Thursday, May 18, 2017

Azalea (Tsutsuji) Hill Park ~ Yokosuka

We love going on flower hunts!  Usually, it's a simple trip from house to train to flower stop.  Easy peasy.  Traffic flow inside the parks are normally pretty easy to handle ~ some places and flowers attract more people than normal, but because we can go to the parks during the week and early in the morning we don't usually see tons of people.  However... peak cherry blossom, wisteria, and azalea seasons hover right around Golden Week, which is one of the busiest travel times in Japan.  So, I was a little worried about how packed the buses, trains and parks would be on the second day of the holiday week.  But, I found a new place, so we HAD to make our way through the holiday traffic and people to see Azalea Hill Park!

Totally empty!
Odakicho Bus
I'm typically a crazy planner...meaning, I have the weather, route, cost, times, best days, local food options all picked out before we even pack our bags.  This time, for some reason, I wasn't as prepared.  I guess because I wasn't quite sure if the flowers were in full bloom or not, also because I couldn't decide if we were going to take the train and walk or take the bus and walk less.  I've only taken the bus outside of Yokosuka, and usually only when I have the bus number from someone else's directions or from a blog's directions.  Today, however, I was just winging it as we went.  Hence...the drama we experienced all day.  

Since this week is a holiday week, the bus schedule is slightly different.  I'm also going to guess that maybe the bus was a little late because of traffic.  So, I pulled up the directions on my phone for the bus route and it said the time and told me which stop to go to.  I didn't realize that it also listed about five different buses to chose from at the very top of the screen.  So, we waited much longer than we should have waited.  When we got on the bus it was totally empty.  And it stayed that way for about 15 minutes.  I thought that was weird.  Why aren't there many people going to this flower park on such a great holiday afternoon??!!  

That should have been sign number one.

"Mom, are you sure we're supposed to
go down this dirt road?"
I was paying close attention to the bus stops on the sign at the front of the bus and as soon as I saw our bus stop flash onto the screen I pushed the button for the stop request.  About one minute later the bus driver said something into the microphone and then the name for the next bus stop flicked from the one I wanted to the stop after that.  ??  What's going on?  He drives another few minutes before he stops.  So, instead of being just 20 minutes from the park, we were now about 30 minutes from the park.  Uh... After my phone updated the directions to walk, we were on our way.  

As we were walking, the kids kept saying, "The sky looks like it's getting darker."  Hm...they were right.  I checked the weather the night before and it said rain would be gone by noon, so we should be good.  Maybe these clouds are just the tail end of whatever moved through last night.  So, we kept walking.  After we made a left off the main road we were in neighborhoods. 7-11, Lawson's, or Family Mart.  I know...!!....Mackenzie said several times, "What kind of town in Japan doesn't have a 7-11 or Family Mart?!"  It was warm out, so we went through our water bottles pretty quick.  Plus, we were heading uphill, which meant harder work to get there.  And....the stress of wondering whether or not Mom was taking them on an "adventure" probably took a toll....especially when we started walking on a dirt road through the trees.

After about a 40 minute walk, we finally saw the flowers in the distance!  Introducing....

Azalea Hill Park ~ Yokosuka
(Not the official name, I just can't read the name on the map :)

Just as we entered the park we felt a rain drop.  Oh no...

I told the kids we would be fine and to just keep moving.  We made it past the benches and around the corner and we heard thunder rumble in the distance.  😳  It was at this point that Mackenzie started whimpering.  She didn't want to be there, why did I force them to look at flowers all the time, why did I make them walk so far from the bus, etc, etc, etc.  I was sure the weather map was telling me the truth the night before, so I told them to keep going, it NEVER thunderstorms in Yokosuka...seriously, I can count on one hand how many storms we've seen since we've been here.  So few, in fact, that my kids think their friends will be sent home from school when they hear thunder.  

