Day 1: Chidorigafuchi & Shinjuku Park (Tokyo)

Sunday 9 April 2017

Continues from JT7: Flight and Tokyo

Today! At long last!

I will be able to see sakura (cherry blossoms) for the first time!

I woke up at around 8am, and after getting ready, joined my lovely AirBnB hosts for breakfast, which was delicious!

After breakfast I checked out, walked to the station and on the way I saw my very first cherry blossoms!!

The tree was just part of a school, and some of the petals had already fallen but it was really cool to see!

From the station I caught a train back into the city of Tokyo from the suburbs of Nerima

My next AirBnB is actually on the same Seibu train line, which runs west out of Ikebukuro station, however I decided to leave my luggage at Ikebukuro instead of further out as it's a much bigger station and has more lockers.

This didn't go as well as I had hoped.

While I managed to find an empty locker soon enough, when it came time to leave I couldn't find it again!

I had even taken multiple photos so I knew where it was, but I couldn't work out where I was in the station most of the time.

The main issues were that there were not that many station maps, some of the maps didn't cover the area my locker was in, and it didn't take long after walking away from a map for me to get lost again.

It took me around 40 minutes!

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

From Ikebukuro I caught a train down to Kudanshita station which is not too far from Yasukuni Shrine and Chidorigafuchi.

Yasukuni Shrine enshrines the Japanese war dead, but is also home to around 1000 sakura trees and is a noted cherry blossom spot.

Today was a pretty rainy day which wasn't fantastic but did at least help keep the crowds away and also added to the ambience in some areas.

The cherry blossoms were really amazing!

To be honest I had pretty high expectations after all these years and I'm happy to say that I was very impressed!

I've seen flowers blooming on trees before, jacarandas for example, but the cherry blossoms are really something else.

They seem to just be popping like bundles of popcorn all over the tree and the small, delicate, ephemeral petals contrast nicely with the big, strong and old trunks and branches. The fact that there are just flowers with minimal green leaves also adds to the charm.

After walking around the grounds of Yasukuni shrine I made my way down to Chidorigafuchi.

Chidorigafuchi is a moat on the north-western outskirts of the Imperial Palace. Along the edges of the moat there are hundreds of cherry blossom trees and is regarded as one of Tokyo's best cherry blossom spots.

At night, during late March and early April (ending on the 6 April in 2017) there are illuminations and I was planning on visiting during this time, however thanks to my cancelled flight it was not to be.

When I arrived at Chidorigafuchi I got a message from last night's AirBnB host asking if I wanted to join her and her friends for a walk around Shinjuku Park to look the flowers.

I happily agreed!

This meant I had around an hour to spend at Chidorigafuchi which was the perfect amount of time to walk down along the moat, take heaps of pictures and then make my way back to the station.

Shinjuku Park, or Shinjuku Gyoen, is one of Tokyo's largest and most popular parks and is also known as one of the best places to view cherry blossoms in Tokyo. In fact, thanks to the wide variety of trees planted there, many of which bloom later, it's often recommended as a place to see sakura even after all the petals have fallen off the trees in the rest of the city.

Although a public park there is a nominal 200 yen cost to enter and since alcohol is prohibited inside there is also a bag search conducted.

After meeting with my AirBnB host and her friends we went inside and walked around taking lots of pictures. Although I had my DSLR out there was no need to be embarrassed as my camera was probably the cheapest and smallest of the lot! In fact in our group there was even someone who worked with cameras at the Nikon factory!

We spent around ninety minutes walking around before heading back the entrance and parting ways.

After spending all day walking around I caught a train to Ikebukuro station and then started the arduous task of finding my locker!

After finally finding the damn thing I caught the Seibu line back out west to my next AirBnB. I ended up not having dinner first due to the time it took me to find my locker, so I arrived pretty hungry.

Thankfully though my hosts had a menu and it was possible to buy some food.

I went with some udon and an onigiri.

Before and after dinner I spent some time chatting to my host who told me about his and his wife's adventures around the world. They were also interested to see my itinerary plans for this trip.

Finally, I took the opportunity tonight to do some washing- thanks to the rain today one pair of pants were quite muddy and the other pair I wore on the plane and I consider them fairly germed up after that... My hosts had a cool machine that was both a washer and dryer in one so I was able to put my dirty clothes in at night and in the morning they were clean and dry.

Oh! Also!

I have a pedometer app on my phone now, so I'll report on how many steps I did each day

Walked: 20,240 steps - 17.9km

Tomorrow I'll be heading to Yomiuri Land to view more cherry blossoms but this time while riding roller coasters!

Continue reading: Day 2: Yomiuri Land (Tokyo)

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