Scott's Japan Travel Journal
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.

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2013/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma

This year's greatly accelerated cherry blossom season around Tokyo has been playing havoc with people's carefully made travel plans. The blossoms around the city are at full bloom as I write this report, so chances are good that you could miss the season entirely if you had made your plans according to the early blooming predictions.

But there are several alternatives for those arriving too late to see the cherry blossoms around Tokyo, such as taking a daytrip to one of the neighboring areas that has a later blooming season. One such area is Gunma Prefecture, where the trees typically bloom a week after those in the capital. Today I paid a visit to the prefecture's two main cities, Takasaki and Maebashi, where the blossoms are currently opening.

Takasaki lies on the Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo. Frequent trains make the trip which takes about an hour and costs 4290 yen by unreserved seat. Alternatively it takes about 100 minutes and costs 1890 yen by local trains departing from Tokyo's Ueno Station. Maebashi is located just an additional 15 minute local train ride by the JR Ryomo Line northeast of Takasaki. All above mentioned trains are covered by the Japan Rail Pass, JR East Pass and JR Kanto Area Pass.

Takasaki Kannonyama Park
March 28, 2013 - opening (10-50%)

One of Takasaki City's popular sightseeing spots is Takasaki Kannonyama Park, a large, forested park in the mountains to the west of the city center. The main attraction of the park and a symbol of Takasaki is a 42 meter high statue of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, which overlooks the city from the top of the mountain. Visitors can enter the statue (9:00-17:00, 300 yen) and climb up to an observation deck inside the statue's chest.

Takasaki Kannonyama Park contains nearly 3000 cherry trees which can be found scattered around the statue, as well as around the temples, shops, restaurants, roads and trails that populate the park. The cherry blossoms around the statue first opened a few days ago, and were about 20% open when I visited this morning. At this rate I would expect them to reach full bloom around Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

Takasaki Kannonyama Park can be reached by Gururin Buses which depart from the west exit of Takasaki Station every 80 minutes. The one way bus ride to the Kannon statue (Byahui Dai-Kannon) takes about 25 minutes and costs 200 yen.

Takasaki Castle Ruins Park
March 28, 2013 - opening (10-50%)

Another popular cherry blossom spot is Takasaki Castle Ruins Park. Located in the center of the city around the Takasaki City Hall, it is very easy to access and only about a 10 minute walk from Takasaki Station. The park is comprised of remnants of the walls and moats that used to be part of a former castle, and has about 300 cherry trees planted along the water. The moats are lit up in the evenings until 22:00.

The blossoms were still opening today and probably won't reach full bloom until early next week. There is also a nice park, simply name Takasaki Park, right next to the castle ruins with a lot of good space for hanami parties. Food stands are set up around Takasaki Park and the park will also be illuminated in the evenings.

Maebashi Park
March 28, 2013 - opening (10-50%)

Next I headed over to Maebashi, the capital city of Gunma Prefecture. One of its nice cherry blossom spots is Maebashi Park, a large city park located between the Gunma Prefectural Capital Building and the Green Dome event center. The park is a pleasant 30 minute walk from Maebashi Station, but is also served by several bus lines that depart from the station (10 minutes, 190 yen, roughly 1-2 buses per hour).

About 200 cherry trees are planted around the park, especially along the canal that runs next to the main road though the grounds. Their blossoms were still opening today, but were looking very nice especially along the moat and along the stone wall that overlooks the rest of the park. There isn't a whole lot of space underneath the trees for hanami parties, but there were several food stands and some very nice looking outdoor restaurants set up to serve visitors instead.

Shikishima Park
March 28, 2013 - opening (10-50%)

Just a few minutes down the road is Shikishima Park, another large public park that is home to many of the prefecture's top sports facilities including the home stadium of the Kusatsu Thespa professional soccer team.

About 300 cherry trees can be found around the park, and many of those are planted over lawns at the north end of the grounds. It is an ideal spot for hanami partying, and several groups were out today enjoying the nice weather. The trees around Shikishima Park were the most advanced of the day, yet were still less than 50% open. At this pace the cherry blossoms around the park could reach full bloom as early as Monday or Tuesday of next week.

Shikishima Park is accessible by bus from Maebashi Station (15 minutes, 240 yen, 1-2 departures per hour). Alternatively, the park is about a 10 minute, 1500 yen taxi ride from the station.

Akagi Senbonzakura
March 28, 2013 - about to open

My final stop today was the Akagi Senbonzakura, located about halfway up Mount Akagi to the north of Maebashi. The Senbonzakura features a two kilometer long road lined with over 1000 cherry trees that form a beautiful cherry blossom tunnel when in bloom. There are also several hundred trees planted around wide lawns and fields of Phlox Moss (Shibazakura). A sakura festival will be held at the Senbonzakura from April 6-21. During that time food stands will be set up, and the cherry trees will be illuminated until 21:30.

The park lies about 500 meters above sea level, and due to the elevation the cherry trees along the Senbonzakura are slightly behind the rest of the region and haven't begun to bloom yet. They looked very close to opening though, and will probably open early next week and reach full bloom around the second week of April.