I insisted they keep walking up the hill.  Everything would be fine!
Kenzie:  whimper whimper sniff sniff

It was at this point (at the top of the hill, of course) that the drops of rain really started coming down. Not just rain drops, but a rain storm.  And, then we saw the whole sky in front of us streaked with lightening!  Yikes!!  Okay,'s probably not a good idea to be on this big hill, surrounded by fields and a few trees at the top.  We started making our way back down the hill, planning to go hide out in the bathrooms until the rain passed.  Well, those cute little paths we were wandering around in, suddenly turned into a maze.  We went in a circle twice and down the wrong path twice.  Eek...Kenzie was hysterically crying at this point.  Finally, we found the correct path down the hill, and started our descent.  At the bottom I noticed a nice covered area that had about a dozen older Japanese people under it.  So, we joined them.  All of the people there were so worried to see Kenzie crying so much.  They smiled and tried to comfort her.  An older, slightly inebriated, gentleman offered her a beer....thanks, but she'll pass on that one.  Technically, he had a beer in one hand and a coffee in the other.  Maybe he thought I needed the beer after hearing the hysterics coming out of the cute, blonde girl sitting next to me.  :/

After about ten minutes the rain cleared out (although the temperature dropped about 8 degrees and the wind picked up, which, when added to the rain-soaked clothes we were wearing made it quite chilly).  We decided to walk back through the hill paths a little more calmly this time.  The flowers looked to be just about full bloom.  There were some that had already reached full bloom and had dropped their petals, but for the most part all the bushes were full.

The view from just about at the top. 

Azaleas everywhere!!

Mackenzie (between sobs, of course) was fascinated by the silver in the middle of the flowers.

We finally started making our way back down the hill, the second time.  The walk back didn't take as long, because we went to the bus stop we were supposed to get off the first time around. 

Can you tell we got a little wet?  Boy was the most wet because while Kenzie and I were sitting under the shelter, he would walk out to determine if the drops were slowing down or still coming down fast.  Not sure why he couldn't just use his eyes....boys...  Also, perhaps Mackenzie's face isn't fooling anyone.  She did try to smile for my picture in between the hysterical sobbing.

I don't remember all the nitty gritty details...We left from Odakicho Bus Stop (from Womble gate: go right on 16 then make a left onto Blue Street.  It's the Odakicho stop is on third block) and we were supposed to get off at Takeyama Bus Stop (about 350 yen for me, half that for the kids).  But, the bus went past our stop, so I couldn't tell you where we actually got off at.  It was about a 40 minute walk, some parts were up steep hills and some parts were dirt paths.  Once you leave the main road there are no toilets and no conbini.  There's no fee to get into the park and I couldn't see where there were hours posted, so I'm not sure when it closes.  There are toilets in the park, we didn't venture in, so I'm not sure if they are squatty potties or Western toilets.  Aside from the tears, lightening, and hyperventilating, it was a beautiful park!!  Tsusuji never disappoint!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sakura at Shomyoji in Kanazawa Bunko pretty!  

I visited this park last year during cherry blossom season, but it was by myself and in the rain.  This year it was overcast, but only slightly chilly and no rain!  

Our apartment building is lined by sakura trees on all sides.  It's always beautiful, except this year on the back side of the building our park is being redone, so there is a line of ugly construction fencing all along this road.  Farther down the road, by Gridley Tunnel, the ground had an amazing pink carpet of petals!

I was very excited to find this tulip garden on a side street as we were heading to Shomyoji.  I can't believe I've never seen this before!  It was phenomenal!

And....the main event...Shomyoji Temple!

There are a few trees right at the entrance that have a mixture of white, light pink and dark pink.

After snapping a LOT of pictures at the first gate, we made our way down the sakura covered sidewalk and to the main part of the temple.  The kids always beg me for sodas as we pass the vending machines on this road.  So, they both got grape Fanta, which I think Garytt dropped at least half a dozen times.

