A Journey of Endless Flower Paradise

Hitachi Seaside Park – Ibaraki

Japan is a country blessed with four distinct seasons and there is a widespread belief that the Japanese have an inherent affinity upon each seasonal transition. Flowers are a good example that reflects each of those four seasons and fittingly due to the fact that flower viewing is a very popular activity in Japan as most prominently seen in the annual festivities surrounding the cherry blossoms, but not necessarily limited to just them. There are many places in Japan where various species of flowers can be appreciated at different times of the year. Flower parks and botanical gardens are usually great locations for flower viewing. Some temples and shrines may also be famous for particular flowers. Below are a few places Ive visited during the month of April and May which are popular for flower viewing. The onset gives us a new feel and brings us more closer to nature than ever.

Hitachi Seaside Park – IbarakiHitachi Seaside Park – IbarakiHitachi Seaside Park – IbarakiHitachi Seaside Park – IbarakiHitachi Seaside Park – IbarakiHitachi Seaside Park – Ibaraki

Hitachi Seaside Park – Ibaraki

This large public park covering an area of 190 hectares in the city of Hitachinaka boasts a wide variety of seasonal flower gardens throughout the year. In spring, you are met with 4.5 million translucent-petaled baby blue flowers, called nemophilas that blooms all over the park. The hill covered with blue flowers together with the matching pale blue sky is a mesmerising sight, as if you’re standing in the middle of powdery blue goodness. Its no surprise the park recorded its highest ever 1 day attendance this year of more than 71000 people!

Ashigaka Park – TochigiAshigaka Park – TochigiAshigaka Park – TochigiAshigaka Park – TochigiAshigaka Park – TochigiAshigaka Park – TochigiAshigaka Park – Tochigi

Ashigaka Park – Tochigi

This enchanting Park in the town of Tomita is home to hundreds of these spell-binding trees called wisteria, ranging from shrubs, draped wisteria, to 260-foot-long tunnels in its 10,000 square foot vine grove and are said to be the most beautiful wisterias in the world. One of the largest wisterias, known as a ‘Fugi Tree’ in Japan, has been growing for more than 100-years and forms a living umbrella of leaves over visitors making it hard to take your eyes off it when you’re standing in this fairy-tale environment. The hanging wisteria is so thick in some parts of the Japanese park it is impossible to see through it. These vines normally grow along walls but with pruning and the use of special poles to hold up the branches, they can be manipulated into tree shapes. To be able to see the growing beauty of the wisterias is truly an experience.

http://www.ashikaga.co.jp/en/

Echigo Hillside Park – NiigataEchigo Hillside Park – NiigataEchigo Hillside Park – NiigataEchigo Hillside Park – NiigataEchigo Hillside Park – NiigataEchigo Hillside Park – Niigata

Echigo Hillside Park – Niigata

Tulips has bewitched the people of Japan since their introduction at the beginning of the 20th century and has been produced mainly in Niigata and Toyama where sixty-seven million bulbs are produced annually. The Echigo Hillside Park near the city of Nagaoka is a wonderful experience for people of all ages. By the time the spring season is in full swing, the “Flower Hill” is swathed in red, pink, purple, orange and yellow blooms, a sight that truly looks like something out of The Wizard of Oz. I personally like tulips because they are a more uniquely shaped flower, and their striking colors of the flowering bulbs is a overwhelmingly beautiful sight to see, with each color of the tulip having a positive symbolic meaning behind it.

https://echigo-park.jp/en/

Mount Fuji ShibazakuraMount Fuji ShibazakuraMount Fuji ShibazakuraMount Fuji ShibazakuraMount Fuji ShibazakuraMount Fuji Shibazakura

Fuji Shibazakura(Moss Phlox) Festival – Mt Fuji

The Fuji Moss Phlox Festival is a special spring attraction of Mt. Fuji with some 800,000 shibazakura (moss phlox or moss pink) plants with five petals similar to those of a cherry blossom, spreading over the natural expanse of the mountain. It is one of the largest collections of shibazakura in the Kanto region. With Mt. Fuji at the distance together with the surrounding forest, the blue skies and the pink of the shibazakura creates a colorful contrast that makes for a great photo opportunity. Unfortunately for me the shibazakura were just a week before full bloom during my visit!

http://www.shibazakura.jp/eng/
[box type=”1″ class=”box3″]
Inspirational, uplifting, educational or simply gorgeous visiting these flower parks should not be missed!