The Akagi Senbon is not the easiest place to access. The most convenient train stations are JR Maebashi Station and Tobu Akagi Station. Akagi Station can be reached by hourly, direct Tobu limited express trains from Asakusa Station in Tokyo (105 minutes, 2160 yen). Shuttle buses depart from Akagi Station and Maebashi Station to the Senbonzakura on weekends and holidays in April (except for the 6th and 7th). The buses take about 30 minutes and one hour respectively and cost 1000 yen for a one day pass good for unlimited rides.

Unfortunately, the only way to reach the park on all the other days is by taxi or rental car. Taxis cost about 6000 yen one way from JR Maebashi Station or 4000 yen one way from Tobu Akagi Station. A rental car is another option and starts at around 5000 yen for a half day rental.

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List of Posts:
2016/05/13 - Goodbye and Farewell
2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/09 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Osaka
2015/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2015/11/24 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2015/11/11 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2015/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2015/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2015/10/28 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2015/06/23 - Takumi no Waza - Master Craftsmanship of Japan
2015/06/21 - JCI Blending Together Tour
2015/04/30 - Wisterias at the Kawachi Fuji Garden
2015/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2015/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2015/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2015/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2015/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2015/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Okayama
2015/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2015/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2015/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2015/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2015/01/08 - Exploring Tokyo's revitalized Nihonbashi District

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/18 - Seasonal Illumination: Sagamiko Illumillion
2014/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2014/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2014/11/14 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Eiheiji
2014/11/11 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/05/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2014/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2014/04/19 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsushima
2014/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2014/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukushima
2014/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma
2014/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2014/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2014/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2014/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2014/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2014/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2014/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/03/07 - Abeno Harukas
2014/02/13 - Sounkyo Ice Waterfall Festival

2013/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2013
2013/12/11 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2013/12/10 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2013/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2013/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2013/11/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa
2013/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Osaka
2013/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2013/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2013/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko
2013/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko
2013/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2013/10/29 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera
2013/10/28 - Autumn Color Report: Urabandai
2013/10/22 - Autumn Color Report: Gunma
2013/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkodasan
2013/06/01 - Tohoku Rokkonsai 2013
2013/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2013/05/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumae
2013/04/23 - Northern Kanto Flower Report
2013/04/18 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2013/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Mount Fuji
2013/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakone
2013/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Mount Fuji
2013/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma
2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2013/03/24 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2013/03/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2013/03/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2013/03/20 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/02/25 - Tokyo Plum Blossom Report
2013/02/06 - Asahikawa Winter Festival 2013
2013/02/05 - Sapporo Snow Festival 2013

2012/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2012
2012/12/07 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/12/05 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2012/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/27 - Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination 2012
2012/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2012/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Sakurayama
2012/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/11/05 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2012/10/31 - Autumn Color Report: Lake Towada
2012/10/30 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2012/10/22 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2012/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/10/11 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2012/10/10 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2012/07/30 - Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial 2012
2012/05/07 - New Tokyo Buildings
2012/04/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Mount Fuji
2012/04/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yokohama
2012/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2012/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/02/06 - Sapporo Snow Festival
2012/02/05 - Otaru Snow Light Path Festival
2012/02/04 - Sapporo Snow Festival - Preliminary Report
2012/01/23 - Chinese New Year in Yokohama Chinatown

2011/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2011
2011/12/08 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2011/12/05 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/11/30 - Tokyo Motor Show 2011
2011/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/11/22 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Unzen
2011/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kurobe Gorge
2011/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2011/10/07 - Autumn Color Report: Nasu
2011/10/04 - Ceatec Japan 2011
2011/09/27 - Autumn Color Report: Norikura
2011/09/22 - New Kanagawa Museums
2011/05/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2011/05/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2011/04/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kitakami
2011/04/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu
2011/04/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2011/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2011/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2011/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Iwakuni
2011/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2011/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kochi

2010/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2010
2010/11/30 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2010/11/24 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2010/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2010/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Koyasan
2010/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko
2010/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Daisen
2010/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2010/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2010/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2010/09/29 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2010/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2010/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2010/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2010/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nara
2010/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2010/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2010/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo

2009/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2009
2009/12/08 - Tokyo
2009/12/02 - Kamakura
2009/11/27 - Tokyo
2009/11/18 - Tokyo
2009/11/16 - Mount Takao (Takaosan)
2009/10/28 - Mount Fuji
2009/10/21 - Tokyo Motor Show 2009
2009/10/19 - Nikko (2)
2009/10/05 - Nikko
2009/08/07 - Tohoku Sandai Matsuri: Sendai Tanabata
2009/08/06 - Tohoku Sandai Matsuri: Nebuta Matsuri
2009/08/04 - Tohoku Sandai Matsuri: Kanto Matsuri

2009/04/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagano
2009/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2009/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2009/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2009/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Miyajima
2009/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2009/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagasaki
2009/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2009/03/24 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2009/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka

2008/10/29 - Lake Towada
2008/10/21 - Nishizawa Valley
2008/10/03 - Tateyama Alpen Route

2007/09/18 - Kodo One Earth Tour
2007/09/04 - Kusatsu
2007/09/01 - Zi-Pang Concert
2007/08/23 - First Day on the Job