The Hanami Season is in full swing and after days of strong winds, the weekend weather though still chilly somehow cooperates with everyone’s desire to enjoy Sakura as it approaches full bloom. As expected, all the major parks across town are crowded and to enjoy Hanami is something that requires not only a picnic mat and packs of beer, but an ability to squeeze your self inside the train and patience to fall in line at the restroom.
With my intention to avoid the crowd, I scanned the list of 100 Japan’s Best Cherry Blossom Spot for a koen (park) that is easily reachable by local trains but possibly located at suburb area under the assumption that it will be least visited . With the criteria that I set myself into, my Cherry Blossom Saturday was a long one, as I decided to travel from Yokohama to Tokyo in the spirit of Hanami.
First stop is Mitsuike Koen.
Located in a residential area somewhere between Shin-Yokohama and Tsurumi and accessible by bus only, Mitsuike Koen will not disappoint anyone like me who slowly waited for the weekend to spend a day out with the Sakura trees.
From the moment you enter the park grounds, the beautiful mix of white, pink and a hint of green colours will enticed you. The park main features are the ponds populated by huge carp and the weeping pink cherry tree located at the northeast portion of the park.
The one that really stood out for me is the walk uphill with the Sakura petals sheltering you from the sun and once you reached the peak, you can see the people down below, sitting on their mats having lunch or just resting under the tree.
Next stop is Inokashira Park.
Located at the Western suburb side of Tokyo near Kichijoji Station is another Japan’s best Hanami spot. What makes this park perfect for cherry blossom viewing? Line of 250 cherry trees at Inokashira Pond.
If a stroll or a picnic in the park are not enough to appreciate Sakura, at Inokashira Park you can get up close to the blooms by paddling your way- boats can be rented for a cruise along the pond. Located at the end of the pond and best viewed from the bridge with the fountain and cherry tree in the mix, is the red temple of Benzaiten, Japanese name for the Hindu Goddess of everything that flows- Saraswati.
Be warned, if you are a couple and decided to row a swan boat together, according to the legend your relationship will be doom as Inokashira Park’ Benzaiten is a jealous one.
Unlike Mitsuike Koen, Inokashira Park is more crowded and you have to fight your way for a place to photograph the pond, the boats and the cherry trees.
Last stop is Yoyogi Park.
If both Mitsuike Koen and Inokashira Park are mainly for families and oldies, then Yoyogi Park are for friends, expats and yuppies. More drunks, much noisier and unfortunately way dirtier than the other two, Yoyogi Park is not listed as a top hanami spot but I decided to check out anyways.
Not to be turned off by the plastic bags floating around the pond or the drunk passing out under the cherry tree, there are areas in Yoyogi Park where blossom viewing can be enjoyed, like the avenue of the white cherry trees and a pot of tulip somewhere at back portion of the park. But what makes Yoyogi Park really special in all sense is the radiating energy from everyone, as if telling that life is meant to be enjoy to the fullest.
Another day has passed. Another Hanami Day is over. Just look at the trash collected under the cherry tree.
More Sakura report coming soon.