see Sakura, but of course there are many more. One of the delights about living in Tokyo is having the chance to explore and find new hidden spots each year.
Article courtesy : OMAKASE Tour https://omakase-tour.com/