Day trip to see Chichibu's Shibazakura
In the mountains of Saitama Prefecture, west of Tokyo, is the beautiful town of Chichibu, a city famous for nature and an anime cartoon called Anohana. We visited in the spring, and were fortunate to find the beautiful shibazakura in early bloom at Hitsujiyama Park. Here you can see beautiful fields of pink and white moss phlox in bloom in April and May, along with a small street of festival foods and gifts. The backdrop of the park is Mount Buko, which has been almost completely decapitated by limestone mining.
The Shibazakua fields have some 400,000 moss phlox plants have been planted to form beautiful patterns along two small hillsides. Along both edges of the phlox plants are benches where mostly Japanese visitors relax on rustic benches to watch the plants grow and bloom. Entry is around 300 or 400 Yen per person.
To get to Chichibu, take the JR line to Chichibu Station or the Seibu Line to Seibu Chichibu Station.
Soak in milkcolored waters of Tsurunoyu onsen
This place is far from standard tourist route, but fast-speed shinkasen makes it possible. You'll leave civilization and return 400 years back (only with electricity, but no internet and almost no English). When we got off the shuttle bus we found ourselves in the middle of the forest with few wooden buildings and strong sulfic smell in the air. We changed into yukata ate local food and soaked in the unbelievable waters of hot springs. There are male/female baths here, but the largest and best is common - you must be prepared, the baths are to be entered naked. For woman there is a long-tunnel entrance, rather secluded, so it's possible to kneel a little and you'll be fully covered in the totally transparent milk waters. Near to the middle of the bath there are very hot springs, if you touch it, it'll burn.
But I liked women's bath more - it's very picturesque.
We stayed in Tsurunoyu for two nights, so we had time for hiking .Unfortunately, we didn't get far - signs on the crossroads are in Japanese only so we lost our way a couple of times and had to go back and again, and again.. But it's very beautiful forest and we enjoyed it very much, especially walking with a ringing bell, that we received in the office - to make local bears aware of guests..
And the food!!! Kaizeki style, local and current season's products only - different many for every meal - delicious.
Pity that we had no opportunity to make even small talk - nobody spoke English except "Where are you from?" question.
And one more tip - take Japanese massage in your room - before and after the bath...Related to:
- Spa and Resort
Mushashi Imperial Tombs
Far on the western edge of Tokyo, in the rural areas of Hachioji, you may find the Mushashi Imperial Tombs. Historically Japanese emperors were buried in Kyoto, but after the Emperor Meiji passed, the imperial graveyard shifted to Tokyo. In 1926, Emperor Taisho, also known as Yoshihito, died and was buried at the quiet site. In 1951, a second tomb was added for for Yoshihito's wife Empress Teimei. In 1989, Emperor Shōwa, also known as Hirohito, was buried at the same site. Finally, in 2000, Empress Kōjun, wife of Hirohito was buried near her husband.
The four tombs are arranged from west to east in order of burial: Emperor Taisho, Empress Teimei, Emperor Showa, and Empress Kōjun. Empress Kōjun is buried closest to the entrance to the site.
Directions: From downtown Hachioji, take Route 20 toward Mount Takao, then turn right onto Route 187. The road curves to the left and takes you straight into the entrances to the tombs.
Address: 1348-2 Nagabusamachi, Hachiōji-shi, Tōkyō-to, Japan
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/KWS1W
Mount Ontake, or Ontake-san (御嶽山), is Japan's second highest volcano. The mountain is located about 100 km northeast of Nagoya and perhaps 30 km from the historic town of Takayama.
For centuries, Ontake was quiet, until a major eruption in 1979, followed by smaller eruptions in 1991 and 2007. The mountain erupted again on 27 September 2014, with initial reports indicating at least 30 dead.
Ontake-san can be seen from several scenic overlooks along Route 361 between Takeyama and Ina.
Hamura Sakura Festival
Each year in April, the town of Hamura, on the western edge of Tokyo, hosts a Cherry Blossom Festival. This small event features 200 massive cherry trees towering over the ancient Tamagawa Waterway. Along the canal, you will also find 40 or so vendors during the festival, selling food, drinks and toys. At night the trees are lit with bright pink lanterns all along the canal.
The Tamagawa Waterway fed Edo Castle and to the city of Edo, the predecessor of modern Tokyo. The water was needed because the Tokugawa shogunate had moved the household to Edo in 1600, though the capital did not move until centuries later. As the city expanded, water was in short supply, so six canals were constructed to feed water to the city and its inhabitants. Two brothers named Shoemon and Seiemon are credited with building the canal, as well as operating and maintaining the waterway. They were called the Tamagawa brothers, and their statue stands next to the Hamura Dam.
Ome Plum Blossom Festival
Plums are the first flowers to bloom in the early spring in Japan, around February or March, well before the famous cherry blossoms appear. Since the Nara era, in the 700s, plum blossoms were celebrated as the spring flower.
Ome Plum Blossom Festival, or the Yoshino Baigo Plum Festival, takes place in Ome Ume-no-koen Park. There are more than 1,500 trees with 120 plum varieties in colors from white to pink to yellow.
Entrance to the Ome Ume-no-koen Park is 200 Yen per adult. Parking is very limited around the park, and will cost between 500 and 1000 Yen per car, when it's busy, all fo the parking lots will fill up.
