I was always dreaming of going to Japan, but it was one of those far-away, hardly-to-happen-soon dreams. Until I unexpectedly bumped on an unbelievably cheap round-trip ticket from Europe to Tokyo for 320€. I didn’t think twice! 🙂
Planning, preparation blah blah… – we’ll skip that. But I think it is important to say that I bought a Japan Rail pass (JR Pass). It allows you to use the famous Bullet trains (Shinkansen in Japanese) unlimited times in a period of 1 or 2 weeks. The price for one week is around 270€. It might sound expensive, but it really is worth it – fast (260-350 km/hour), always on time, comfortable, totally pays for itself you use it for long distances.
So we took a train – the first destination right after Tokyo airport – Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture.
You ask me why did I go 550 km up almost to Hokkaido?
I’ll try to explain: we arrived in early May, which is the time of the Sakura (cherry trees) blossoming. You have to track the right time because the season of blossoming moves fast across the country (they even have a real-time map to do that). We have already missed it in Tokyo, but we still had a chance catch it there, in Aomori.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure if we should even bother to go so far and I wasn’t expecting much. But I can say now, – it was like a fairy-tale in real life!!
One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life! Just take a look at the pictures! And then, imagine actually being there. (I am not a professional photographer, so you don’t have to worry that the pics are better than the reality. Believe me, it is exactly the opposite!)
Almost all Japanese people all over the country have one week vacation that time (called “Golden week”) specially to enjoy that beauty. And you know how hardworking Japanese people are, so it is must worth it!
These days Japanese people come early in the morning to the sakura park and spend the whole day with their family and friends. They reserve the place like here on the background:
Also, you can eat lots of different kind of stuff, mostly fried, very good, we liked it! And some weird desserts 🙂
There are some “English clubs”, where pupils practice their English (unfortunately, not that many people speak it in the country yet). We talked with these kids a bit, they are very shy and cute!
And apparently, because I have blue eyes, everyone was treating me special and asked me for pictures 😉
We stayed there just for one day, the city is small and cute, but I think it was just perfect, not to ruin the impression of a fairy-tale.
If you have a chance to go there for the blossoming season, do it! It is not touristic, so you will get to feel the real real atmosphere!
If you want to know about Japan, and Tokyo in particular, check out this travel blog. A friend of mine, Debbi wrote a great article about it!
Where to stay in Aomori, Japan:
Luxury ($150 and up) – Lamp no Yado is a serene place with no phone reception in case you really need a break from your work. It has a terrific mountain and river view and numerous onsen (public bath tabs) to choose from. Hakkoda Hotel is a traditional Japanese decor hotel with free-access sauna and hot springs. Both hotels are rated fabulous!
Middle price ($80 to $150) – Hyper Hotels Passage is 5 minutes walk from Aomori Train Station. Their clean and spacious room with an amazing breakfast can be as low as $80 if you book in advance! Kaisenkaku is a great 3* hotel, a type of traditional Japanese Inn that is located just 6 minutes away from the beach – one of the best rated locations in the city.
Budget (less than $80) – Iroha Ryokan offers simple and clean Japanese style rooms just 3 minutes walking from the train station. Toyoko Inn Aomori-eki Shomen-guchi is also literally in front of the train station featuring chargeable massages and free daily Japanese breakfasts.
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