Cherry blossom Sakura sighting guide

Cherry blossom Sakura sighting guide

Hanami is a popular term for a very long held custom that every single Japanese citizens are proud of, which is to enjoy the beautiful blossoming flowers all across the country. There is no shortage of good cherry blossom hot spots around Japan but the best as rated among the locals and international travellers would be at Yoshino. Cherry blossom season varies by geographical regions throughout Japan. In Okinawa, it could appear in early January. In Hokkaido, it will only appear in May annually. The general consensus is that throughout the whole country, the main regions usually have their flowers blossom around the March end period. Parties in groups of 5 can be organized during the blossom season and many people have picnics around the area. Families and couples are more than welcome to join in the fun.

Japan offers extreme natural beauties from its cherry trees. Many are amazed by the flower clouds formed during the blossoming season. It is a national event where live broadcast are being played to all corners of the country. News stations have dedicated mapping services that tracks every single progress from pre-bloom to full blossom. It is the only time where all Japanese unite and party away by having a good time without having any concern for monetary reserves. Picnic parties are common during Hanami. Parties start as early as the first buds begins to bloom right up till the final blooming trees. Parties stretch from daytime till the moonlight shines, and it is pretty standard party SOP. Parks will be flooded with massive crowds, all enjoying their cold beer and laughing away with good humor. As long as there is a blossoming cherry trees, there can be Hanami enjoyment. There are of course a few favourite spots among the locals.

Ueno-koen is the undisputed favorite among all favorite spots for the whole of Japan. It contains more than 1000 cherry trees flowering at the same moment and is seen as the holy spot for Hanami fever. In Tokyo, one can also move over to Shinjuku-gyoen, the largest park in Tokyo, and roam around looking for the bet picnic spots as the crowd there is lesser. If you are in Kyoto region, Maruyama-koen is the place to be to experience Hanami. It has an iconic weeping tree known for its humongous size. It is the landmark for the city, drawing hordes of travellers from all over the world. Its lighting is especially good at night. Every 2nd Sunday for the month of April, a once a year special procession will be held at Daigo Ji temple. The procession attempts to re-create cherry blossoming party organized in the 16th century. Travellers can relive the experience similar to people in the past. Another top spot worth mentioning is Yoshino, located in the hill top of Kansai town. Thousands of lively cherry trees were all lined up to form a carpet spiraling down the sides of the mountains. Many do not regret travelling for the awesome view. It could be packed with visitors during the peak season due to the narrow winding streets but still it is worth visiting at least once.

Top Hanami spots are usually booked well in advance for picnic enthusiasts. You will find tarpaulins scattered all across the greenery where people book their prized turf before the sun shines. In order to get a good view right in the middle of all the action of blossom parties, the only way is to be up early as well. One day trip is all you can get for cherry blossoms at the famous Yoshino unless you had booked you place of stay well in advance.

Do not forget about the local attractions over at Yoshino. There is a wooden building known as Kimpusen-Ji where you can safely reach after a short 500 meters walk from a cable car station. In the Ueno-koen, you will be able to locate the National Museum for Tokyo which has 90,000 items on display. It is known to house the world's biggest Japanese art collection. More info can be obtained from Japan's official Tourist website from the National Tourism Organization.

Best of the best summer activities

Best of the best summer activities

Summertime in Japan is filled with festivals. Float parades are held across towns and ladies don their yukata or cotton kimono to walk on the streets. Sake and beer flows amidst the food stalls with fireworks exploding at the background. Famous festivals include Gion Matsuri which is famous in Kyoto and spans the whole of July. Tenjin Matsuri festival runs at Osaka from 24 to 25 July. People from northern Honshu display their strengths by balancing lanterns on bamboo poles on their shoulders for annual Akita Kanto festival. Over at Miyajima there is Kangen sai on the 1st of August with music ceremony on boats. Kodo Drummers perform during Sadogashima on late August for earth celebration. July as well as August are months where fireworks rule the Japanese skies. There is the Sumida gawa festival for fireworks and Biwa Ko festival also for fireworks.

