Sakura

Adventure 18 Day Six | Himeji Hanami

Friday

We woke up to grey skies and rain. The hostel I stayed at had put me in a small female building that almost felt like an apartment – with a big open space with bunkbeds, a second story and a small living room area and kitchen. I chatted with the two girls that were there, both who were doing working holidays in Japan. They were very sweet and it was great to meet them!

I got the castle around nine, umbrella in hand. The grounds were full of food and game stands being set up but the mood was a little dampened due to the rain. The castle itself is usually the main attraction, but during cherry blossom season the approach itself was half of the excitement. As I got closer through a series of small buildings and long walls more and more blossoms appeared, making the castle prettier with each step. Forgive me for gushing, but it was nothing short of magical.  It feels like a dream world to walk around the white castle in a sea of pink blossoms.

It’s no wonder that Himeji castle gets so much attention – it really is beautiful. It’s tall and majestic looking with bright white walls, a dark roof, and a large expanse of smaller buildings and walls around it. It’s really nice to walk around inside too – the huge rooms let in light and the dark wood feels nice to walk on in socks. Himeji castle plus the connected buildings also has the most amount of information on display that I’ve seen in a castle – you could easily spend an hour just wandering around and reading.

I left the castle around 11:30 went looking for the restaurant I wanted to try – Menme (Tripadvisor, you did not disappoint!). I got there just as they were opening and was able to sit right at the counter to watch them process. The staff is so friendly and a seamless noodle making team. When my noodles arrived they were just as great as I hoped they’d be – fresh, thick, and the perfect texture.

After the meal I headed over to the station which was my final tourist stop on my Seishun 18 trip. I had been really strict with spending during my trip but I shelled out for some really nice omiyage. Everyone always appreciates any type of omiyage but it feels good to give something really nice (and probably better tasting). So with my omiyage and luggage I caught yet another local train to spend a few days in Shiga.

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Cherry Blossoms in Toyama City

Matsukawa is a big river that runs through Toyama city. It’s pretty all year round, but especially beautiful in spring when the cherry blossoms come. On the weekend, and most weekdays, the riverbed and surrounding park are filled with people eating and drinking together. It’s pretty popular for companies to have an outing and to see large groups of businessmen eating dinner together on big blue tarps. I went during the week this year and it pretty quiet, probably because it was so cold!

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This spring has been really strange. A month ago the weather was flip-flopping, going from warm enough to wear just a shirt to cold enough I was back in my winter coat. My teacher told me it was called “三寒四温” Sankanshion – three days cold, four days warm. Although I took it as more of an expression it seemed to be a pretty accurate description. The cherry blossoms in Toyama Prefecture bloomed about a week and a half ago, and sadly I think all the petals are just about to start falling. Matsukawa river was just as pretty as last year, although definitely colder.

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Beautiful Tree Blossoms at Osaka Castle

Cherry Blossom viewing season doesn’t last for long, with each area holding about two weeks of full flowers. Last week the Toyama trees were in full bloom (and still are in some areas) making me cross my fingers that we would be lucky to catch Osaka’s season. Osaka Castle Park is reportedly home to almost 5000 cherry trees, which at their peek would turn the entire area into a sea of soft pink and white petals. It turns out this weekend was the tail end of the season, with most trees still holding on to some blossoms but mostly having grown their green leaves for the summer.
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Then ten minute walk up to the castle turned into an hour when we passed through a large area of plum trees with a mix of big purple flowers, some still as buds. I’ve never seen anything like them, and although they aren’t the famous Cherry Blossoms, I found them just as pretty.
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My last visit to Osaka Castle was in the middle of winter, meaning the park and castle were fairly deserted. This time it was in it’s full spring boom, and it was really nice to see colour in the trees and to people watch a little. Just outside the entrance to the castle was a cherry tree full in bloom, attracting a lot of photos and prayers tied to the branches.
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