Flower Forecast
Please note that a particular flower species might blossom at differing times across regions with varying climate each year. It is recommended to check the location of the flower let it be Park, gardens or temples website if available to keep track of the best viewing time.

JR East Pass
The JR East Pass is an economical and flexible ticket for travel in eastern Japan. Unlimited travel is possible on all lines of JR East, including the Shinkansen, on five days of your choice within a 14-day period from the date when your pass is issued. It is also valid on the N’EX service which provides direct access to Tokyo from Narita Airport. The JR East Pass can be purchased at designated JR East Travel Service Centers, among other locations. This Pass is the biggest recommendation to purchase for any tourist planning a visit to East Japan. This pass is, of course, available all year round.

HTTP://WWW.JREAST.CO.JP/E/EASTPASS[/box]

Advertisements

Best Ramen Experience at Motenashi Kuroki

Ramen at Motenashi Kuroki

Just out of the main Akihabara district there is a small Ramen eatery called Motenashi Kuroki and they probably and its quite blunt to say so, have the best Ramen I have ever had, seriously! I was not just told by my friend but ordered to go eat their Ramen and for a Japanese to say that I felt obligued. I went for their traditional Shio Ramen to compare with others and oh my days It was the best 1100Yen I have ever spent on food, absolutely mindblowing! I completely disregarded the fact that I had too wait in line for like a good 45 minutes not to get seated but just to place my order through their vending machine and then another good 15 minutes to finally have a seat inside the small cozy shop.

Ramen at Motenashi KurokiRamen at Motenashi KurokiRamen at Motenashi KurokiRamen at Motenashi Kuroki

Spearheaded by Kuroki himself, he had worked in french and italian cuisine before deciding to create some sort of fusion of what he learnt into Ramen. Every part of me wanted to cry of happiness for every slurp I did, the soft textured noodles and its broth consisting a mixture of six different salts together with the clear chicken and venison stock was orgasmic. The chashu pork which is simmered for two days was orgamic but my favourite was the shoyu egg and that was even more orgasmic. Upon finishing my bowl I stared at the men behind the counter in awee and said the most heartfelt “Gochisou-sama”. It’s now my new standard for a perfect Ramen.

Ramen at Motenashi KurokiRamen at Motenashi Kuroki

For reference

[box type=”1″ class=”box3″]
[list type=”pointerlist3″]

  • Address: 2-15 Kanda Izumicho, Chiyoda, Tokyo 101-0024
  • Opening hours: 11:30am–3pm, 6–9pm – Wednesdays only 11:30am–3pm
  • Regular days of closure: Friday and Sunday
  • Contact: +81 3-3863-7117

[/list]
[/box]

Kanda Myojin, a Shrine Unlike Others

Omamori Charm Kanda Myojin

Shintoism is Japan’s indigenous religion and so shrines accross the country offer protection to the faithful throughout their lives, be it at births, marriage or on the road. This small yet architecturally beautiful shrine called Kanda Myojin situated in one of the most expensive estate areas of Tokyo is considered an important shrine to both the warrior class and citizens of Japan during the Edo period, especially when shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu used to pay his respects there. But as the years went by and the country underwent its modernisation phase Kanda Myojin has tried to keep up with the trends and now offer slightly more than just the traditional blessings.

Kanda MyojinKanda MyojinKanda MyojinOmamori Charm Kanda Myojin

The techy Omamori (charm) for Protection

The faithful can now also bring their computer and have the priests use centuries-old ceremonies to ask the gods for help and protection for their computer from viruses and other computer bugs. No Kidding. This religious protection services have proven to be popular among information-technology entrepreneurs in Japan’s capital, and given is it near Akihabara, a place known for being a technology hub and popular destination for Otaku (also known as geek), and lovers of the latest electronic gadgets, there is no denying the priests of Kanda Myojin have come up with a clever idea.

For those foreign visitors like me, there is no need to worry, The shrine has produced stickers with charms imprinted on them that can be pasted onto one’s computer or mobile phone to protect information, which can be bought for only 1000¥. This makes for a wonderful unique souvenir and protection option!

