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!