Recently I saw a lot of pictures from Japan showing the start of the cherry blossom season. I actually was so lucky to be able to visit Tokyo last year at exactly full blossom so I was reminiscing and felt like sharing the experience J here are a few throwback memories.
I arrived in Tokyo at the beginning of April last year to visit my friend that was currently completing her internship in Tokyo. I though that’s a one time opportunity to be able to visit someone in Tokyo and bought a plane ticket J After a quick stop over in Dubai I arrived in Japan late at night. I had to catch a train to Yokohama from the airport but unfortunately my plane was delayed so I missed it and found myself sitting on a bus to a destination I wasn’t really sure about… I did make it though in the end thanks to the help of the friendly locals and arrived in a more rural part of Yokohama (if you can ever call it that way in Japan). The apartment of my friend was located conveniently close to Eda Station in Yokohama. Walking to and from the station I could always observe all the houses in the area. I was surprised to actually see houses that were not that huge but something you could also find in Europe! It is a very comfortable and nicely quite area to live in. However, the next day I decided to head to a busier area and was definitely a bit in culture shock at first. So many people squirreling around busily and yes they actually really really like to wear mouth protections (I always thought this was just a stereotype…)! I chose to explore a different suburb in Tokyo each day and was very happy with this decision since I didn’t feel too rushed and could explore each area without loosing too much time on public transportation.
Since it was Sakura season (the Japanese word for cherry blossom) I decided to go to many parks during the days. I really loved seeing how the locals enjoy the nature during this time. It seems like everyone goes outside during this time and many people where actually having a picnic under the trees (called hanami). It seems like such a happy time in Japan! And of course there where many young girls trying to catch the perfect selfie with the cherry blossoms, I also asked a few locals if they could take a picture of me and it was so funny for me how they wanted to motivate me to take crazy posing pictures and be less „boring“ 😀
After getting a short first impression of the town, I met with my friend and she showed me a great sushi spot! The first time I got to eat my beloved sushi in its country of origin! It was very very good!!! However, first I experienced another culture shock. We arrived at the sushi restaurant and waited in line outside. Once it was our turn to sit down the restaurant employee yelled at a very high voice, I guess to welcome us??? Normally Japanese people are always so quite and very unobtrusive so this came at a surprise to me. It happened to me every time I entered a store or restaurant though so I guess this is a common custom but I still didn’t completely understand it 😀 (if anybody knows the reason please let me know) However, back to the sushi! I will try not to make you too jealous but just to tell you one in short: the fish was super fresh and tasty, the rice and nori great and the sauces that were sometimes drizzled over the sushi (spicy mayonnaise) were marvelous as well. Everyone made fun of me for how many times I ate sushi while I was there but it was just too tempting! However, I did not only eat sushi but also many traditional sweets (check out my post “Japan: More than sushi”) and Gyoza. The place were we ate Gyoza (kind of like dumplings filled with many different kinds of meats, fish, cheese…) was actually super traditional. The housemate of my friend introduced us to the restaurant and actually also ordered all our dishes so I was able to have a very unique local experience and really enjoyed the soup dumplings and gyoza!
Besides all the walking around in parks and eating yummy sushi I also explored the area a bit and went to a smaller town called Kamakura for a day trip. Kamakura used to be a city of major importance during the samurai time and is located nicely at the coast. It has an abundance of temples and the (so I was told) largest sitting Buddha in the world. You should beware that quite a lot of tourists go here so best choose a time that is a bit off-season or not at the weekend but I was fine and it was so relaxing to be able to walk along the beach for a while and explore the town. My highlight was the temple with a bamboo forest. I had never seen something similar before and it was marvelous to walk along the small paths in the forest. Additionally, I had the chance to experience a traditionally brewed Matcha tea in a small tea house in the bamboo forest. A truly unique experience.
Next to Tokyo and Kamakura I also explored Yokohama. Yokohama, just as Tokyo, is huge and separated into many different smaller areas which probably resemble a normal European town in size. It has a nice water front area with shopping centers, an amusement park area, restaurants and the cup noodle museum. Especially in the evening it was very nice and we decided to have our own little hanami with a few beers under the gorgeous cherry blossom trees!
On my last day I decided to head to the obligatory Asakusa temple and was actually so lucky to be there on the day of Buddha’s birthday. Everything was decorated beautifully and there were so many people celebrating. The temple is truly beautiful and also has a nice garden-style backyard area with a wooden tower and a koi fish pond. Afterwards I headed to the area close to the local fish market (Tsukiji) where you have a great view on the skyline.
Overall I really enjoyed my time in Japan and would definitely come back any time. My favorite spots probably were Shinjuku Gyoen, Hikarie Shibuya, Shibuya crossing (you have a great view from the starbucks), the bamboo forest in Kamakura, the water front in Yokohama and eating just about any spot were I could eat sushi, sweets and gyoza.
Shinjuku Garden: https://www.env.go.jp/garden/shinjukugyoen/english/2_guide/map.html
Hikarie Shibuya, shopping center and food court: http://www.hikarie.jp/en/
Cup noodles museum in Yokohama: http://www.cupnoodles-museum.jp/english/index.html#