Cherry Blossom Viewing in Osaka.

Spring is here, the blue sky, the warm weather and in Japan where I currently am, the pretty pink cherry blossoms have bloomed. Once you see the pictures you will understand why it is our favourite season. There is something special when you see the blossoms for the first time. There is a sense of warmth that fills your body.

Luckily you can see the blossoms anywhere in Japan. They start blooming in the Southern part of Kyushu sweeping across the country throughout April. People tune into the nightly news to listen for the best time to view the blossoms in their local area.

Originally only aristocracy and feudal lords would participate in the cherry blossom viewing parties otherwise known in Japanese as Hanami.  The common people started to take part after the 8th Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimue  planted trees along the Sumido River in Tokyo.

Families, friends, company employees all have parties under the cherry blossom trees. In the popular places, people arrive in the early hours of the morning to save a spot for everyone to enjoy the party and enjoy they do.  This is the time when they let down their hair, drink and become merry, sometimes drink  to oblivion.

Food is usually brought from home and shared amongst the party guests or meat, vegetables, okonomiyaki or yaki soba are grilled on hot plates similar to a BBQ. Portable karaoke machines are sometimes brought so everyone can sing the latest songs or enka traditional Japanese music popular amongst older people.

We are currently in Osaka and will tell you the best places to view them.

Osaka Mint Bureau

This is the most famous place in Osaka for viewing cherry blossoms. The mint has the largest variety of trees with 100 varieties amongst the 300 trees that are for viewing. The blossoms bloom slightly later here because of the late-blooming yae-zakura trees.

This years viewing period is scheduled from April 11th-April 17th. Opening 10am to 9pm. Weekends from 9am.

To see the cherry blossoms it is a ten minute walk from Temmabashi station.  Free admission.

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Osaka Castle Park

This would be the most common place for people to view the cherry blossoms. Over 4000 trees have been planted in the park. The castle makes a perfect backdrop to the blossoms, making it a great place for photography. They light up Nishinomaru garden.

Free entry except for Nishinomaru Garden.

Nishinomaru garden open from 9.00 to 20.00

200 yen day time.

500 yen light up

illumination from March 29th to April 17th

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Expo Park

Expo Park was home to the 1970 World Expo since then it has been turned into a large park with over 5000 trees line the paths and its lawned areas. This used to be near where we lived so we would often visited this great park which also has a traditional Japanese garden, ethnology museum and home to a professional soccer team.

To enter the park costs 250 yen whether it is cherry blossom season or not.

take the monorail and get off at Banpaku Kinen Koen station.

There is also a light up in the evenings from March 29th to April 13th

illumination from 18.00 -21.00

The park is open from 9.30-17.00

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Kema Sakuranomiya Park

This is the most picturesque place to view cherry blossoms as the blossoms stretch for several kilometers along the Okawa river. 5000 trees line the promenade making for a beautiful walk or they can be seen from boats that cruise the river. Osaka Castle can also be seen from here.

To view the blossoms take the JR loop line to Sakuranomiya station.  Illuminated till 22.00 during blooming periods.

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Each year the dates change. These dates are for 2014.

 

Have you seen the cherry blossoms in Japan?. We would love to hear what you thought of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The force of Naruto whirlpools, Tokushima, Japan

Located in the north east of Tokushima on the island of Shikoku lies a small town called Naruto. Naruto is famous for its swirling whirlpools that just happens to be the fourth strongest in the world that can reach up to 20 metres in diameter. Having never seen a whirlpool except for the powerful vortex that forms whenever I pull the plug out of bathtub. I was looking forward to witness the force of these whirlpools, though I had heard from many people that they can be rather disappointing if you don’t come at the right time.

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The best time to see the whirlpools are at the change of tides when it moves a large volume of water into the Inland Sea. Naruto and Awaji Island are seperated by a width of 1.3 kilometres. The strait is one of the connections between the Pacific Ocean and the Inland Sea. Due to the narrowness of the strait, the water rushes through the Naruto Channel, forming the whirlpools.

From the Renaisance Hotel we took a taxi up to the whirlpools passing the Otsuka museum of Art ,as well as the dock where the boats venture out into the channel and travel under the Naruto-Ohashi bridge to inspect the whirlpools up close.Whirlpools have been known to kill unlucky seafarers but their power tends to be exaggerated as there are no stories of large ships being sucked into a whirlpool.

Arriving at the whirlpools, the signs showed best viewing times. On the day that we were there the best times to observe the whirlpools were 9.30am and 16.30 pm, with two hours to wait we thought it would be good to walk around Naruto Park. The area had a few souvenier stalls attended by elderly women selling tacky souveniers as well as a museum about whirlpools throughout the world. The museum was quite interesting but if you don’t know Japanese it wouldn’t be worth the entrance fee as there are no signs in English.

While walking around outside we saw a sign Cha- En, a traditional tea house located 300 metres up the hill. We wandered up to where we thought it would be but there was no tea house instead there was a sparse open, manicured lawn overlooking Naruto Ohashi bridge, Awaji Island and the gushing water flowing in under the bridge, even from this distance you could tell the velocity of the water was extremely powerful. The view was spectacular and I could only imagine what it would have been like centuries ago when the tea house was standing there.

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Standing in the chilled air but still a bright blue sky we wandered down to the bridge which had been built with a pedestrian platform underneath for people to get a close up look of the whirlpools 45 metres below. The taxi driver had told us that it would be cold up here, he wasn’t exaggerating with the wind whipping against our face and the cars pounding the bridge from above. The bridge expecting to last 100 years is capable of sustaining the force of an earthquake to a level of eight on the richterscale, that history shows occurs once or twice a century.

As we walked along the bridge after about 100 metres, came the first glass panel to observe the water. Looking through the panel, my stomache felt squirmy filled with nerves watching the water crash against the rocks and the shore. Walking further along, the panels came more frequently until we came to a closed off area where you could walk no further. The panels before had only been a small squared window, now the whole area was a panel covering a space of 15-20 squared metres right over the centre of where the whirlpools occur. The ferocity of the water swirled at amazing speeds it was unlike any bathtub I had seen before, even though the whirlpools that we saw were probably only five to ten metres in diameter, the sheer force of the water, the power of nature that is formed without any help from humans left me in silence while people moved around trying to find the best spots when a whirlpool would appear.

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I just squatted peering through the panel taking everything in, watching the whirlpools form. Man can destroy forests, pollute water and air but one thing they can’t destroy are these whirlpools. As we were leaving I walked to the edge and looked out between the wire and watched a boat carrying tourists to get a close up of the whirlpools. I stood knowing that boats had never been sucked into the pools below but it still made me stand and watch, luckily for the passengers they too were not to be the first to be sucked into the whirlpools.

Whirlpool information

The whirlpools occur twice a day usually in the morning and afternoon. The day we were there the best viewing times were 9.30 and 16.20.

You can get close to the whirlpools by taking a glass bottom boat for a 20 minute viewing of the whirlpools for 1500 yen.

We only walked on the bridge which still offer great views. 500 yen

whirlpool museum 600 yen.

A bus runs once an hour from Naruto station takes about 15- 20 minutes.

Have you seen the whirlpools of Naruto?

Japanese and their insects

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Another year, another Summer, they are back bigger stronger and meaner than ever

You know that the Summer is truly here once the rainy season ends in Japan not only does the temperature soar to 36- 38 degrees everyday, that’s not the worst of it for us fathers over here in Japan. The worst is when the children hear the first sounds of the cicada screaming their lungs out trying to attract a mate for the very first time this Summer. Continue reading “Japanese and their insects”