Ita Ema Kanda MyojinIta Ema Kanda MyojinIta Ema Kanda MyojinIta Ema Kanda MyojinIta Ema Kanda MyojinIta Ema Kanda Myojin

Illustrated “ita-ema”

There is also an area of the shrine where ema (絵馬) are hanged and on these wooden ema or ita-ema (unique to Akihabara), worshipers normally write a wish and hang it up, praying for that wish to come true. This usual happen during New Years to mark the beginning of the year. At Kanda Myojin you will find that most of the ita-ema are decorated in beautiful illustrations drawn by many Otaku who all tend to go to Kanda Myojin as it is the closest Shrine to Akiahabara. The illustrations seen are carefully drawn in great detail and could certainly be called a work of art in themselves. It includes many characters from Anime, Manga or games. For the fans of Love live! School Idol Project, or for those who are familiar with the anime, you must know that Kanda Myojin was the shrine that was used in the anime series thus making it a very popular pilgrimage site with many it-ema featuring characters from the series. Kanda Myojin is certainly a Shrine unlike others in Tokyo.

[box type=”1″ class=”box3″]
[list type=”pointerlist3″]

  • Address: 2-16-2, Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0021
  • Opening hours: Always open
  • Website: http://www.kandamyoujin.or.jp/
  • Charms: Kanda festival X lovelive! Charm ¥1,000
    Charm of IT ¥1,000
  • 5 min. walk from “Ochanomizu” station,JR line, Hijiribashi bridge entrance
    *7 min. walk from “Akihabara” station,JR line, Denki-gai street entrance

[/list]
[/box]

The Inmost Kept Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine Tokyo

On a glorious Sunday morning I decided it was a good time to visit the Meiji Shrine in Shibuya, known to be a famous Shinto shrine built in the 1920s in dedication to the souls of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. From the closest Harajuku Station, it was quite a walk of around 2 kilometers to reach the Shrine but the path is very well-paved with many meticulously groomed plants & trees that line the winding walkway. Once arrived and not feeling to tired I was struck by the size & beauty of the grounds. Its incredibly beautiful, and the torii that mark the entrance to the shrine are enormous and apparently some 1500 years old. An interesting tip given to me by an elderly couple who made sure to warn me before entering Shrine complex – when passing through the entry-way of the gate, make sure to step OVER the wooden step of the door frame. Apparently it’s bad luck to step on it.

Meiji Shrine TokyoMeiji Shrine TokyoMeiji Shrine Tokyo

It is said that the Shrine is a popular place for Traditional Japanese Weddings and I was lucky enough to witness one. The Groom and the Bride looked lavish and there were many children running about in kimonos, contributing to a nearly intoxicating cultural & spiritual experience. I tried to maintain a respectable distance as it is an intimate procedure, but I was surprised how I was still allowed to get so close and take photos. After paying my respects at the sancuary and hanging an Ema for good health, the shrine just oozes out this air of tranquility. With all whats going on surrounded by a vast area of evergreen forest it is easy to forget you are in downtown Tokyo which just hads to the experience making this probably the best Shrine in town.

Meiji Shrine TokyoMeiji Shrine TokyoMeiji Shrine TokyoMeiji Shrine TokyoMeiji Shrine TokyoMeiji Shrine TokyoMeiji Shrine TokyoMeiji Shrine Tokyo

[box type=”1″ class=”box3″]
[list type=”pointerlist3″]

[/list]
[/box]

Odaiba’s Lifesize RX-78-2 Gundam Statue

Odaiba island in Tokyo is just such a fascinating place to visit. It feels like visiting an island of the future where its attractions and buildings are all so modern and mesmerizing. One of them and certainly my favorite is the 18 meters Lifesize RX-78-2 Gundam Statue. It’s overwhelming presence is simply a joy to look at, you got to appreciate the craftsmanship and detail that went into building this life size model. An awesome feature of this lifesize Gundam is that you can enjoy a short “live performance” where it steams, moves, and has loud sound effects, I am not kidding here. This makes me think while looking up at the Gundam in its grandeur along with the sky above, that people like me can dream of a future where humanity as expanded their reach to the stars above living in space colonies, protected by real Gundam’s just like the series. Who knows, it might actually happen one day.

Odaiba Lifesize GundamOdaiba Lifesize GundamOdaiba Lifesize Gundam

Bandai’s big Gundam ambition, the making of the country’s first Life size model.

Reading up more on the Life-size RX-78-2 Gundam Statue, it has quite a history. It first stood at Shiokaze Park here on Odaiba island back in July of 2009 as part of the 30th Anniversary of the Gundam series, becoming the first of its kind ever built in Japan or even the world? As much as it gained widespread popularity, the statue was unfortunately taken down in September due to high maintenance cost. It managed to be re-erected this time in the city of Shizuoka the home of Bandai’s (the company) plastic model factories in July 2010 until March 2011, this time holding a beam saber. The Gundam did eventually return to Tokyo in August that same year but in disassembled parts as a charity drive from fans after the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake disaster. It was not until April of 2012 that it was finally rebuilt where it still stands today in front of Tokyo Diver City Plaza Mall continuing to attract many crowds eager to see this wonderful work created by Bandai.

