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Raina's Japan Travel Journal
by Raina, staff writer of japan-guide.com

 
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2014/03/04 - Early Tokyo Blossom Report

Everyone getting up close with the kanzakura variety at Shinjuku Gyoen

Started off the day with checking out the early flowering sakura varieties, namely the Okanzakura and the Kanzakura types in Ueno Park. It was sunny with blue skies and not much cold wind, making for a perfect day out. Ueno Park is home to many sakura trees, making it a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing when the flowers are in bloom. Following the pathway from the entrance of the park, we walked under many budding cherry trees. At the end of the cherry tree pathway, there are two coffee places on either side of the pathway and the entrance to Ueno Zoo on the left.

This cherry tree lined pathway will be pink with cherry blossoms in a few weeks
The pathway to Ueno Toshogu Shrine with a five story pagoda on the right

We turned left in the direction of the zoo, and went to Ueno Toshogu Shrine, a stone's throw away from the zoo. Ueno Toshogu Shrine has been under renovation works for the past five years and work was finally completed in December 2013. The shrine, that is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo Shogunate , is now mostly covered in gold foil, with newly lacquered wooden beam supports. Entry into the shrine grounds costs 500 yen for adults and 200 yen for children aged 6 to 12 years. The shrine grounds are open from 9.30am till 5pm in the evening.

The newly constructed Ueno Toshogu Shrine looking very shiny with all the gold detail

There is also a peony garden beside Ueno Toshogu Shrine. Admission into the peony garden is not included in the shrine admission price, and is a separate charge of 600 yen. Unfortunately for us, the peonies can only be viewed in winter (January to mid February) and spring (mid April to mid May).

Bentendo in the background with budding cherry blossoms in front

From Ueno Toshogu Shrine, we headed down the steps towards Bentendo. Bentendo is located on an island in Shinobazu Pond, and is dedicated to Benten, the goddess of good fortune, wealth, music and knowledge. There are cherry trees planted around the temple as well, making it very pretty when the cherry blossoms are all in bloom. There are also swan paddle boats available for rent behind Bentendo to explore part of Shinobazu pond and view the cherry blossoms from the water. However, as most of the trees are only budding, it will be a few more weeks before the area will be filled with an explosion of colours from the blossoms.

Beautiful plum blossoms at Yushima Tenjin Shrine

Leaving the Ueno Park area, we walked towards Yushima Tenjin Shrine (also known as Yushima Tenmangu) a short walk from Ueno, in the Okachimachi area. Yushima Tenjin Shrine is a very popular plum blossom viewing spot as well as a popular shrine amongst students as it enshrines the god of scholarship. Entering the shrine grounds, we were greeted by many plum blossoms. There were different varieties, and they created a lovely scent of the plum blossoms in the air. There is also section of the grounds where many festival food stalls are set up, selling all sorts of delectable treats.

Budding cherry tree in front with the white of Tokyo Dome behind
Ladies walking in the plus blossom grove at Koishikawa Korakuen
Part of the garden cordoned off

Not to be distracted by the tantalising smell of food, we pressed on and went to Koishikawa Korakuen near Iidabashi. The garden, Koishikawa Korakuen, used to be part of the Tokyo residence of the Mito branch of the ruling Tokugawa family. There is a very calm and peaceful feel about the garden, making it a very lovely place to take a stroll or paint on the garden grounds. The top of Tokyo Dome can also be seen peeping over the trees in the western perimeter, creating a juxtaposition of old versus modern landscapes. There is a plum grove in the northern section of the garden and all of the trees were blossoming already. We also saw retirees sketching and watercolouring beautiful images of the plum blossoms. Note that there is renovation works currently ongoing in Koishikawa Korakuen, with some areas cordoned off, that may affect your enjoyment of the garden and flowers.

The restaurant in Kagurazaka was open for lunch
Dessert at lunch

After lunch in Kagurazaka nearby, we headed to our last garden stop of the day, Shinjuku Gyoen. Shinjuku Gyoen is a large park comprising of three smaller gardens. There are many cherry trees over the park, making it a popular cherry blossom viewing spot. The early blossoming sakura variety, Kanzakura, were in bloom and it was a beautiful sight to see all the pink from the cherry blossoms amidst the green of the other trees around. Unfortunately, Shinjuku Gyoen is also one of the parks affected by the heavy snowfall in early February, with a part of the park closed for maintenance work, and areas around some trees cordoned off where branches have fallen down.

