Watching anime since I was a kid, I have always been fascinated with Japan, especially with the common cherry blossom scenes at school opening ceremonies. To have so many cherry blossoms around you, with petals even flying in the wind, seems magical.
While Japan is not in my upcoming travel plans just yet, I believe it is in my future. Recently, I talked with a friend who studied in Tokyo and she shared with me some beautiful and colorful parks and gardens she has been to in and near Tokyo.
Getting to Tokyo
There are direct flights to Tokyo from Manila. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and Japan Airlines fly to Tokyo. One affordable way to get there is to book a Jetstar flight ticket to Tokyo. I have tried Jetstar before for a domestic flight in Vietnam, and they offered the lowest prices at that time.
You can arrive at either Narita Airport or Haneda Airport, depending on your airline. Haneda is closer to central Tokyo, but both Narita and Haneda airports have public transportation options going to the city center.
The colorful gardens
Once you have settled in Tokyo, you can explore these beautiful gardens and other places in your itinerary.
Kitanomaru Park is like a dream during springtime – rows of cherry blossom trees bloom along the a moat, where you can go boating and bask under a roof of pale pink petals. My friend said that Kitanomaru is perfect for o-hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, a practice common among Japanese, where they usually have a picnic with family or friends under the cherry trees.
The park is also a wild bird sanctuary, with birds feasting on berries from bushes and trees in the park.
For those who want to explore other attractions, inside the park is the Science Museum. For culture lovers, near Kitanomaru Park is the National Museum of Modern Art.
While Kitanomaru Park is most beautiful during springtime, it also has maple and gingko trees whose leaves turn into fiery colors during fall, so this is a beautiful park to visit almost any time of the year.
My friend, who was in Tokyo last year, invited me to visit in springtime. Excited to see Japan’s cherry blossoms for the first time, I looked at tickets and found them too expensive. Perhaps I’ll score a good deal next time. I heard that you can get cheap flights to Japan online promo using travel booking sites like Traveloka, which I already used several times for flights and accommodations. I will check that several months in advance once I’m set on my trip. Hopefully, I will be prepared for cherry blossom season next time!
In the meantime, cherry blossom viewing remains on my bucket list.
Address: Kitanomaru Park 1-1, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo
Entrance fee: Free! Don’t miss boating under the cherry blossom trees, though (800 yen).
How to get there: Kitanomaru Park is accessible via subway. You can take the Tozai, Hanzomon, or Shinjuku subway lines, and get off at Kudanshita Station. From there, it is just a two-minute walk to Tayasumon Gate to Kitanomaru Park.
Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
Koishikawa Korakuen Garden is one of Tokyo’s oldest gardens. It was built during the Edo period between 1603-1867, with construction initiated by the founder of the Mito Tokugawa clan, the feudal lord Yorifusa. His son completed the garden with the help of a Chinese scholar, thus the garden has both Japanese and Chinese scenery, with carefully landscaped ponds, stones, trees, and miniature trees.
This garden is an oasis in the middle of the city, with it just right next to a major landmark, the Tokyo Dome City.
My friend was able to visit during autumn, when the maple trees were all fired up, but Koshikawa Korakuen Garden is also lovely in late winter with its plum blossoms, and with weeping cherry trees during spring.
Address: 1 Chome-6-6 Koraku, Bunkyo City, Tokyo
Entrance fee: 300 yen, but varies with the season
How to get there: Take the JR Chuo line, the Tozai, Yurakucho, the Namboku Tokyo Metro lines, or the Toei Oedo line. Get off at Iidabashi Station. The entrance is a five-minute walk from here.
Ashikaga Flower Park
Springtime in Japan is not just about cherry blossoms. Japan blossoms with other beautiful and colorful flowers, and another popular flower is wisteria, the main attraction in Ashikaga Flower Park.
Located about 1 ½ hours away from Tokyo Ashikaga Flower Park is worth a day trip. It has nine hectares of 350 wisteria, and other colorful blooms. Most beautiful are the wisteria tunnels, where visitors can walk and be surrounded all around with wisteria. These tunnels can extend up to 80 meters. Wisteria comes mostly in pastel colors of pink, lavender, white-lavender and blue.
The best time to come to Ashikaga Flower Park is between April to May, when wisterias are in full bloom.
Aside from the wisteria tunnels, the park also has flower pyramids, domes, and more. Other bright blooms in the park are hydrangea, iris, lilies, rhododendron, and more.
Address: 607 Hasamacho, Ashikaga, Tochigi
Entrance fee: Varies, but highest fee is during spring, which can reach up to 1,700 yen. During off-peak season, entrance can go as low as 300 yen.
How to get there: From Asakusa Station on the Tobu Isesaki Line in Tokyo, ride to Kuki Station, then change to the JR Tohoku Main line. From Oyama Station, change to the JR Ryomo Line, then alight at Ashikaga Flower Station. From here, the park entrance is just a three-minute walk away.
I am sure there are more beautiful flower parks and gardens in Japan, but these ones my friend shared with me already seem like a traveler’s dream. I hope to visit one, if not all, of these one day.
Indeed, Japan is not just about cherry blossoms. While cherry blossoms remain to be Japan’s iconic flowers, there are other colorful ones worth seeing like the wisteria.