by Scott, staff writer of japan-guide.com
This journal is a log of my travels within Japan. Here you'll find my personal opinions on the places I've been and the things I've seen. Also expect to see the occasional review and editorial. Thanks for reading.
2011/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kochi
Today I met up with Schauwecker in southern Shikoku to check out the cherry blossoms around Kochi City. Although Schauwecker has been on the road for a few days now, I was looking forward to getting out on what was to be both my first cherry blossom report of the season and my first visit to Kochi.
Kochi is typically one of the first places in Japan where the somei yoshino cherry trees begin to blossom. This year was no exception as the first blossoms were recorded in the city on March 22nd; however, for the record, Kochi didn't have the earliest cherry blossoms this year as it was beaten out by Shizuoka City, Uwashima City in Ehime Prefecture and Kumamoto City, which each had earlier than average openings. Now under normal circumstances it takes about a week between opening (kaika) and full bloom, so I was looking forward to seeing tons of beautiful cherry trees in full bloom on this trip. That may have been a little optimistic...
March 30, 2011 - just opened (0-10%)
Our first stop of the day took us to Kagamino Koen, a public park located just outside Kochi City next to the Kochi University of Technology. The park is considered one of Japan's top 100 cherry blossom spots, and features a few hundred cherry trees planted along a walking path that traces the border between the park and the university. The trees form walls of cherry blossoms and their branches overhang the path creating a sort of cherry blossom tunnel that reminded me of Ueno Park in Tokyo.
Today however, the cherry trees were nowhere near full bloom and only had around 10% of their blossoms open. It looks like it will be at least a few more days, perhaps even a week, before the cherry trees reach full bloom here. On the other hand, you can probably expect Kagamino Koen to get very crowded over the next few weekends as the blossoms begin to fill out.
The visit did have a bit of a silver lining though, as we found a stand of early blooming cherry trees (we think they might be kanzakura cherry trees) around the university parking lot. The trees were in full bloom, and their beautiful dark pink blossoms renewed our optimism for what the rest of the day would bring.
Makino Botanical Garden
March 30, 2011 - from "still closed" to "beyond the peak" and everything in between
The next stop on our trip was to the Makino Botanical Garden on Mount Godaisan, a small mountain which overlooks Kochi City from the southeast. This is definitely one of Japan's best botanical gardens, as it combines attractive museums and exhibition halls designed by modern architect Naito Hiroshi with a variety of different botanical interests that vary from manicured flower gardens decorated with landscape art, wooden decks and fountains, to more natural habitats filled with native plants and trees and threaded with hiking trails and footpaths.
Unlike most cherry blossom spots, the botanical gardens don't try to overwhelm you with volumes of cherry blossoms all blooming at once. Instead there are a large variety of cherry trees scattered around the different areas of the gardens giving visitors a chance to see many kinds of trees and in more natural settings. The variety of trees also means that the gardens have a longer season than is typical. Currently they are somewhere around mid-season with some trees not yet beginning to open while others have already dropped their petals.
March 30, 2011 - opening (10-50%)
Most of the castle's cherry trees are located in the Ninomaru and Sannomaru (2nd and 3rd courtyards) found high up on the castle grounds up near the keep. While the blossoms around the castle were approaching 50% open, we were a little surprised that they hadn't yet reached full bloom. Instead it will be a few more days before they fully open, and I think there is a good chance that they will be at their best around the beginning of next week.