Address: 4-527 Baigo, Ome-shi, Tokyo
Directions: JR Ome Line Hinatawada and Futamatao stations
Lake Okutama, formed by Ogochi Dam, lies at the far western edge of Tokyo in the town of Okutama, Nishitama District. The large lake was constructed from 1938 to 1957, and it is the largest source of water for the city of Tokyo. At the time of its completion the Ogochi Dam was the world's largest, with a dam height of 149 meters and a length of 353 meters. The construction of the dam displaced 6,000 people and submerged nine shrines, which were replaced by Ogouchi-jinja Shrine, located on a peninsula jutting into the lake.
The north shore of the lake is famous for its Some 10,000 cherry trees which bloom during mid-April each year.
The lake is accessible by car from Tokyo with a two hour drive. You can also take the Chuo Line JR train to Tachikawa, then switch to the Ome Line to Okutma or a number of other stations near the lake.
Mt Fuji-Hakone circular trip
I had looked into this possibility and was planning to do it my third day in Tokyo (take the shinkansen to Mt Fuji nearest station and from Mt Fuji go to Hakone/Odawara on a circular trip in order to do both since the two locations are adjacent to one another) but the local JR agent at Tokyo station advised me against it coz of the imminent typhoon then, so this is another option to doing either alone.
Ferry to South Korea!
If you got the time and just a little bit extra cash go to Shimonoseki and enjoy a night or two there. Wonderful view of the Kanmon Straits from the youth hostel. (See pic.)
The ferry for Busan leaves at 7pm and is an overnight trip. Even though the ferry reaches South Korea very early in the morning everyone has to deboard at 8.30. A roundtrip ticket gives you 10% off the price in total. However bying the return ticket in Busan might end up even cheaper still.
approx US$150/120 EUROS/£85. Students get 10% off!
There's also a highspeed ferry leaving from Hakata for Busan. It takes only 3hrs and cost not that much more. There's 2 daily. One at 12.15pm and one at 3.45pm.Related to:
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Okayama Orient Museum
If you want a break from things Japanese while in Okayama then think about visiting the Okayama Orient Museum. This is a collection of artifacts from Iran and Iraq featuring 1,947 works of art mostly from the Persian Empires. That means this museum is not exactly for everyone but I quite interested in archeology so off I went. Also it was 37C that day and I wanted to get out of the heat.
The exhibits here are very well displayed including English labels. Therefore it was quite educational. The collection was the work of Mr. Shinjiro Yasuhara, the original director of the museum. Such museums dedicated to the arts outside of Japan are a rarity in this country and it was a surprised to find such a quality museum located here.
The Okayama Orient Museum is located at
9-31 Tenjin-cho, Okayama. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 5pm and is closed on Monday. It cost 300 yen to visit the museum.Related to:
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
- Family Travel
Zao - hot springs, skiiing and snow monsters!
I always like visiting Japan during the winter. Four years ago I visited a wintry Hokkaido, and this time around, I visited the less-touristy north region of Tohoku.
Yamagata-ken has a great ski resort called Zao Onsen. It is a great place to ski, to have a nice hot soak in the hot springs, and have beautiful scenery as well. The snow monsters of Zao and the Okama Crater Lake are two of its popular sights.
GETTING THERE: Take a JR train to Yamagata station. Then a bus from the bus-stop outside the station will take u on a 40 min ride to ZaoRelated to:
- Skiing and Boarding
- Hiking and Walking
- Mountain Climbing
Kuwanoki-no-taki Waterfalls, Shingu Wakayama
This information is current as of November 2010. I wanted to visit one of Japan's top 100 waterfalls and chose Kuwanoki-no-taki, near Shingu city, Wakayama prefecture. To get there, the bus leaves from across the street from the train station, about 50 steps away. There are 3 buses a day to the bus stop where you start your walk to Kuwanoki no taki. They are at 6:50am and 12:50pm and the last at 16:35. The bus fare is about 580yen and the ride is a meager 25mins long. Your stop is called "Oga" (also spelled Ouga). Get off, cross the road, and go over the bridge and start walking. The path is faint but easy enough, there are rocky parts and some stairs. I stopped to take photos so it took me about 1/2 hr to get to the falls. There is a metal platform straddling some rocks, so you can get awesome photos from that or climb around some closer rocks for more photos. I recommend taking the 12:50pm bus since if you go too early, the sun hasn't been able to come over the towering rocks of the upper falls yet. As I started to leave, the sun was in a better position (around 10am), but even later would have been grand. I'll just need to go back and do it again next year...The bus going back to Shingu arrives at the opposite bus stop at 13:25, and since I didn't want to wait that long, I opted to hike down the hill back to the main road. The scenery was amazing! I walked a bit then turned around and looked up--there's another grand waterfall high in the cliffs above the road. Didn't see a path to get up there, though...At the next bus stop, called 'Shizen-pool-mae' there was a parking lot with restroom facilities, the ever-present vending machine, and a nifty suspension bridge that led to who knows where (i didn't have time to follow it!). I kept to the road going further back to the main road and found a bus stop that showed a bus was coming sooner than the bus I was originally on, so I waited for it. See the photos attached. So, there are options for getting back to town if you walk maybe a grand total of 3/4 of a mile back to the main road. It was worth it!Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Road Trip
Japan has many national parks and very unique and interesting wild life. In this trip I only explore the tip of this side of Japan and I added here few nice photos of some water birds I caught up with.
The town of Kawaguchiko is located to the south of Tokyo. it is popular destination for tourism with its beautiful lake and with a fantastic view of mount Fuji. It is also great place to visit in the countryside to enjoy the Japanese nature.
Go out of the city
If you have the chance to go out of the city and explore the country, do that. Japan is not only cities, shopping and restaurants, it is also beautiful country with great nature and culture to discover.
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