Staff Reports
Sean's Japan Travel Journal
by Sean, staff writer of japan-guide.com

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2013/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma

View from the observation deck at the Gunma Prefectural Office: Maebashi Park (bottom left), Mount Akagi (top right)

The two biggest cities in Gunma Prefecture are the transport hub Takasaki and the prefectural capital Maebashi. The cities are about 60 to 90 minutes by train north of Tokyo, and both have some excellent cherry blossom spots to offer.

In recent weeks we have been introducing Gunma as an alternative for those who arrive in Tokyo expecting to see cherry blossoms but are taken by surprise by the early season this year. The word "alternative" seems to suggest something inferior, but based on what I observed today, the cherry blossom spots in Gunma by no means pale in comparison to some popular locations in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Locations introduced hereon are best accessed from Takasaki and Maebashi stations. The fastest way to get to Takasaki is via the Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo Station (about 55 minutes, 4500 yen, frequent departures). Maebashi can be reached from Takasaki by trains on the JR Ryomo Line (15 minutes, 190 yen, 3-4 trains per hour). The trains are fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass, JR East Pass and JR Kanto Area Pass.

Takasaki Kannonyama Park
April 4, 2013 - full bloom

Takasaki Kannonyama Park is a large, forested park in the mountains to the west of the city center. At the center of attraction is a magnificent 42 meter high statue of Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. Yesterday's rain must have caused some petals to fall prematurely, but today I still found the many cherry trees around the park grounds in full bloom. Unfortunately strong winds and rain are predicted for this coming weekend; therefore tomorrow might be the last chance to catch the best views at the park.

Access: Take the Gururin Bus from the west exit of Takasaki Station and stop at the Byakui Kannon-mae bus stop (白衣観音前, 25 minutes, 200 yen, departures every 80 minutes).

Cherry trees close to the parking lot east of the great Kannon statue
Blossoms in full bloom
Awesome White Robe Kannon statue

Takasaki Castle Ruins Park
April 4, 2013 - full bloom

Absolutely stunning. The Takasaki Castle Ruins Park is not exactly the biggest, nor does it have the most cherry trees at a count of about 300, but the trees were seemingly planted at strategic spots to produce impressions like a well-choreographed dance routine. There were a noticeable number of petals falling, but not quite enough to disrupt the brilliant cherry blossom views yet.

Access: about a 10 minute walk west of Takasaki Station.

Lots of open space for cherry blossom viewing parties
Cherry blossoms by a lantern
Nice view in the mirror
Yesterday's rain caused many petals to fall prematurely

Maebashi Park
April 4, 2013 - full bloom

Maebashi Park is located just beside the Gunma Prefectural Office Building, where there is an observation deck on the 32nd story which provides great views of Maebashi City (admission free). Today I found the couple of hundred cherry trees at the park to be at full bloom, albeit having lost some petals to yesterday's rain. However, again, with a wet weekend lurking, I am not optimistic that the best views here will survive into Monday.

Access: a 30 minute walk from Maebashi Station. The park is also served by several bus lines that depart from the station (10 minutes, 190 yen, roughly 1-2 buses per hour).

Many were having their cherry blossom watching parties on the wide lawn. Gunma Prefectural Office Building (left)
Blossoms in bloom but past their absolute peak
Canal by the park

Shikishima Park
April 4, 2013 - full bloom

Two kilometers north of Maebashi Park 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.

Today many were at the park having barbecues, riding leisure boats, and enjoying the cherry blossoms. I had a great time too watching the ducks swim by and photographing the nice flowers. The state of the blossoms here was similar to that of the previous locations.

Acces: take a 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. It can also be reached from Maebashi Park in a 30 minute walk.