A big kanzakura tree in Shinjuku Gyoen
Buds and cherry blossoms
Cherry blossoms against the blue skies in Shinjuku Gyoen
Broken branches due to heavy snowfall

Finally, to end the day, we went to the newly opened Postal Museum on the 9th floor of Tokyo Skytree Town. Albeit a little small, there were many different exhibits on display. There were a couple of interactive activities you could participate in and the one we found to be the more interesting one was the postal delivery simulation. There are also many red postal boxes dotted around the museum showing the progression of the design. Any letters or postcards posted at the museum would be stamped with the rubber stamp specific to the Postal Museum. Asides from these, there were different postal equipment used in Japan on display as well. This was particularly interesting as it shows the history and evolution of the postal service in Japan. Also, there is a section of the museum showing international postal systems, their postal delivery vehicles and uniform, as well as a large collection of stamps from all around the world.

Mail posted at this post box will be stamped with the special postal museum stamp
Close up of a plum blossom

 
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List of Posts:

2017/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2017
2017/10/25 - The 45th Tokyo Motor Show
2017/10/11 - Dipping into the three onsen towns of Yamanaka, Yamashiro and Katayamazu
2017/07/24 - Remote Riches in Toyama
2017/07/03 - Spiritual Chichibu
2017/05/02 - Fuji Shibazakura Festival
2017/04/14 - Sneak Peek from Ginza Six
2017/03/21 - A bit of everything in Fukui
2017/03/13 - Nikko Toshogu Uncovered
2017/02/15 - Subculture in Ikebukuro
2017/02/07 - Travel to the Goto Islands
2017/02/06 - Nagasaki Lantern Festival

2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/12/19 - Winter Illuminations in Tokyo
2016/10/24 - The way of old on the Kunisaki Peninsula
2016/10/11 - Following the Tadami Line in Oku Aizu
2016/08/27 - Fool's Dance at Koenji Awa Odori
2016/08/16 - The three sacred mountains of Dewa Sanzan
2016/06/20 - Train travel into the Ise-Shima region
2016/04/03 - Setouchi Triennale 2016
2016/03/08 - The hunt for Namahage on the Oga Peninsula
2016/03/02 - Sake Sangria
2016/02/20 - Tokyo Plum Blossom Report
2016/01/26 - Tour de Reinan: Obama, Oi and Takahama
2016/01/25 - Tour de Reinan: Tsuruga, Mihama and Wakasa

2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/10 - 48 hours in Tokushima
2015/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Kankakei
2015/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Korankei
2015/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/10 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Koyasan
2015/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2015/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Dazaifu
2015/10/28 - The 44th Tokyo Motor Show
2015/10/21 - Hirado, where East meets West
2015/10/20 - Kujukushima Islands and Winter Illumination at Huis Ten Bosch
2015/10/19 - Navigating the Christian sites in Nagasaki
2015/10/18 - Cosplay at Haco Stadium Tokyo
2015/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Route 292
2015/09/28 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2015/09/24 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2015/09/16 - Nakanojo Biennale 2015
2015/08/19 - Traditional culture and hot springs of the Aizu Region
2015/08/17 - Nature and Hot Springs at Naruko Onsen
2015/08/04 - Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale 2015
2015/04/30 - Sapporo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/29 - Hakodate Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/23 - Kakunodate Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/22 - Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/21 - Kitakami Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/16 - Sendai Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/09 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/08 - Fukushima Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/06 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/03 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/02 - Nara Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/01 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/31 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/27 - Fukuoka Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/26 - Kumamoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/25 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/15 - Seasonal Illumination: Sendai
2014/12/09 - Seasonal Illumination: Tokyo
2014/12/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa
2014/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Osaka
2014/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Korankei
2014/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2014/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji
2014/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji
2014/10/31 - Autumn Color Report: Karuizawa
2014/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2014/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2014/10/01 - Autumn Color Report: Oze National Park
2014/09/29 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2014/06/19 - Toranomon Hills opens in Tokyo
2014/04/24 - Kitakami Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/23 - Morioka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/22 - Aizu-Wakamatsu Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/16 - Matsumoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/15 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/14 - Yoshino Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/13 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/12 - Kanazawa Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/10 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/06 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/05 - Hiroshima Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/04 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/03 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/02 - Nagoya Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/31 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/26 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/04 - Early Tokyo Blossom Report