Friday, April 17, 2015

Japan 2015 | Sakura at Yoyogi Park, Tokyo ❀

The first place that Lil Pumpkin and I went to for an Ohami picnic was to Yoyogi Park {代々木公園, Yoyogi Ko-en} near the famous Meiji-jingu {(明治神宮} and Harajuku shopping street. If you're in Tokyo you'd probaby head to Harajuku for shopping, and I highly recommend that you don't miss Yogogi Park and Meiji-jingu either. They are all within walking distance from one another.

Before turning into one of Tokyo's largest city parks featuring wide lawns, ponds and forested areas, it was also the site of the Olympic Village for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Now as a park, many Japanese love to go there for jogging, picnicking and other outdoor activities.

Yoyogi Park has a whole area filled with Sakura trees {about 10 minutes walk from the main entrance} and it makes for a nice ohanami spot in Spring. It is always known for its ginko tree forest which turns beautifully gold during Autumn, so that's another great season to visit the park.

Although a big part of Ohanami is the festive mood from the crowds that come to admire the Sakura trees, it can get pretty bustling and too much of a jostle for space and serenity {I'll show you what I mean in my post on Ueno Park next week}.

I prefer to admire the Sakura flowers in peace and quiet, but that can be hard in the more popular places for Sakura viewing, like in Yoyogi Park. You usually have to go way out of the city for that kind of luxury.

So, I thought we should go early in the morning. We took the train to JR Harajuku station then walked across the bridge to the park. However, I took a right turn and walked in towards Meiji-jingu instead of a left to the park! Continued on when I realised my mistake as I thought there would be an entrance to Yoyogi Park from there but there wasn't. Oh well..

In the end we spent about an hour or so in Meiji-jingu. The last time we were in Meiji-jingu was in 2013 for Hatsumode but Lil Pumpkin was sleeping the whole time hahahaha. At least she was awake this time to enjoy the sights and sounds of this beautiful shrine, although there's no Sakura trees there. It's hard to believe that such a tranquil place exists right in the middle of busy Tokyo.

The gravel path makes it a little tougher to walk through with the stroller and what would usually take 10-15 minutes for others to reach the main complex would probably take around 20 minutes for us. It's good exercise and well worth the walk though.

Meiji-jingu is one of Japan's most popular shrines and you can almost always see traditional Japanese weddings taking place there... like what Aki went through for hers.

Many tourists stop to gawk and snap photos but I think it's still crucial to respect the couple on the most important day of their lives. Please don't stalk them, make too much noise or even intrude by asking to take photos/ selfies with them!

Finally reached Yoyogi Park just before the lunch crowd came, but there were already people and lots of mats around to secure places for Ohanami parties! See... it's not only Singaporeans who are kiasu to go early and chope places :P

It was a weekday when we went and the crowd definitely gets worse on the weekends!

The Sakura flowers were just starting to bloom those few days...These are the common Somei Yoshino variety with slightly pink, almost white, 5-petaled blossoms.

I didn't bring a mat that day but there were some park benches around and we had a simple meal of onigiri. Lil Pumpkin loves these a lot and sometimes, she can even finish 2 all by herself!! I usually get her salmon, beef or vegetable-filled kinds.

Pre-packed rice onigiri is cheap {around 85 yen to 130 yen each} and you can easily get it from any convenience store or supermarket.

After we ate we continued to stroll and admire the Sakura flowers. Finally after 3 years, Sakura meets Sakura again :)

Lil Pumpkin found a tree with really low branches and asked me to snap a shot of her..

She said she was wearing a flower skirt!!! Hahahaha.. gotta love her imagination!!

Spotted a tree with white flowers in full bloom nearby and went to take a look..

They aren't Sakura but were still lovely. Anyone has an idea what kind of flower this is?

Sakura season in Japan is like Christmas or Easter. Many companies come up with Sakura-related products so all around there are Sakura cakes, Sakura coffee, Sakura plates, Sakura-inspired clothing etc. The whole works!! Really heaven for a Sakura-lover like me :P

Anyway I don't drink but here's a special limited edition packaging for Asahi beer during the Sakura season. It's just normal beer and not Sakura-flavoured beer... although that would be interesting!!

Headed to Harajuku then Shibuya after that but this was such a beautiful way to start our day :)

  • The park is pram/stroller and pets-friendly.
  • Bring food and a mat before you go to the park for Sakura viewing. 
  • Bring a small plastic bag for your rubbish and remember to take it along with you when you leave.
  • Nearest convenience store or fast food restaurant {McDonald's, Lotteria etc.} is at Harajuku Takeshita street
  • There's a small food/drinks kiosk and toilets at the entrance near JR Harajuka station.

Yoyogi Park {代々木公園, Yoyogi Ko-en}
2-1 Yoyogi Kamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo
Nearest station: JR Harajuku station {Yamanote line} or Yoyogi-koen station {Chiyoda line}
Best time for Sakura viewing: Late March - Early April
Opening hrs: 5am to 8pm daily {or until 5pm mid-October to April}
Fee: Free

Read more about our Japan travels here
Also see Sakura at Ueno Park, Tokyo


Alison Dennison (Roy) said...

Our first trip to Japan will be this Japanese summer - but I'm already planning a trip back in Sakura season one year! It looks so beautiful. I'm now going to read through ALL your Japan posts! Thanks. (Came via #FYBF)

Kaz @ Melting Moments said...

So so beautiful... Makes me want to go.

Masshole Mommy said...

Those are absolutely gorgeous. I love how pretty and springy they are.

An Apel a Day said...

Everywhere you turn there are flowers on trees. How pretty! I love it.

Ai Sakura said...

Fairlie: there's a lot of festivals and events on during Summer. It's a great time to visit too :)

Kaz: hope you'd have a chance to!

Masshole Mommy: I miss them already...

Alissa: Yes such a joy to see!

Vicki @ Knocked Up and Abroad said...

Oh my, how spectacular! I have always wanted to experience the cherry blossum season. My sister in law is from Japan and returns with her two daughters every year and every year I dream of being her travel buddy. My husband has been three times (without me). He owes me a trip one day!

Unknown said...

Those are white magnolia flowers! I loved taking macro shots of them in the US and UK, where they are common trees grown along sidewalks.

Mrs. L said...

Wow, the cherry blossoms are are so beautiful! I'd love to visit one day ;)

Susan said...

The Sakura blooms are gorgeous! Would love to go see them one day with my family but hubby is not keen about the crowds.

Stacy said...

So beautiful! That white flower one is very striking too.

Those large blue mats are privately owned? Looks like everyone has the same type/colour?

mail4rosey said...

It does look like a wonderful place to visit. I don't know what kind of flowers the white ones are, but they're pretty.

Ai Sakura said...

Vicki: All the more reason to visit since you have family there! Hope you make it there soon!!

L Lee: Ah I see! Thanks for letting me know :)

M: Please do!

Susan: There's lots of other places to admire them too. Just out of the way but I guess it's worth going to get away from the crowds!

Stacy: Yup they are bought from the convenience stores. All the same hahaha..

Mial4Rosey: My friends told me they are magnolias :)

Grace said...

Your photos here and on IG got me soooo natsukashiiiiiii!!!

I love how all of Japan celebrate sakura season. It's such a wonderful time of year.

As long as you can avoid the crowds! Looks like you managed to do that! :) x

Kirralee @ Escape With Kids said...

Such a stunning sight! So lovely to enjoy your photos. And those Asahi cans are adorable!