Travel

Spring in Japan: My trips in 2012

Spring in Japan is one of my favorite times to travel!

I’ve done 2 major trips (5 days to Kanto / Chubu in April and 9 days to Tohoku / Hokkaido in May) and several day trips all around Honshu.
Here’s a small preview of it! Enjoy~smilie

Golden Week vacation in May 2012:

It was the first time in 5 years that I had Golden Week off! smilie
Golden Week consists of a few consecutive national holidays and thus is the most favorite time for traveling among Japanese people.
Hotels, trains etc. everything is more expensive and immediately booked out during that season.
Yet I decided to take that challenge – and it wasn’t as bad as expected, really! I didn’t even take reserved Shinkansen tickets (I never do) and yet got to sit all the time! smilie

This time I went to Tohoku and Hokkaido.
I’ve been to Tohoku only once (Fukushima and Miyagi Prefectures) in 2008, many years before the Great Earthquake and Tsunami hit.
I wanted to explore the rest of Tohoku and FINALLY set foot on Hokkaido.

With that trip finished I have now visited* 41 of 47 prefectures. 6 more to go! smilie
(*UPDATE: I’ve been to ALL 47 Japanese prefectures now)

I was quite unlucky with the weather during all of my recent trips. I got hit by a typhoon every single time. Had to spend time in the cold completely soaked. Spent the nights using a hair dryer to dry my clothes and shoes instead of sleeping. smilie
There was even a tornado smilie nearby during my last vacation. Maybe you’ve heard about it on the news?? Crazy weather!

Anyways, despite the horrible weather I didn’t give up. I was out in the middle of a typhoon to take photos, only worrying about my camera, but not me.
Several times got stuck at stations because trains decided to stop running due to strong winds and rain.
I do not wish that bad luck to anyone when traveling here in Japan!!

Enough of my blabbering, let’s have a look at some photos!~

Spring in Japan: Baseball Game and Cherry Blossoms in Yamagata

Yamagata Prefecture

At first I went to Yamagata Prefecture. Yamagata City has a nice castle park with many cherry blossoms.
As it is very cold in Tohoku compared to the rest of Japan, cherry blossoms usually bloom at the end of April / beginning of May, so I came just at the right time!
There was also a high school baseball game going on, on the castle park grounds!

Spring in Japan: Yamadera in Yamagata

Very close to Yamagata City is the famous Yamadera (山寺) which literally just means mountain temple and that’s exactly what it is! Only that there are various bigger and smaller temple facilities on the mountain.

Spring in Japan: Kaminoyama Castle in Yamagata

Also very close to Yamagata City is Kaminoyama City which is famous for onsen (hot spa) and on top of that has quite a nice little castle.

Spring in Japan: Cat Island, Manga Island, Tashirojima after the tsunami

Miyagi Prefecture

I went to Tashirojima, also known as Cat Island which was hit really hard by the tsunami in 2011!
I always wanted to go but after the tsunami hit it was so difficult to find any information in English OR Japanese about the condition of the island.
I was able to find out that the people and cats are still alive, but that was about it.
Now I was able to confirm with my own eyes what’s going on there.

In the photo above you see one of the small “houses” of “Manga Island”. You can stay in those.

Spring in Japan: cats of Cat Island, Tashirojima after the tsunami

Well, apart from all that you mainly go to Cat Island for all the cats, of course!! And they were all happy and genki!!

Spring in Japan: Ishinomaki in Miyagi was hit hard by the tsunami

Ishinomaki City was one of the areas that was hit the hardest by the tsunami. If you want to visit Cat Island that’s where you start from. From there you’ll take a ferry.
After I came back from Cat Island I had some spare time so I walked around the coast to see nothing but devastation!!
It’s been over a year since the tsunami hit, but you think it was yesterday when you look around!
It was HORRIBLE!! smilie

Spring in Japan: Ishinomaki in Miyagi was hit hard by the tsunami

Many houses are still left the way they were when the tsunami hit. Laundry still hanging, plates with food on it etc.
Of course it also stank like hell! I felt like throwing up while taking the photos. Not because of the smell, but because I realized how HORRIBLE it must have been. :(

Spring in Japan: Ishinomaki in Miyagi was hit hard by the tsunami

It’s also dangerous to go too close to those houses, I guess. They look like they could fall apart any minute.
I think one reason is that there’s not enough money to take care of the houses. Another problem is that there’s no space to put the trash.
There were already HUGE piles of garbage around from the leftovers of the tsunami anyways.
At least the houses were still there. Next to many houses you only saw the foundation. Whole houses were gone!
Some big ship was still hanging between houses!