Shikishima Park
Close up on some cherry blossoms
The couple of yaebeni weeping cherry trees at the park have also reached full bloom

Akagi Senbonzakura
April 4, 2013 - full bloom

Akagi Senbonzakura is located about halfway up Mount Akagi to the north of Maebashi. It features a two kilometer long road lined with over 1000 cherry trees that form a beautiful cherry blossom tunnel when in bloom. The park lies about 500 meters above sea level and due to its elevation cherry blossoms here tend to bloom later than those at the above mentioned spots.

Today, I found the trees to be just about at the 80% mark. I overheard a conversation remarking how much progress the cherry blossoms here had made in a day, as the trees had barely been flowering yet yesterday. This means that tomorrow the cherry trees at Akagi Senbozakura will probably be at their best, and unfortunately they are in for a head-on collision with the bad weather over the weekend. This spot has the best chance among those that I have visited today to retain pleasant views into Monday.

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 starts at around 5000 yen for a half day rental.

Wide lawns and fields of Phlox Moss (Shibazakura)

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List of Posts:
2014/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2014/05/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumae
2014/04/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2014/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takato
2014/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2014/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2014/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hikone
2014/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsuyama
2014/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2014/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2014/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/03/06 - Shopping around Northern Osaka
2014/01/23 - Nikko in Winter

2013/12/31 - Sean's Travel Highlights 2013
2013/12/06 - Kamakura Report
2013/11/26 - Tokyo Report
2013/11/22 - Kyoto Report
2013/11/21 - Miyajima Report
2013/11/19 - Korankei Report
2013/11/18 - Kyoto Report
2013/11/11 - Sakurayama Report
2013/11/08 - Karuizawa Report
2013/10/29 - Nikko Report
2013/10/18 - Nasu Report
2013/10/17 - Nikko Report
2013/10/14 - Mount Fuji Report
2013/10/10 - Oze Report
2013/09/27 - Alpine Route Report
2013/09/13 - Nakanojo Biennale 2013
2013/08/07 - Exploring Tokyo 2: Around the Tokyo Imperial Palace
2013/05/20 - Tottori Sand Museum 2013
2013/05/07 - Fuji Shibazakura Festival
2013/05/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2013/05/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2013/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kitakami
2013/04/23 - Northern Kanto Flower Report
2013/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takayama
2013/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumoto
2013/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2013/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2013/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma
2013/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2013/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/03/31 - Visiting Shodoshima for the Setouchi Triennale 2013
2013/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2013/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/12 - Tokyo Early Cherry Blossom Report
2013/02/17 - Tokamachi Snow Festival
2013/02/16 - Zao Snow Monster Report
2013/02/15 - Yokote Kamakura Festival
2013/01/10 - Winter Visit to Manza Onsen
2013/01/02 - Tokyo New Year Report

2012/12/31 - Sean's Travel Highlights 2012
2012/12/11 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Takaosan
2012/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Shosenkyo
2012/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera
2012/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Naruko
2012/11/05 - Autumn Color Report: Hiraizumi
2012/11/01 - Autumn Color Report: Kuju
2012/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Minakami
2012/10/24 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Norikura
2012/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2012/10/09 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Route 292
2012/09/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2012/09/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kogen Onsen
2012/09/26 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2012/09/17 - Exploring Tokyo: Gate Bridge
2012/08/20 - Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2012
2012/06/27 - Hiking at Mount Azuma
2012/06/18 - Legoland Discovery Center opens in Odaiba
2012/06/18 - Hydrangea Flowers in Kamakura
2012/06/04 - Tokyo Skytree
2012/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sapporo
2012/05/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2012/05/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2012/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2012/04/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kitakami
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiraizumi
2012/04/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2012/04/24 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukushima
2012/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2012/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2012/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2012/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2012/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2012/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2012/03/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/03/08 - Plum Blossom Report from Kairakuen, Mito
2012/03/07 - Trip to Iwaki, Fukushima
2012/02/21 - Plum Blossom Report from Tokyo
2012/01/30 - Skiing in Inawashiro, Fukushima
2012/01/27 - Kusatsu Hot Springs