When visited: April 2014 Weather: 11-18C. Cool
Tokyo is always an experience; its culture, its cuisine, its people, its politeness, its cleanliness and I always come away with something new. This time was no different; I was in Tokyo for a meeting which for once coincided with the cherry blossom (sakura) season (typically it’s the first week in April). So here’s my take on viewing the cherry blossoms (hanami is the word of viewing sakura) if you only have limited time in Tokyo next April.
Singapore Airlines flies into Haneda or Narita and I chose Haneda which is but 20km away from the city and an US$80 cab ride brought us to Akasaka where our hotel was located…useful place for all our excursions.
Tokyo has its landmarks, and here we see the Skytree in the evening light.
After my conference ended, I had two days to see the cherry blossoms so bright and early I set off for the Yasukuni shrine and Chidarigofuchi Park nearby. The shrine is of course a place of controversy as war criminals are buried here. It was a peaceful place dotted with my first glimpse of the sakura trees.
Here’s a tip…take the short walk behind the main building and here you will find a charming little Japanese garden with Koi filled ponds…
And then crossing the road to the Chidorigafushi park, there were many more cherry blossoms in full bloom, reflected in the moat…
Next stop was on to the Shinjuku Gyoen Park which was very nice and not too crowded.
And on to my favourite place for the sakura and photography; a friend had recommended I try the Meguro river area and so I headed there in the morning….the stunning effect of overhanging cherry blossoms over a high sided canal was well worth the effort getting there.
And since the transience, beauty and romance of Japan in sakura season is so emotive, I was moved to attempt a ‘haiku’ or 3 line Japanese poem…
A fallen petal
Ground blanketed white
One of the recommended places for Hanami is Ueno park….we made the mistake of going there on a saturday afternoon when there were probably more people there than cherry blossoms! People were absolutely everywhere, tarpaulins were spread out and picnics and commotion ruled….totally not in keeping with the peaceful calm of sakura season. Leaving almost immediately after we arrived, we headed to Asakusa where there were sakura by the Somida river …again nothing to shout about.
All in all, I would say that Shijuku Gyoen Park and Naka Meguro were the best place to go for Hanami…
Tokyo is of course also replete with wonderful Japanese restaurants and food… we ate very well at Tenichi which has the best tempura in town, Kikunoi which is one of the best restaurants in Tokyo and Maisen…best pork cutlets or tonkatsu….all were good but expensive…
Finally, it was a sobering moment during my dawn walk when I came across these homeless people, sleeping in the open under the beautiful cherry blossoms, a stark reminder that there are many less fortunate than we are who need our help.