Yet the city hasn’t given up!! Everywhere banners that say “Ganbarou!” “Hang in there!smilie
I saw messages of people from all over Japan wishing the people of Ishinomaki all the best. Truly moving!
Japanese people were very happy to see me, a foreigner, there. Obviously ever since the tsunami hit not many foreign tourists dared to come.

 

Spring in Japan: Castle Park in Akita

Akita Prefecture

Next I went to Akita Prefecture. Akita City has another nice castle park. I was fascinated by the pond full of cherry blossom petals!

Spring in Japan: Cherry blossoms in Kakunodate, Akita

Kakunodate is a quite famous cherry blossom viewing spot in Tohoku, yet not the most popular.
Luckily the Yoshino Somei cherry blossoms were at full bloom at that time.
The weeping cherry trees Kakounodate is famous for were already finished :(

Spring in Japan: Hanafubuki, cherry blossom blizzard in Kakunodate

At least I got to see some more awesome Hanafubuki there!

 

Spring in Japan: Osorezan, Mt. Osora in Shimokita, Aomori

Aomori Prefecture

The day the strong rain hit I went to Osorezan (Mt. Osore, a volcano) on the Shimokita peninsula in Aomori Prefecture.
It’s truly a holy and beautiful place and along with Mt. Koya in Wakayama Prefecture and Mt. Hiei in Kyoto is ranked as one of the 3 most sacred places in Japan!!
You can only visit from May to October which makes it even more special!

Spring in Japan: soaked cherry blossoms

After the strong rain and wind hit Tohoku the weather stayed horrible for the rest of my vacation. smilie
At least there was one positive thing about it! Beautiful soaked flowers everywhere!!

Spring in Japan: Ne Castle, Hachinohe, Aomori

Next destination was Aomori Prefecture. In the picture you see Ne Castle in Hachinohe.

Nebuta Lanterns of Aomori

Aomori and Hirosaki are famous for their great Nebuta and Neputa festivals (more details in the actual blog post) where they use huge lanterns. They were truly impressive!

Spring in Japan: Hirosaki Castle, Aomori

Hirosaki Castle Park in Aomori Prefecture is ONE of the most POPULAR cherry blossom viewing spots in WHOLE Japan!!! So, there were millions of people, but the weather wasn’t on our side.
I wasn’t very impressed of Hirosaki. It was rainy and dark the whole time.

Spring in Japan: Hirosaki Castle Park, Aomori

Nobody took a boat tour in the cherry blossom filled castle moat. I can imagine how wonderful it must be in good weather!

Japanese temple or shrine seal

At least I got some more seals in my temple / shrine seal book!! I’m in the middle of my second book right now and I only started 16 months ago!

 

Spring in Japan: Matsumae Castle, Hokkaido

Off to Hokkaido

From Aomori Prefecture it’s really not far to Hokkaido anymore, so I took the chance and went there.
You’ll go there via an underwater tunnel. Pretty cool!
The weather was still horrible, so I decided to take a 6h (round trip) bus ride to visit Matsumae Castle, “near” Hakodate City.

Spring in Japan: Night view from Mt. Hakodate, Hokkaido

It was a miracle but it cleared up that night and I was able to see one of the so-called “million dollar night views“!
The night view from Mt. Hakodate is not only said to be one of the best in Japan, but also in the world.

Spring in Japan: Night view from Mt. Hakodate, Hokkaido

And the moon paid a short visit as well. I simply love that photo!