Mid-August is the period of O-bon, a ceremonial festival for showing appreciation to ancestors spiritually. Whole of Japan goes on holiday and one would be able to witness the Bon-Odori traditional dance. It is a simple repetitive dance with dancers using fan or towel as dance prop. An excellent place for admiring Bon-odori is Awaodori Matsuri at Tokushima. Dancers compete in teams for prizes. Gujo Hachiman, a small mountain town at northern Nagoya offers spectators 32 nights of continuous dancing, some stretch into the mornings. Spectators are welcome to join in the dance and fun.

Summertime dining dishes are unique in Japan. One specialty include cold noodle or somen noodles. It is refreshing to many. The noodles are chilled and served with tasty sauce and fresh vegetables and eggs. One can also experience catching your own noodles flowing from bamboo pipes by using chopsticks. It is called nagashi somen and is a local delicacy. Summer festivals are accompanied by stalls selling fried stuff and bite size snacks. Fried stuff or yaki dominate sales levels and you can find immense flavor for yakitori or tako-yaki. Kakigori, a refreshing dessert is a must try if you fancy shaved ice with syrup and fruit toppings under the hot summer. Different syrup flavors are available to the masses.

Beer garden officially opens from May to September. Students, party groups, working adults and families will all flock to the beer gardens to escape the heat by having a cold drink. Meals come in standard buffet packages complete with beer. The cost is affordable ranging from 3,000 to 4,000 yen. It is definely not fine dining standards. Department stores are places you can find beer gardens. Alternatively try looking at hotels and parks. Popular spots include Mori-no, located at Meiji Shrine. Others include Kyoto Tower rooftop at Kyoto. For those in Osaka, you can check out Hankyu Top. Ask around and you will be directed to the nearest beer garden.

Travel to the northern islands of Japan if you are tired from the summer heat.

Go north. It is the best time for hiking as cold weather restricts hiking activities around Japan's national parks. Try out popular hiking spots such as Yotei-zan or Shiretoko Park. Alpine flowers start to bloom during summer time and breathtaking Furano flower fields begin their life. Tomita Farm landscape will transform into different colour ranges from pink to purple. Sapporo Festival during summertime is a good hangout spot as well. It is organized around July to August with one large beer garden setting in the center. The seating capacity is 13,000 people. There are plenty of traditional dance performances, fireworks and firefly observation. You will definitely have a great time drinking away and listening to the loud cheers and lively spirits.

Enjoy The Trip By Simple Etiquette Tips

Enjoy The Trip By Simple Etiquette Tips

A trip to Japan is a pleasure for one and all, before stepping into the country, just have a glance about the code of etiquette which is considered as very important among Japanese people. One has to appreciate the Japanese people by preserving their traditions and Manners from the ancient times. Japanese culture is fascinating and at the same time inscrutable for the first time travelers to accustom for the etiquette of the Japanese.

How to Greet People in Japan?

Japan has a unique culture of greeting people. Bow your head to greet someone. A small bow of the head indicates a casual greeting. A small nod of the head is suffice for thanking, requesting, apologize and for favor also. Shaking hands is very uncommon, and it is best for you to wait if the other person offer their hand. Keeping your palms upto the chest level and bowing is not common greeting for the Japanese people.

Etiquette While Giving Gifts

Giving gifts is a common culture of Japanese people. Gifts are given usually in different occasions like returning from a trip, changing the house, for seasonal changes and so on. You have to pay attention while giving a gift to Japanese people. Make sure before giving a gift that it has to be properly wrapped and remember that gifts in four sets must be avoided, because number four is considered an unlucky number for Japanese people. In Japan people use the number four for "death". It is very important for one to remember that while giving or receiving a gift, handle it with two hands. For the first time visitors, it is the best idea to keep small gifts from their native country to distribute someone in their trip. A simple nod and a small gift from your home country is highly appreciable. Giving gifts on special occasions like birthdays and festivals is not Japanese tradition. However with some western influence, some families are exchanging gifts on special occasions also.

Exchanging Business Cards

For formal introduction, it is better to exchange a name card with your two hands. It is always suggestible to stand and exchange the business cards with higher rank people. Place the card in your shirt pocket or in a wallet if you meet any one while you are passing. A small bow is suffice to give or receive a card from Japanese people.

