Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Saturday Saunter Under the Sakura ~ 2016

This time of year seems so magical!  

The blossoms are just unbelievably voluminous.  They are perfectly pink, serenely white, and even when the pinks and whites combine to turn petals into color confusion, they are pictures of beauty.  

I had a long list of places I would like to visit to see the blossoms, and I was pretty sure the littles wouldn't be too excited about traipsing about the prefecture just to look at cherry blossoms all day.  So, my husband, the wonderful man that he is, decided they would stay home and I could head out and have a day on my own.  So, with my bag packed and the camera charged, I made my way to the train station at 0835.

First stop:


When the kids and I visited this park last February, I mentioned how pretty it would be to visit during sakura season.  Well, I was right!  

The cherry-lined walk from the road to the entrance
Since I was at the temple by about 0930 the crowds were pretty sparse.  I was able to get plenty of shots without a lot of people in them.  I also didn't have to elbow my way through a line of people to see the trees.  

The vendors were busy getting their tents ready for all the hanami (flower viewing ~ usually done on a tarp, under the tree, with food, and usually beer and wine) visitors for the afternoon.  

It was a very cloudy day.  I think that helped with the crowds, but not for my pictures.

After making a lap around Shomyoji, I made my way back to the train station and then up the track a few more minutes to Gumyoji station in search of my next sakura spot.


I wasn't quite sure which way to go from the station, but lucky me, the whole mass of people all moved in the same direction as we just blindly followed everyone else.  

On the right side of the road as I made my way to the river there is Gumyoji Temple.  This is supposed to be the oldest temple in Yokohama, built in 737.  It's pretty simple.  There are several steps up a hill to get to the main hall.  
After I left Gumyoji and made my way down the street with the crowd, I walked through a long shopping street where clothing and shoes were being sold.  At the end of the shopping street there was the river.  I'm not sure what the river's name is, but WOW  WEE  WOW WOW!  

As I was standing on the bridge I noticed people down below!  How do I get down there?!?!

I arrived just before 1100.  By the time I walked down one side of the river, then down on the walkway on the river, and back up to the road and at the bridge it was about 1230 and it was insanely packed!!  People everywhere!!

Yatai ~ the stalls along the street ~ sold noodles, candied strawberries, chocolate covered bananas, cucumbers on sticks, as well as games where you can win fish.

By the time I thought to take a picture of the hanami spaces I was already back at the bridge and didn't want to fight the crowds anymore to get the shot.  So, imagine the picture here do you see the red space between barriers around the trees?  Well, imagine miles of that kind of space filled with blue tarp, red tarp, pink tarp, all kinds of tarp.  On those tarp spaces you would find people sitting and eating their lunches or snacks.  You would also find beer.  Lots of beer.  Like, cases of beer on some of the tarps.  Some tarps were completely empty, except for a few weighted bars to keep it from blowing away.  One tarp had a baby fast asleep with blankets piled around her.  What you won't find on any of the tarps, though, are shoes.  You must take your shoes off before you step onto any tarp!

On the other side of the river I found the stairs that led down to the water's edge.  How awesome to walk beneath the drooping branches, heavy with sakura! 

As I was making my way across the river on the stepping stones, a group of kayakers came around the bend.  Now, that's an awesome way to see the blossoms on the river!

Light and dark pink petals happily enjoying the same space. 

One last look down the river before I make my way back to the station.  

It was at this point that I was trying to decide whether or not to keep going down the line or head back home.  The crowds were getting really busy.  And, it was starting to get a little chilly.  It's funny, last year at this time the kids and I were in shorts; this year I had on a shirt, sweatshirt, raincoat, and a thick scarf.  Any who... I decided to keep going.  It was only 1230.  I could make it up into Tokyo in half an  hour and check out one last spot on my list and still be home for dinner.

On the train ride from Gumyoji Station to Kudanshita Station I started to feel ill.  I'm not sure if it was the fact that it was 103 degrees on the train, or the back and forth movement of the train, or the fact that I should have eaten lunch an hour before, but I was starting to panic trying to figure out where I could be sick without offending too many of the poor people on the train.  I decided that I would just get off the train at the next stop and sit down for a bit to see if sitting, cool air, and a little food and water would make me feel better.  So, at Higashi-Ginza Station I hopped off the train.  I didn't sit right away, but looked for a place to eat.  Then, with onigiri in hand and a park bench in the cool air, I sat and settled my stomach for 20 minutes or so.  Shew!  Better.  :)  Back to the mission.  I figured that since I wasn't too far from the Imperial Palace, I would just walk.  Weelllll.....the part of the park that I wanted to see was at the back of the Imperial Palace.  MUCH farther than I imagined.  Shew...what a walk.  The walk wasn't the bad part.  It was the 10,000 people on the sidewalk that almost did me in.  Holy Moley!  So.Many.People.

Hibiya Koen (Hibiya Park)

This is a sunken German garden.  It was the first Western-style garden to be built in Japan.

Okay, after I filled my belly, drank my water, and started feeling better, I made my way around the Imperial Palace.  It probably would have been faster to walk through the middle of the palace grounds, but I wasn't quite sure where the blossom road started.  So, I fell in line with all the other people walking around the perimeter of the palace.

Town Hall building

The National Theater

The Tojo Building ~ the blue glass with the pink trees was pretty.

North side of Imperial Palace

Just around the corner I found this park.  The map just says "Park".  And, when I translate the kanji it says, "Cemetery for War Dead".  Well...I didn't see anything that resembled a cemetery.  There was a huge flower looking statue in the middle of the park.  What I did find....a ceiling of blossoms!!!

It was really pretty to walk under, but the crowds were crazy (unfortunately, I hadn't quite seen anything yet).  So, I walked a little faster than was leisurely.  I stopped and snapped a few pictures now and then, but there were lines to get to different spots for pictures and it was getting pretty chilly at this point, so I was just thinking about getting home.  At the end of this little park was the Chidorigafuchi Garden Walk.  This was the most intense crowd yet!  Not pushy at all, just - so - close!  And, I wanted to walk a little faster than the tiny girls in six inch heels could wobble down the street.  

Looking back towards Ginza.

There's no filter on the picture below (well, I didn't put a filter on any of these pictures).  I'm not sure what they do to make the grass so green...paint? Ha!  It sure seemed like it.

Chidorigafuchi Garden Walk

See the line?  They were in line just to enter the park on the other side of the street.  I decided I had a nice enough view of the park from the other side of the street.  I was still under the blossoms, and I was walking slowly (remember those high-heeled girls) but at least I wasn't standing in line to walk down the street!

Cars driving under the blossoms.

There it is!  Sky Tree standing tall behind all the sakura trees!

I decided not to take the scenic walk back to Higashi-Ginza station, and hopped on at Takebashi Station.  At the next station I decided to wait the extra ten minutes so I could get on the train that would take me all the way home, instead of changing a few times between here and there.  Smart move...I got a seat right away and was able to read my book for an hour.  I made it home in time to get pizza dough made for dinner and finish reading my book.  What a day!  What a pink, white, dark pink petal kind of day!  

Sakura season 2016 hasn't been the best, in fact, it seems to be the worst one since we've moved here.  It has rained or been completely cloudy from the day the first petal sprouted on the trees around our house.  It's also supposed to rain for the next two days.  I'm guessing Wednesday is when the blossoms will start to fall off, if not before.  I'm glad I was able to squeeze in a few different blossom areas this year, even if the weather hasn't cooperated with me at all.