Odaiba Lifesize GundamOdaiba Lifesize GundamOdaiba Lifesize GundamOdaiba Lifesize GundamOdaiba Lifesize GundamOdaiba Lifesize Gundam

Full-size Gundam Statue Performances

[box type=”1″ class=”box3″]

  • Day: (approx. 9 min. without wall video) 12:00, 3:00 and 5:00 PM
  • Night: (approx. 13 min. with wall video) at 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 PM
  • Night: (approx. 9 min. with wall video) at 8 and 9 PM
  • Website: http://gundamfront-tokyo.com/
  • Address: Diver City Tokyo Plaza, 1-1-10 Aomi, Koto 135-0064, Tokyo Prefecture

[/box]

Mesmirizing Starlight Garden Christmas Illumination Show

Starlight Garden Christmas Illumination Show-01

Starlight Garden Christmas Illumination Show-01

Similar to the Christmas Illumination Show at Caretta Shiodome, I Enjoyed another mesmerizing show of lights and music that symbolises the Christmas season this time at Tokyo Midtown called “The Starlight Garden illumination“. This year’s show featured a continuous change in the way the lights are shown so visitors can come many times and enjoy different variations from different viewpoints. There was also the “motion illumination” – the first in Japan – where the lights move like waves of water. A total of about 280,000 multi-colored lights is installed in the Grass Square, creating a fairy-tale world. I uploaded a video to try and show you of the illumination hopefully you get the whole picture. The Japanese sure love these Illumination Shows I think they took this whole thing on a whole new level as I havent seen such back in Europe.

[box type=”1″ class=”box3″]
[list type=”pointerlist3″]

  • Address: 〒107-0052 Tokyo, Minato, 赤坂9−7−1
  • Opening hours: 17:00 to 23:00 (Varies each year)
  • Season: November 12 to December 25 (Varies each year)
  • Website: http://www.tokyo-midtown.com/en/

[/list]
[/box]

Tokyo’s Most Famous Bridge

Nijubashi Bridge that marks the entrance of the Imperial Palace

Nijubashi Bridge that marks the entrance of the Imperial Palace

Probably one of the most standard stops for anyone, local or tourists in Tokyo that is the Imperial Palace well kind off. You can’t really see much of residence itself because the palace is still in use by the Emperor of Japan, so the only possible “view” of the Imperial Palace for normal passerby visitors like me is its other famous landmark called the “Nijubashi Bridge”, a double-arch stone bridge east of the palace. Its fortifications of the dry-stone walls is quite large and is a marvel of engineering making the whole view with the water-filled moat and tree-covered grounds so picturesque and famous from war time photos of people gathering to see the emperor pass by.

[box type=”1″ class=”box3″]
[list type=”pointerlist3″]

  • Address: 1-1 Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-8111
  • Opening hours: None Specified

[/list]
[/box]

Showcase of Lights at Caretta Christmas Illumination

Caretta Christmas Illumination-06

Season Greeting’s to all, With Christmas around the corner, it’s that time of the year to be merry and joyous. Folks in Tokyo can enjoy the spirit of the season by seeing the multiple illumination events happening around town. I managed to been able to see this years “Caretta Christmas Illumination 2012” hosted at the basement plaza of Caretta Shiodome which features a vast ocean of LED lights, while 3D projectors are used to illuminate and animate the walls of the shopping center. It is a mesmerizing show of light and music that symbolises the Christmas season making it probably the best christmas show Ive seen in my entire life. The illumination light up event happens every 15 or 30 minutes and lasts around 5 minutes+. A feast to the eyes!

Caretta Christmas Illumination-01Caretta Christmas Illumination-05Caretta Christmas Illumination-06Caretta Christmas Illumination-08Caretta Christmas Illumination-04Caretta Christmas Illumination-06Caretta Christmas Illumination-06

[box type=”1″ class=”box3″]
[list type=”pointerlist3″]

  • Address: 1 Chome-8-2 Higashishinbashi, Minato, Tokyo
  • Opening hours: 17:00 to 23:00
  • Season:November 19 to February 14 (except January 1-2) – Varies each year
  • Website: http://www.caretta.jp/english/

[/list]
[/box]