Public Observance

You must be very polite when you are travelling in a public transport. Mobile phones are kept in silent mode, not to disturb fellow passengers. You are not supposed to speak loudly in public places. Follow queue while boarding a train, to guide the people, passenger lines are drawn on the platforms. It is very barbaric if you blow your nose in public. Always better use masks if you have cold.

Visiting temples and shrines

Behave very gently and respectfully in temples. Just throw a coin into the offering tray, followed by a prayer. You are asked to remove your shoes while entering into the temple. Many temple authorities permit you to take photographs, but in some place you are not supposed to. Better watch the sign before you enter the temple. While visiting a shrine if you are sick, you are not permitted, because Japanese tradition indicates that it is a cause of impurity. So, if you are sick or having any open wound better not to visit a shrine.

Eating Habits

There are things to remember when you are using chopsticks. Some of your actions may be associated with the funeral actions, for example, don't leave chopsticks in a rice bowl straight upright . You have to hold your chopsticks at the end not in the middle. Don't point anybody with your chopsticks. Do not use chopsticks to spare your food. You are not supposed to play with the chopsticks even after you finished your eating, just lay them down with tips to left on the table in front of you.

Simple and basic formalities make your trip enjoyable. Follow the Etiquette tips and enjoy the trip.

Five Primary Places to Hike in Japan

Five Primary Places to Hike in Japan

Few people know that hiking is by far the best kept secrets of Japan. You can simply go to one hut to another in the Japan Alps, climb the Kyushu volcanoes, climb the Big Snow Mountain of Hokkaido and you can also walk through the hills around Kyoto. Anywhere you go, you will not be left alone. The Japanese are very fond of hiking and there are also powerful hikers as well. One of the very first mountains that you can climb is the Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido. The name says it all, Big Snow Mountain. When the snow melts over the mountain, the hiking will be very vivid. It is also the biggest national park in Japan. The wild area has soaring mountains, remote Onsen, active volcanoes, thick forests and pristine lakes. This is the kind of place that can help in getting rid of your stress. There is the onsen hotel where you can rest while in the premises of the forest.

Kamikochi or Nagano-Ken is a sanctuary that is located at the center of the Japan Alps. It has some of the best scenery in Japan. This is where you can find some hiking trails too. In the latter part of the 19th century, it was the foreigners who discovered this place. This has been the base for hikers, walkers and climbers. There is also a riverside that is in line with the sasa or what they call the bamboo grass in English. Another option for climbers is the Fuji-San or the Shizuoka- ken. Why will the climbers and hikers go to Japan if they do not want to try the trails of the highest peak of Japan? It is best visited from July to August where you can find the highest and the most popular peak that draws tourists to this part of the world. Climbing this mountain can lead you to some of the best views of the untouched volcano from the Fuji Five Lakes. During winter and spring, you can see the beauty of the mountain. The snowcapped peak will be visible then in the morning.

Yakushima Kagoshima-Ken is an island of the southern part of Kyushu, which is a home to the old Jomon Sugi tree and some beautiful mountain hiking. It is tagged as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located. Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration. It is one of the best and the most beautiful islands in the Southwestern part of the Island. The peaks of the island mountain are the home of the world renowned Yaku-sugi. It is the old cedar tree that has been said to have the inspiration for some of the scenes in Miyazaki Hayao's classic animated tale Princes Mononoke. Hiking is the primary activity in this place, however the island is also a home to some of the best coastal onsenand and some sandy beaches. Bear in mind that this is also a place where the mountains wring every drop of the moist from the clouds passing through.

Don't go hiking without a map and a gear to keep you protected and help you enjoy the activity. Aso San is a semi-active volcano that provides some of the best hiking trails and views. The threat of eruption is what makes it more thrilling and exciting. Nearby this place is also a beautiful and pristine view of the Aso San volcano caldera. It is by far the biggest in the world. You can see the entire view over the windows of your car. It just erupted 3 Million years back; the outer crater of the volcano is around 90,000 years old already which is now surrounded by villages, towns and train lines as well.