Spring in Japan: Fort Goryokaku, Hakodate

Fort Goryokaku, Japan’s first Western style fortress, in Hakodate. It’s star-shaped and has hundreds of cherry blossoms trees.
The day started sunny but turned out to be rainy again.

Spring in Japan: Catholic Church in Hakodate, Hokkaido

Hakodate is actually very similar to Yokohama and Kobe. The city has a lot of foreign houses and also churches as the port was opened for foreigners a long time ago.

 

Spring in Japan: Morioka Castle Ruins, Iwate Spring in Japan: Takkoku no Iwaya in Hiraizumi, Iwate

Iwate Prefecture

On my last day I finally got some nice weather again, but only for the first half of the day.
Left: Morioka Castle ruins in Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture.
Right: Takkoku no Iwaya, Bishamondo in Hiraizumi City, Iwate Prefecture

And that was my most recent vacation!

Don’t forget to hit the PAGE 2 BUTTON right now!!!!! smilie

40 Comments

  • It looks like an awesome trip. I have lived in Sendai for a few years now, and I haven’t gone to as many places as you did on that trip.

    I went to Kakunodate a few years ago, but I did not know it was a place to see cherry blossoms. I will have to visit there next year.

    • Really?
      Well, I’m kind of crazy about traveling, so you don’t have to compare, but I’d love to live up there and explore Tohoku some more! There are still so many great things I want to see!
      In autumn it must be heaven?!

      Kakunodate is quite popular in spring, but if you live in Tohoku anyways, I’d go to Hirosaki instead if I were you! :D

      • Hirosaki is awesome in the summer. Remember a few years ago when August was so hot? It was nice up in Aomori.

        I think Kakunodate would be good for me since my in-laws live in Iwate, so it would be a hop over the mountains to get there. Aomori is a little farther – but still a nice drive.

  • Whoahh!!! I’m loaded with your many beautiful photos. It’s as if I’ve seen the places myself, too. You really know which nice palces to go. :thumbup:

    Your blog is a very good source of information for people who wants to travel around Japan like me. Thank you for sharing your experiences to awesome places.

    I never knew there’s a Buddha statue bigger than the ones in Todaiji or Kamakura.

    I love Yokohama’s night view so much that I had to stop by there even just for a few minutes when I went to Kamakura last time.

    Your manekineko stuffs are cute. :fan: I’m into discovering new flavors of KitKat, too. :shiawase: But my first love is still the matcha flavor. :kyah:

    • Woah! Thank you so much!!
      Being a travel inspiration for others is exactly what I want, so I’m glad you see it that way! :hearts:

      You know there are SO MANY awesome places out there that people simply don’t know about although they are worth visiting – much more thand the “standard” destinations such as Kyoto or Tokyo, so I want to share that with other people and hopefully get them interested in those other places, too! :luvit:

      Well, they seem to differenciate here quite a lot!
      Todaiji’s is INSIDE, Kamakura’s is OUTSIDE so they wouldn’t fall in the same category anyways.
      I thought I had seen the biggest Buddha statue quite a few times already as it was also written there “Japan’s Biggest Buddha Statue …” – but I forgot to read the smaller printed letters such as “biggest sitting statue that is situated outside” etc.
      Confusing! :hihi:

      To be honest I’m not really a fan of all the KitKat flavors. Most of the time I’m just disappointed, so I stopped trying them all. The only exception I make is when I travel and find some “limited to xy area” stuff! :ehehe:

  • Lots of beautiful photos, as usual! You collect castles as I collect gardens…

    I am looking forward to your pictures of Tottori dunes. I only took one or two when I was there, as it was late August and terribly hot. I couldn’t stand being out in the open very long.

    I was very impressed by the Akiyoshi caves. I found it a little difficult to take decent photos because of the light there, though I managed a few. And the ascent to Tsuwano’s Taikodani Inari shrine is delightful. Tsuwano in fact I thought a very pleasant small town.

