If you follow me on social media, especially on Instagram, or even if you’re a subscriber to my newsletter (the last one I sent during my trip with “live information”), then you probably already know where I went for my “Japan Spring Vacation 2014”.
Spring is one of my favorite times to travel and I’d love to share my itinerary with you just like in previous years (Winter Vacation 2011/12, Spring 2012, Golden Week 2013). I hope you can find some inspiration and travel tips – or simply enjoy the beauty of Japan with me.
My first destination was Shizuoka Prefecture. Shizuoka is usually one of the first spots in the Chubu / Kanto region where cherry blossoms bloom. If you happen to be in Tokyo in spring, but are disappointed that the cherry blossoms aren’t out yet, I recommend visiting Shizuoka.
Kawazu on the Izu Peninsula has early blooming cherry blossoms from February to early March.
Izu Peninsula – Atami:
As I’ve never been to the Izu Peninsula before, I decided to go there this time – and I started my trip in Atami.
Atami (熱海) is at the northern tip of the beautiful Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture.
I admit that I mainly went there for the castle, but Atami is absolutely worth a visit for many different reasons.
In summer you can go swimming. There’s a nice beach. Atami also has a lot of hot springs. And last but not least it’s the gate to the Izu Peninsula. The Shinkansen stops at Atami, so it’s easily accessible and can get crowded on the weekends or during holidays. However, there weren’t many people while I was there.
The view from the top of Atami Castle is breathtaking.
Please note that Mt. Fuji can’t be seen from there. You’d need a car to get to a much higher elevation.
Izu Peninsula – Izu:
I also decided to go a bit further down the Izu Peninsula. Theoretically you could spend many days there. Your best option is a rental car. But as I had not planned or booked anything beforehand I just travelled by train.
My next destination was the area around Izu Kogen. From the Jogasaki Kaigan Station it’s a pleasant walk down to the Jogasaki Coast. Almost the whole way was full of cherry blossom trees and I had them all for myself. Such a wonderful experience!
The Jogasaki Coast is famous for its rock formations. As you can see you can also take a cruise to get a closer look.
Interesting and extremely large rock formations can be seen from an observation platform near a small light house and suspension bridge. There’s also a roughly 10 km long hiking trail, offering lovely views of the ocean and rock formations.
Another spot of interest is nearby Mt. Omuro.
At the foot of the hill you’ll find the “Sakura no Sato” where a lot of beautiful cherry blossom trees line up.
From above the mountain looks like this. As you can see it is a cone-shaped dormant volcano. You can take a chairlift to get up to the top.
That’s the view you’ll have on top of Mt. Omuro. It isn’t very high, but it’s still the highest peak in the area.
On a clear day you can even see Mt. Fuji.
Just a few steps away from the lift is the Izu Cactus Park, but I wasn’t really interested in visiting.
The cat lover in me couldn’t resist. I had to visit the cat museum (Neko no Hakubutsukan) in Izu.
I’ll be honest. I was very disappointed. The admission fee was quite expensive and apart from a few cute cat items that they had displayed and some real cats you could pet, there was nothing.
But I fell in love with the cat in the photo above! (*___*) I just couldn’t resist those blue eyes.
But as I tend to say, there’s ALWAYS something new to discover in Japan.
This time I went to the “Hamamatsu Flower Park” where you can enjoy colorful tulips and cherry blossoms at the same time.
A very popular destination, I suppose, as it was extremely crowded, but totally worth the visit!
You’re probably color-blind after visiting, but if you like botanical gardens, flower parks or cherry blossoms, this is a MUST-SEE in spring!
Only a short walk or bus ride away from the flower park is “Nukumori no Mori“.
You’ll find a few houses with a café and shops that make you feel like you’ve just fallen right into a Ghibli movie!
It took me many, many frustrating attempts until I managed to take some Mt. Fuji x cherry blossom photos, but I’ve f-i-n-a-l-l-y done it!
The photo above was taken at “Funakoshi Tsutsumi Park” in Shimizu (Shizuoka).
Another popular sightseeing spot in Shimizu is Miho Beach which is famous for its views of Mt. Fuji coupled with pine trees. There’s one special pine tree called “Hagoromo no Matsu” which is said to be over 600 years old!
The region is also famous for tuna, so of course I couldn’t resist and had to try it.
I love raw tuna. It was delicious, but to be honest it just tasted like other raw tuna I’ve eaten. Nothing special about the tuna in Shizuoka, but what do I know, right?
I eventually left Shizuoka Prefecture to do some day trips within the Kanto region.
So, this time I decided to visit Tateyama City (館山市).
Yes, the fact that there’s yet another castle I wanted to see, might have influenced my decision a little.
The view you get from the top of Tateyama Castle is beyond breathtaking and I was in paradise as there were too many of my favorite things in one place: the ocean, sakura and a castle!!
By the way, on a very clear day you can see Mt. Fuji from there.
Another highlight in Tateyama is Gake Kannon (cliff kannon) at Daifuku Temple (大福寺). The panoramic view from up there is almost as great as the one from the castle!
Last but not least there’s a Reclining Buddha statue at Mantoku Temple (萬徳寺). It’s about 16m long and one of the biggest of this kind in the world!
Tokyo and Kanagawa:
I also briefly stopped by in Tokyo to meet friends, but also to FINALLY see Chidorigafuchi (千鳥ヶ淵) near the Imperial Palace.
It’s one of the most picturesque spots in Tokyo for cherry blossoms! Although I’ve seen many things in Japan already, this was truly a highlight!
If you happen to be in Tokyo during cherry blossom season, you NEED to go there!
I also went to yet another cat café. This time it was the popular “Hapineko” in Shibuya.
Luckily I went there with friends, so it wasn’t that boring when we had to wait in line for about an hour to get in. I’ll write about the experience in more detail in a separate blog post, so stay tuned.
And as promised in my newsletter, I quickly dropped by the “Phallus Festival” in Kawasaki (Kanagawa Prefecture).
As you know I went there in 2012. This year it started raining during the parade. I was surprised how popular the festival has become! There were even more people than in 2012 and the majority were foreign tourists.
Japan Spring Vacation 2014 – Conclusion:
To be honest I didn’t really plan anything this time. I wasn’t sure if I would go somewhere at all until the very last minute. So I planned a rough itinerary and booked hotels the night before I left. This is something I can’t recommend unless you have at least some Japan travel experience. Due to bad weather conditions (read: rain) I had to reschedule many times.
All in all it was yet another great spring vacation and I especially liked the Boso and Izu Peninsulas. Highly recommended – not only during spring.
How about your spring vacation?
Did you go anywhere this spring?
Have you been to any of the places I visited this time?
Please let me know in the comments below.