Kenzie was a happy kid as we entered the park....she had her favorite onigiri (two of them, actually) and a box of her favorite Pocky.  

Oh so pretty!

It was a little chilly and very overcast, so there weren't a lot of people here this day.

After a little hanami (the alcohol-free kind, unfortunately :) under the trees, we made our way around the pond and as we were getting ready to go across the bridge the kids noticed a lot of ducks on one side of the pond.  Now, when we came here with my mother last year, there was a duck that followed Garytt around the whole pond.  He was a sad little duck that all the other ducks kept chasing across the pond.  But, for some reason, he liked Garytt, who subsequently named his little friend Quackers.  Well, today he was on a mission to find his faithful friend again.

Is that Quackers?'s not coming over to say hello, so it can't be him.  Look!  A cute turtle with about twenty of his closest friends just hanging out on the banks of the pond.  Then, all of a sudden a cat emerged from who knows where and slid into the tall grass where he calmly watched all the ducks and fish moving back and forth in front of him.  We were waiting to see if he would be brave and hungry enough to jump in after his lunch.  He was not...

The Boy!
I think I have this picture of him from every time we have been here. is the last happy picture of Kenzie for this trip.  

One last shot before we go....these trees are so beautiful!!!, when we were at the 7/11 getting our lunch goodies I convinced Garytt to try a new Pocky.  It was grape flavored!  How could we go wrong with grape?!  Well....turns can go VERY wrong with grape flavored Pocky.  We both took one bite and then tossed the box into the trash bag.  Since I had so much faith in the grape flavored treat I didn't think to have a back up for the Boy.  So, I asked Mackenzie to share her Pocky. dare I even think to split her chocolatey goodness in half!!!  She threw an absolute, with tears and loud sobs and every ounce of drama she could put into it.  

And, this is the result in my pictures....such a sad face.  There were a few others where she looked like if her eyes could shoot lasers at me, they would have done so!

No one messes with Mackenzie and her chocolate!!

Tsukayama Sakura in Yokosuka snow storm...Kenzie chasing petals 
A couple weeks ago, while Kris and I were hanging out with friends in Yokohama, I was told of this beautiful place covered with sakura.  I thought the sakura season was over for our Yokosuka area.  No, no, no....there were a few more places, hidden around the city, that were still shaded by the pretty pink and white blossoms.
Off to Tsukayama park!!  So, from Chuo Station to Anjinzuka Station we went!  I wasn't quite sure which park was the correct park on my map, so I found one that looked about 15 minutes from the station and we started walking.  My kids are cute...and, they are smart...which means they question every road I choose because they know I like to go on 'adventures'...they like to call these 'adventures' getting lost, eh, tomato, tom-ah-to.  I do have to admit that as we were walking down these little alleyways even I was questioning whether we were going in the right direction. it turns out...we weren't.  😊 However, these wrong turns meant we found this awesome little park tucked back into a quiet little neighborhood.  I mean...who couldn't love a park with gigantic lizards and elephants?!?!

The kids played here for about 15 minutes while I tried to figure out which park I was going to try next.  I found a green spot and put a pin on it, then we started making our way there.  So, I managed to turn a 15 minute walk from station to desired park into a 45 minute walk from station to wrong park to desired park.  Oops...

Me: "Look at this hill, kids!"
Kids: "Uuugghhh...can we rest a minute?"

I'm so glad it was a beautiful day.  The kids and I took a leisurely stroll through the streets of this hilly town.  And, when I say leisurely, I mean that there were some crazy hills that made the kids ill-tempered, hot, thirsty, tired, sore legged, sweaty....I'm sure they mentioned other adjectives to describe their 'adventure'.  For the most part, they took it all in stride.  Since it was a beautiful day and we had nothing scheduled all day we could take our time walking around the little city.  We took a lot of breaks and checked out every nook and cranny we found along the way.  "Mom...what do you think is down that street?"  "I don't know, do you want to find out?" "YES!"  "Okay, let's go!"  That was usually Garytt....Kenzie wasn't so impressed with walking down every side gets out around 2 and she needed to be home so she could hang out with her friends.

