Scott's Japan Travel Journal
by Scott, staff writer of

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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2014/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma

As the regular season comes to a close around Tokyo and Kyoto, Schauwecker and I headed out to check out Gunma Prefecture. Located at the base of the mountains about an hour north of Tokyo, the cherry trees around Gunma typically bloom about a week after those in the capital. Two of the prefecture's main cities, Takasaki and Maebashi, are within easy day trip distance and have several nice spots for those that are too late to see the blossoms around Tokyo.

Takasaki lies on the Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo, and is connected by frequent, direct trains that make the trip in about an hour and cost 4410 yen by unreserved seat. Alternatively, it takes about 100 minutes and costs 1940 yen by local trains departing from Tokyo's Ueno Station. Maebashi is located an additional 15 minutes further by local trains on the JR Ryomo Line. All of the trains mentioned above are fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass, JR East Pass and JR Kanto Area Pass.

Takasaki Kannonyama Park
April 9, 2014 - petals starting to fall

Our first stop of the day was to Takasaki Kannonyama Park, a large, forested park in the mountains west of the city center. Its main attraction, and a symbol of the city, is the 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.

There are around 3000 cherry trees around Kannonyama, which are spread out in clusters around the statue, temples, shops, restaurants, roads and trails around the park. There are a few dozen cherry blossoms around the statue itself, which looked as if they were just starting to drop their petals this morning. Another large group of several hundred cherry trees line the slope below the parking lot south of the statue, creating lots of nice spots where you could have a hanami party while looking out over the city below. The blossoms in this area were swirling into cherry blossom storms (hanafubuki) every time the wind picked up.

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

Takasaki Castle Ruins
April 9, 2014 - petals starting to fall

One of the more popular cherry blossom spots in Takasaki is the Castle Ruins Park found at the base of Takasaki City Hall about a 10 minute walk west of Takasaki Station. The park includes the ruins of stone walls and moats that used to be part of a former castle, with about 300 cherry trees planted around the lawns and water. The blossoms along the moats reached full bloom a few days ago and were starting to fall and collect on the surface of the water.

Just next door is Takasaki Park, which offers a lot of open space for hanami parties. The park also has several food stands set up along the walkways selling festival food. Both the castle moats and Takasaki Park be illuminated in the evenings until 22:00.

Maebashi Park
April 9, 2014 - petals starting to fall

Next we drove over to Maebashi, the capital city of Gunma Prefecture. Maebashi is accessible by JR trains in about 80 minutes from Tokyo if you take the Joetsu Shinkansen and transfer at Takasaki, or about 2 hours by regular trains. Either way, it is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

One of Maebashi's cherry blossom spots is Maebashi Park, a large city park located between the Gunma Prefectural Government Building and the Green Dome Stadium. The park is served by several bus lines from Maebashi Station (10 minutes, about 200 yen, roughly 1-2 buses per hour), but can also be reached in a pleasant 30 minute walk.

There are about 200 cherry trees planted around the park and lining the canal that runs along the edge of the grounds. Their petals were starting to fall today and some nice cherry blossom storms (hanafubuki) kicked up as the wind blew through 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 around the northern end of the park.

Shikishima Park
April 9, 2014 - petals starting to fall

Just a short drive from Maebashi Park is Shikishima Park, a large public park that includes some of the prefecture's top sporting facilities, including the home stadium of the Kusatsu Thespa professional soccer team. The park is accessible by bus from Maebashi Station (15 minutes, about 250 yen, 1-2 departures per hour). Alternatively, it is about a 10 minute, 1500 yen taxi ride one way.

Towards the northern end of the expansive grounds are about 300 cherry trees planted over lawns and around a large pond. The area is one of the most pleasant spots for hanami partying, especially with today's nice weather and beautiful blossoms. The petals around the park were also just beginning to fall, and I would expect them to remain nice through the weekend.

Akagi Senbonzakura
April 9, 2014 - approaching full bloom (50-80%)

Finally, our last stop today was the Akagi Senbonzakura, a two kilometer long, cherry tree lined road located about halfway up Mount Akagi to the north of Maebashi. The Senbonzakura has over 1000 cherry trees planted along it that form a beautiful cherry blossom tunnel. There is also a park area with several hundred more cherry trees planted around its lawns and fields of Shibazakura. A sakura festival will be held at the Senbonzakura from April 5-20. During that time food stands will be set up, and the cherry trees will be illuminated until 21:30.

Due to their elevation, the cherry trees in the Senbonzakura tend to be slightly behind the rest of the region and were still approaching full bloom. With the good weather and moderate temperatures forecast for the next few days, they should reach full bloom by this weekend.

Access to the Akagi Senbon is via JR Maebashi Station (about 1.5 hours from Tokyo via Takasaki, fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass), or Tobu Akagi Station (about 105 minutes, 2160 yen by hourly, direct Tobu limited express trains from Asakusa Station, not covered by the Japan Rail Pass). During the festival season, shuttle buses depart from JR Maebashi Station (everyday) and from Akagi Station (weekends only) to the Senbonzakura. The buses take about 1 hour or 30 minutes respectively and cost 1000 yen for a one day pass good for unlimited rides. Bus info can be found here (Japanese only). Alternatively, the park can be reached by taxi (4000-6000 yen one way) or rental car (about 5000 yen per day from either station).

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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