Monday, February 29, 2016

Nagoya : Cherry Blossoms near Yamazaki River

It is almost spring and plum blossoms are a common sight in Japan. Almost everyone in Japan is awaiting the famous Cherry Blossom season. While speaking to my friends about organising Cherry Blossom viewing events this spring, I realised that I had not written much about Cherry Blossoms around Nagoya. Nagoya has three popular spots for Cherry Blossom viewing and Hanami parties- Tsuruma Park, Yamazaki River and Gojo River.  
Yamazaki river flows through a large part of Nagoya, but the Cherry Blossom viewing spot is located in the city's Mizuho ku, close to the Mizuho Undo-jo. 

Hundreds of Cherry Trees along both banks of the river spanning about 2 kms,  along a walking promenade make this a popular spot for locals in the Cherry Blossom viewing season.

While Tsuruma Park is termed as the No 1 spot for Cherry Blossom viewing, I would say Yamazaki river is less crowded and more enjoyable. 

 The Cherry trees are lit up every evening from about 6 pm to 9 pm. The spot attracts visitors both during the day and the evening. 

Nearest subway stations : 
Mizuho Undojo Nishi and Mizuho Kuyakusho Stations on the Sakuradori Subway line or Mizuho Undojo Higashi station on the Meijo Line. 

Parking: Paid parking available at Mizuho Undojo Parking  

Friday, February 26, 2016

Nagoya : Cherry Blossoms in Heiwa Koen

The best part about living in Nagoya is that despite being Japan's 3rd  largest city (and also the 4th most populated city), one doesn't get the feel of being in a concrete jungle. Nagoya, a busy port city and manufacturing hub in central Japan. Barring the business districts near Nagoya station, Marunouchi, Sakae and a couple of other neighborhoods, Nagoya has lots of open spaces and public parks. 

One such neighborhood is the area around the Higashiyama Koen Station in the city's Chikusa ward. Just outside the station on the city's Higashiyama subway line is the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The zoo is one of the oldest and largest in Japan and right in the middle of the city ! 

A short walk from the Higashiyama Zoo is the Heiwa Koen, a large park close to the Heiwa cemetery. 

The park is dedicated to the memory of victims of World War II.
In the 150 hectare public park are various walking trails, open spaces where people can relax and enjoy picnics and barbecues and children can play freely. 
At one end of the park is the Nekogahora ike, a pond said to have existed since the 17th century. 
The park also features the Heiwa do, a Chinese style peace hall monument, a gift from Nagoya's sister city Nanjing.
A statue of the Buddha is enshrined in the Heiwa do. 
Nearby is the Niji-no-toh (Rainbow tower). 
On the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox days the sunlight on top of the tower reflects rainbow colors on the ground.  

The hill top location of Heiwa-do overlooks the Heiwa park and a large part of Nagoya city. 
The JR Nagoya towers, Midland square and other skyscrapers in the city's central Naka district can be seen in the distance in the picture above. 
While the park is visited by locals all through the year, it draws large number of visitors in the Cherry Blossom season in spring. There are about 2250 trees of various kinds of ornamental cherry trees.

It goes without saying that Heiwa koen is one of Nagoya's popular 'Hanami' spots. For those unaware of the term 'Hanami', it is the Japanese tradition of enjoying picnics and parties under cherry blossoms. 
We visited the park very early in the morning and we saw people had reserved their hanami spot and waiting for the rest of their group to arrive perhaps a few hours later!  
It is less crowded compared to the most popular Tsuruma park. Unlike the other popular 'Hanami' spots, there is no illumination at night so the park is best visited during daytime. 

There are various kinds of maple trees, Azaleas, Japanese pines, eucalyptus, magnolia and other trees in the park. 
No wonder various kinds of birds can be seen in the park. Photographers can be seen in the park patiently waiting to capture images of various colorful birds.

Access:  15 minutes walking from the Higashiyama Koen and Hoshigaoka stations on the 
             Higashiyama subway line and Jiyugaoka station on the Meijo line. 
             City buses ply from the Hoshigaoka bus terminal ( bound for Jiyugaoka) and stop
             at Heiwa Koen stop.

Parking: Free parking is available at the park

Entrance: Free

Opening days: Always open 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A visit to Snow covered Shirakawa- go

it has been a while since I have posted anything on the blog. Few things have kept me busy, one of them being studying Japanese and appearing for the JLPT exam. And I can happily announce that I have managed to clear the N3 exam ! Preparing for the exam hasn't kept me away from my passion - travelling ! My family has been making the use of every available opportunity to travel and experience the culture and beauty of this wonderful country. I will be updating this blog more often than I did in the last year, hopefully !

Let me renew my blogging with a post about our recent travel to one of my favorite spots in Japan - Shirakawa Go. Last month we visited the well known UNESCO World Heritage site in the neighboring Gifu prefecture for the second time (the earlier visit had been in summer 2013). Our memory of the place was that of thatched roofed Gashho zukuri houses standing tall among rice fields in the Hida valley. I had written about that visit in a previous post titled Idyllic Shirakawa.   

Our recent visit was in winter when the entire valley was covered in thick snow. The view of the Ogimachi Gassho village from the Tenbodai (viewpoint) on a nearby hillock.
The snow covered Gassho zukuri houses in Ogimachi stood out in the white snow. 

It was a wonderful sight, a contrast from our memory of the place. We took a picture of some Gassho zukuri houses at the same spot as we had taken in our previous visit in summer and when we compared the two pictures the contrast was amazing. Nature never fails to amaze us. 
Even in the cold snowy weather conditions, there was no dearth of tourists and there were many tour groups and tourists were enjoying the sights and playing in the snow.
During January and February, the village is illuminated at night for a couple of hours and this event attracts many visitors. We did not stay back for this as the drive back home late in the night would be difficult due to the snowy driving conditions. 

 As per the news reports, this winter has been slightly warmer compared to other years. And the amount of snowfall has been much less than the average snowfall in the region.  

Paid parking is available at the Seseragi Parking area uphill and free shuttle buses ply visitors between the parking lot and the Ogimachi Gassho zukuri village.

On our way back from Shirakawa go we drove past the Omaki dam and Miboro Dam to enjoy some picturesque views of the snow covered area. 

Even if you have visited Shirakawa go in any of the other seasons, I would definitely recommend a visit in winter. 

Access details and other information are available on my previous post about Shirakawa Go. Click here to read my previous post.