    Your photos from Hakodate are superb! Maybe I should plan a visit to Hokkaido one of these days…

    • Thanks so much!
      I love gardens, too, but I don’t specifically hunt them. I certainly hunt castles and always try to squeeze in as many as possible! :satisfied:

      I went there in spring, but it was still very cold, yet beautiful weather that day. I have far too many photos of that day, so you can certainly look forward to that. I also was able to see a beautiful sunset back then! :music2:

      I took my tripod with me when going to the Akiyoshi Cave, so it wasn’t as difficult. I’ve been to another big cave in Gifu once without a tripod and it was almost impossible to take any decent photos, so I know what you’re talking about.

      Glad you like them. I wish I had more time in Hokkaido. I’ll definitely go back there one day. Ideally once in autumn and once in February for the Sapporo Snow Festival! ^-^

      I’m really thankful for all the travel experience that you have and always share with me!
      I think we inspire each other a lot when it comes to travelling.
      Furthermore we have been to the same places and I just love talking about our experiences.
      Thanks so much, serisoulsy!!!! :luvit:

  • Hey there! I love your blog and your travel experiences seem fun!
    I wanted to ask if you usually travel alone in Japan? I’m currently in Japan now for exchange and I want to do a Kansai-Hiroshima-Kyushu tour. I’m not sure if I can find someone to travel with me yet I’m also contemplating to do a solo trip!

    Do you have any advice for me?

    =)

    Keep up with the amazing entries!

    • Hi janz! :D
      Thanks so much, glad you like it! ^-^
      I do travel mainly alone, yes. At this point I think nobody could keep up with my crazy schedule anymore. Or rather, nobody would enjoy that kind of traveling, I think.
      I did some of my travels with friends or family members, but that was earlier on when I wasn’t THAT crazy about traveling yet. My friends couldn’t keep up with it anymore and needed a lot of resting time. My brother was the only one who could keep up with my crazy schedules.

      I don’t mind traveling alone at all.
      I think from time to time it’s nice because you’ll notice so many details and can enjoy your destination to the fullest if you’re alone.
      I wouldn’t worry about traveling alone if you can’t find anybody to go with you. It’s really not difficult at all – and it’s safe!

      I’d love to give you some (hopefully good) advice! :luvit:
      When do you want to do your trip? In summer?
      Anything in particular you want to know?
      How much time do you have available for this trip?
      You can also send me a message / e-mail instead of commenting here! ^-^

      Sounds like a fun trip already! :D

    • It is really beautiful and most definitely worth a visit, especially in autumn. I’ve been in Tohoku in winter and in spring now. I want to go back in autum one day! :D

  • Oh wow. Somehow it’s relaxing to know that I’m not the only one immensely behind on updating my travel blog :) I’d love to read about Tashirojima and Ishinomaki as it’s one of the places I want to go to next and I am/was worried about how acceptable it is to go “sight-see” in such a hard hit region. Glad to hear, that tourists are still welcome there.

    • Immensely is an understatement, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to catch up. ;P
      I’m looking forward to hear more about your latest vacation, though!!

      Well, I didn’t go there for the destroyed houses. In fact, I thought there wouldn’t be any damage visible anymore. I just went there for Tashirojima.
      There are also many things how you can support the city. They sell some postcards or books and other things specifically limited to the city and the money will help to get the city back how it used to be. I’m glad I could help at least a little :(

    • Hello there! :D
      I’m glad to hear you love it! :happy:
      Take your time, but don’t worry. The blog is still relatively new, so you didn’t miss much yet! :thumbup:

  • lovely…. seriously,, i wanna go to japan. i have plan for next year to go to japan.. and after read your experience in japan, it’s make me really wanna go there immediately.. :fan:
    thank you for your info..

  • Wooow!
    I love your photos!! So wonderful!
    Especially the mountain temple one! What an incredible nature!! :sparkling:

    Also I want to go to the Penis festival so badly!! It was in Kawasaki?
    I always thought thats some other place further away from Tokyo?! Hmm..

    The cat houses are adorable too. It such a pity.. :teary:
    Cant wait to see more!!