Turns out, the birds weren't living,
breathing birds, but little statues.
Up the hill, around the corner, and down the street a little more and we found a set of stairs.  Garytt:  Look!  There are birds sitting on the rails up there!  Me:  Wow!  Garytt:  Can we go up there and see what's up there?  Me: Yes...yes...yes!!!!  

The Boy was up the stairs in no time, excited to see the birds as well as what would greet him at the top.  Kenzie, however, moaned, groaned, whimpered and whined her way up each stair with feet that seemed to weigh 25 pounds each as they stomped slowly up the hill.

We found ourselves at another little park.  This one was a normal looking park...slides, swings, monkey bars.  So, while I walked around looking at trees and flowers, the kids were having a blast (yes, even Her Highness discovered she could have fun at the top of this hill).

Such a beautiful day.  The sunshine made all the newly green trees absolutely stunning.  And, for a change, there is no hazy, city-smoggy cover to the sky.

After about 15 minutes or so at this park, we made our way back out to the main road and, once again, climbed a hill to the park I was praying was the correct park.  I'm not sure Mackenzie would have even taken one more step if this was the wrong park, again.  At the top of the hill we rounded a corner, walked up some stairs and then found ourselves face to face with the 210 Yokosuka toll gate we drive through on our way north.  Kenzie broke into tears....we are SO FARRRRR from home!!!!! It's okay, kid, the park is right ... up another hill ...

Woooowwww......the trees!!!!

The kids weren't impressed.  So, I gave them sandwiches, chips and cookies to nibble while I walked around and took pictures.  Once their little bellies were filled they were a little more excited about looking at the trees again.  

It's amazing what a five minute sit on a bench and a little food can do to their attitudes.  :)

Park Map and Area Map
The park is actually a pretty good sized area.  If you walk in and take a slight left toward the sakura grove you can walk under the clouds of blossoms.  There were about half a dozen couples on blankets eating lunch and relaxing.  We quietly walked through this area, took some pictures and then meandered toward the back of the park.

All of the trees here were at full bloom.  It was a bit surprising since all the trees on base at this point had lost most of their petals.

We found another path that led to stairs and, of course, we followed them!  

The first set of stairs led to a beautiful view of the sakura grove below.

More stairs!

This last set of stairs led to the top of the park where we had a gorgeous view of the city and the bay.  Unfortunately, there were too many clouds in the distance for us to be able to see Mt. Fuji.  But, the rest of the view was phenomenal!  

While I took pictures from the top of the hill, the kids played Minecraft.  Since they were getting along so well, I took full advantage of the peace!

We walked down the hill on the back side and found ourselves at a pavilion where the kids set up shop, playing peacefully, while I walked around snapping more pictures.  

Up another set of stairs I found a little memorial park for William Adams, a British explorer who landed in Japan around 1600 and was trusted and employed by Ieyasu Tokogawa, and his wife.  

Sidewalk or road ... ??? ... We followed it to
the end and lived to tell about it!
After filling my camera with pictures, and at about the point where the kids were starting to get tired of each other, we started to head toward home.  I decided to take a different route home, through a different station.  From where we were there were two train options that seemed to be about the same distance away.  It took about 20 minutes to walk to Hemi Station from the park.  Of course, it started with lots of:  are you sure this is the right way, this doesn't look like the right way, mom please don't get us lost, this is not a road!  😂 They were right....the road we were on didn't look much like a road, but eventually it led us to a recognizable sidewalk....a steeply angled downhill sidewalk....but, a sidewalk nonetheless!  We found a cool walking tunnel, which means my son put his hands to his mouth and did a good, loud "Hellooooooooooo"  Like father, like son.