Posted by: jyunbugspeaks | May 19, 2013

Bucket list moment in Japan: Witnessing the awesome Cherry Blossom Festival…in person.

I must say I have always wanted to witness the cherry blossoms in Japan and this year I made it come true, not once but twice!! You see I was planning to see this beautiful moment in Tokyo, Ueno Park to be precise and I am happy to say mission accomplished. The bonus was that on my travels around Japan I got to see the cherry blossoms bloom again in Kyoto. Personally I found Kyoto’s cherry blossom flowers much more beautiful as they were a bright pink (Tokyo’s were white) and jumped out at you against the dark bark of the trees from which they were blooming from. See for yourself. What do you think?

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Cherry blossoms in Ueno Park Tokyo

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Cherry blossoms in Gion, Kyoto

After a gruelling 15 hours on a plane we stumbled to our hotel and after a quick shower,  getting accustomed to the climate (quite cool) and time zone shift (practically a reversal in time from Canada), we managed to hit the town and grab some dinner. We hit a restaurant that is one part udon noodle shop and one part bar with a live band. Also what attracted us to this place was the fantastic IMG_0187IMG_0188IMG_0190IMG_0197

PLASTIC displays of their food. You see in Japan they love to show off their foods in plastic form and it works! Seeing what they offer draws huge lineups and they backed it up with some of the most tastiest udon noodles I’ve had in a long time. After scouring the menu, luckily they had one in english, we got a table and begin to slurp up some fresh, slightly chewy udon noodles and a broth to kill for. After a stroll around our hotel to digest this late meal and trying desperately to beat the onset of jet lag, we couldn’t hold if off any longer and passed out in the hotel with cherry blossoms dancing in our heads.

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The next day we decided to tackle the Tokyo Metro (it is a daunting map of squiggly lines that seem to run in all directions) to get to our destination, as walking would have killed us. With the help of Fodor’s guide we managed to find Ueno station and from there we could walk to Ueno Park. I won’t say much as I will let the photos do the talking for a bit but no photo can do justice to what I witnessed with my own eyes that day. You MUST try to visit Japan during the Cherry Blossom festival, that is all…

IMG_0227IMG_0282IMG_0302IMG_0301 IMG_0317 IMG_0321 IMG_0328Once you get into the park there are many interesting things to do other than observing the Cherry blossoms. You may be asking yourself what pray tell can pry your eyes away from those beautiful cherry blossoms? Why food of course!  There are food stalls everywhere and just like any trip that I’ve been on, food has been an integral part of my experience and Ueno Park did not disappoint.

IMG_0265IMG_0262IMG_0259IMG_0218We immediately got a whiff of BBQ’d squid which we made a bee line to it and it was really good. Plump, moist and very tender these delicious rings disappeared as quickly as we ordered it! We also grabbed some Takoyaki, which are tender morsels of octopus placed in a doughy batter ball and cooked in egg cartoon looking hot plates. Delish!  There were other great things to eat like roasted corn, yaki soba (noodles cooked on a flat top grill with a sweet soya sauce flavour), every kind of meat on a stick (Izakya style) which was a crowd favourite.

Once fully gorged on street food we started to waddle over to a bench to relax but then we noticed in the distance a huge crowd of people were surrounding something. Never to back away from such things the curiosity got the better of us so we walked over to check it out. To our surprise we saw something that we had never seen before….cats in a tree. Yes I said it, cats in a tree. I couldn’t understand it but apparently this is common around the city of Tokyo?! These cats were in a tree in Ueno Park but they have been spotted in Ginza and Shibuya on top of road signs. I kid you not. How do I know this? I actually saw this in our guide-book. Who’s cats are these and why are they chilling in a tree in the middle of a park? So odd but strangely something I would expect in Tokyo….

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Stay tuned for my next post on: My visit to Harajuku: Welcome to crazy town!

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