    • I can only give the compliment back to you, dear! :luvit:

      It is in Kawasaki, yes, every year on the first Sunday of April!
      The reason why I haven’t participated before WAS that it was so close to Tokyo and thus too far away from me! ;P

  • hello, i’m Japanese guy who has living in Hokkaido.
    i really really like to read your blog (but, this is the first comment)
    In GW, I also went to Hakodate and some cities around there, but i didn’t have a time to trip to Honsyu; therefore, i envy u so much!!

    I have visited 46 /47 pref, so i have to go to Okinawa asap…..it’s a long trip from Hokkaido lol

    please let me know when u come to Hokkaido. i can give u information where u should go!
    at last, i don’t used to use English, so maybe there are so much mistakes. i hope u can read out from this….m(. . )m

    • Hello! :D
      I’m so glad to hear that, thank you very much!

      You’ve been to 46 prefectures already? I’m the one who’s envious!!! Woah! :whyohwhy:

      I’ll definitely want to visit Hokkaido again. After all I’ve only seen Hakodate so far.
      Thanks!

      英語すごく上手ですね!
      私も英語が母国語じゃありません(ドイツ人ですから)。 :hihi:

      • actually, Hakodate is one of a great city in Hokkaido, but there are so many beautiful places (maybe u can only see in Hokkaido in Japan) in 北の大地.

        I’ve lived Shiga pref from 18 to 25, then ‘ve lived Vancouver, Canada for a year. That’s why I can read and write English a little.
        also I’ve visited in German ( I forgot where I went, cos there were so small cities.) for 2 ~3 weeks when I was 17 years old. It was an awesome! Especially, Mercedes-Musium was GREAT lol

        ドイツ語は、全くわかりませんので、英語と日本語で失礼します-^^-
        P.S.
        Ich mag Ihr wunderbares Foto……Mmm, I can’t recall German…..

        • There are many natural parks and beautiful nature in Hokkaido! I want to visit in autumn next time! The colors of autumn must be so beautiful!

          I’ve never been to Canada! I’d love to visit one day! :D
          You’ve even visited Germany? Wow, seems like you like traveling, too!? :hihi:

          すごい!ドイツ語で書きましたね。
          写真褒めてくれて、うれしいです! :happy:

          • I recommend going Hokkaido in Summer. Here is much cooler than Honsyu, and there are a lot of beautiful flower park. Autumn is still good, but if u like to eat any seafood, u should come to Hokkaido in winter.

            I’m a keen traveler lol
            I wanna live and work in EU for a while, but (Let’s be realistic.) it’s a hard decision for me to make.

            ドイツ語はなんとなくしか覚えてないです。自己紹介とか簡単な会話程度なら話せますけど、書くのは全然ダメですね~ orz ドイツ語やフランス語は、英語よりかなり難しく感じます。

        • I will definitely visit Hokkaido (Sapporo) in winter for the Snow Festival!!

          To be honest, I haven’t been traveling a lot through Europe. So far I’ve only been to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Italy.
          I want to visit Sweden, Norway, Holland, the UK, France etc. one day!

          まぁ、文法的にドイツ語もフランス語も難しいと思います。
          英語よりドイツ語のほうが発音が簡単でしょう。

  • What an epic travel post! I’m soooo jealous! Wow you managed to get to Tashirojima? :thumbup: That’s one of my dream destinations in Japan since I’m such a cat lover, but getting there is such a pain, wasn’t it? Please post about the cat island soon! :kyah:

    • If I ever happen to make an “all time travel post” featuring all the destinations I’ve been to in the past 5 years, it would turn out as a book rather than a blog post, I guess. :reading:

      No, it wasn’t that bad to go there, esp. not if you’re somewhere in Miyagi Prefecture anyways (e.g. Matsuhima or Sendai). Ok, I’ll try to post about it in the near future! ;P

  • ahhh..cherry blossoms..one of the many reasons why i want to travel and stay in japan..
    Thank God i found this blog..

    • Spring can really feel like paradise!
      Autumn is also very beautiful.
      Both seasons are perfect for traveling in Japan.
      I hope you’ll get a chance to come and visit soon!

      Thanks so much! :music2: