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Travel during Golden Week 2019/4/9 13:33
Hi, my family and I are traveling to Japan at the start of Golden Week and I was hoping I could run a few questions by knowledgeable parties before we arrive.

1. I know travel and specifically seating on trains will be very hectic during Golden Week. I plan on purchasing a JR Pass, but I am wondering if it would be advisable to purchase a JR Green Pass so that we would have the option of reserving a seat in the green section if the regular section of a train happens to be booked up?

2. The itinerary right now is:
- 4/26 land in Tokyo from Hong Kong
- 4/27 leave Tokyo and head to our base hotel in Osaka where we will spend 3 nights (4/27 - 4/30) with trips to Nara and Kyoto
-4/30 head up to Aomori to catch the cherry blossoms. I know this will be a very long Shinkansen trip, but my mom would really like to catch the cherry blossoms.
-5/1 return to Tokyo from Aomori and remain in Tokyo until we repart via Narita on 5/4

I know that this is a lot of travel and it'll be exacerbated by traveling during Golden Week, but is this an alright itinerary? The biggest concern is whether or not it's worth the time investment to go from Osaka/Kyoto --> Aomori. I am very open to suggestions on changes/alterations to our itinerary!

3. Would heading to Aomori on 4/30 be alright to catch the cherry blossoms? The forecast seems to project the prime viewing window to be between 4/24 and 5/2. We are open to leaving the Osaka-Kyoto-Nara leg of our trip early if we must to catch the cherry blossoms in Aomori. We are also open to just cancelling the Aomori plans if it's not a viable plan.

Would love to hear your thoughts!
by JapanGW  

Re: Travel during Golden Week 2019/4/10 00:03
There are some Sakura specialists on this forum, but instead of Aomori, you might want to look into places in the Japanese Alps instead.

Option 1:
E.g. per the current forecast Takayama has best viewing from 17th to 25th of April: https://www.japan-guide.com/sakura/ So you could to a tour like:
Day 1: Tokyo
Day 2 (that should be about 27/April, right?) : Takayama (or somewhere else in the Japanese Alps, check out if there are other places, e.g. somewhere in Nagano prefecture).
Day 3: Osaka/Kyoto/Nara, stay there as long as you want
Last days: Tokyo

That would be a much more compact itinerary

Option 2:
Otherwise if you go North, you might want to consider Kakunodate. It is a nice village/town in itself and you can reach it by Shinkansen from Tokyo. Aomori city I dont think is a specially beautiful place. You could actually modify your itinerary and do:
Day 1: Tokyo
Day 2 (or later): Kakunodate
and then continue exploring Tohoku, e.g. by visiting Hiraizumi (instead of Kyoto), maybe Tono or some nice onsen at Towadako?, some more hanami in Kitakami, Nikko (instead of Uji) and then come back to Tokyo and spend the last days in Tokyo (or do all the travel at the end and do Tokyo at the beginning. I.e. in this proposal you would completely skip Kansai and replace it with much less visited, but also nice places in Tohoku area. Just to make your trip more compact.

Option 3:
If with "Aomori" you mean Hirosaki, that would also be a very nice place to see sakura, but it is a long trip from Osaka (or from Tokyo), so you should consider flying from Osaka to Aomori. The good thing about visiting Hirosaki (or Kakunodate) for Hanami is that these places are interesting also regardless of Hanami. So yes, you can enjoy the flowers, but it is not only flowers, there is something for other people in your group as well, or if the weather isn't so nice, you can still do a bit of hanami and then do more "serious " sightseeing.

However I would go to Tohoku only if you can dedicate a few days to it. Tohoku is such a nice area that it would be a pity to just rush there for a few flowers.

And yes, Kyoto and Nara are also very, very nice places (I was in Kyoto this weekend and will likely go again next), but you should take advantage of your trip to Tohoku.

If instead you go the Japanese Alps route, it would be easier to get Tokyo, Kansai and cherry blossoms all in the limited days you have.

Option 4:
As a forth possibility you could do Kitakami as a day trip from Tokyo. A long day trip, but doable. It is about 3 h by Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kitakami, and the good thing is that the Cherry blossoms are very close to the station: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5077.html
Doing it as a day trip has the advantage that you could go a day that the weather is forecasted to be nice. (Although you are going to go during GW, so you need to think of seat reservation as well). Plus if some people of your group don't want to go, you could split and only a few go to Kitakami and others can remain in Tokyo.

So I think there are definitely possibilities how to do hanami at the end of April and combine it with a good visit to Japan.

Enjoy your trip!

by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: Travel during Golden Week 2019/4/10 05:23
Just a quick "real time" update from my daughter who lives in Tokyo.

The cherry blossoms are about done for the season in Tokyo as of April 8. Very few left and none of the expansive blossoms which you might have seen 1-2 weeks ago. They are rapidly blooming towards the north now.

I suspect the end of April or beginning of May might be too late for Aomori...hard to say...

S
by USC4Ever rate this post as useful

Re: Travel during Golden Week 2019/4/10 05:23
Just a quick "real time" update from my daughter who lives in Tokyo.

The cherry blossoms are about done for the season in Tokyo as of April 8. Very few left and none of the expansive blossoms which you might have seen 1-2 weeks ago. They are rapidly blooming towards the north now.

I suspect the end of April or beginning of May might be too late for Aomori...hard to say...

S
by USC4Ever rate this post as useful

Re: Travel during Golden Week 2019/4/10 10:38
@USC4ever Thank you for the head's up! That's unfortunate, but I will try my best to keep myself updated and to choose the city for our Sakura leg of the trip accordingly.

@ LikeBike Thank you so much for the detailed information and suggestions! I had actually looked into Kakunodate and it's definitely a location we would be interested in seeing for the Sakura blossoms, but we do not know what else we would do there and have concerns about potential language barrier problems. I have asked about Kakunodate and have heard that English is a little less prominent there. But we are still open to Kakunodate!

We had actually planned on going to Hirosaki Park in Aomori. It looks beautiful and it seems like there is a great deal to do in Aomori. We know it's a long travel and it makes our itinerary a bit more difficult, but my mom really wishes to see the Sakura and it seems like Aomori is our safest bet. With that being said, your suggestion of going to Kitakami is very interesting, too! It seems like the prime viewing window for Sakura in Kitakami is from 4/22 to 4/29, so we should have time to see the Sakura in Kitakami if the weather permits. I am worried that rain or wind may make the Sakura window for Kitakami actually shorter than that and so I don't feel comfortable making travel plans to switch from Aomori to Kitakami. If we land in Tokyo and the Sakura are still blossoming in Kitakami, we will go to Kitakami. I also think that taking a flight to Aomori is a good idea.

Thank you!
by JapanGW rate this post as useful

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