Itâ€™s April and that means the brief, but beautiful cherry blossom season. The sales of blue tarpaulins are set to sky rocket and public intoxication in the middle of the day will reach giddy new heights. Whether itâ€™s your first, final or other, èŠ±è¦‹ season in Japan, Hyogo has a positive cornucopia of great spots to ponder the brevity of life. Hereâ€™s a few to consider â€“
å¤™å·å…¬åœ’ (Shukugawa Park)
Whilst not the largest collection in Hyogo, the 2300 cherry trees lining the Shukugawa in Nishinomiya makes for a pretty good èŠ±è¦‹ spot. The easy access is an added bonus, with stations on the Hankyu, Hanshin and JR lines. The 2.7km stretch of river is touted as one of the best in the prefecture. I suppose thereâ€™s nothing quite like the river/cherry tree combination.
Access: Hankyu â€“ å¤™å· (Shukugawa) OR è‹¦æ¥½åœ’å£ (Kurakuenguchi)
Hanshin â€“ é¦™æ«¨åœ’ (Koroen)
JR â€“ ã•ãã‚‰å¤™å· (Sakurashukugawa)
ç¯ å±±åŸŽè·¡ï¼ˆSasayama Castle ruinsï¼‰
Am I going to plug my own townâ€™s blossoms? Yes, yes I am. Around 1000 trees litter the relatively small castle grounds in Sasayama and over the sakura season, youâ€™re permitted to eat and drink on the castle mound. Combine this with a black bean ice cream when wandering around the rest of the town, and itâ€™s a nice trip to the countryside.
Access:Â JRç¦çŸ¥å±±ç·š (Fukuchiyama line) to ç¯ å±±å£(Sasayamaguchi). From the station, you can get a bus to the centre of town, or rent a bike (500å†† per day) at the station and have a cycle around too (itâ€™s pretty flat, and they even have electric-assist bikes if youâ€™re feeling very, very lazy).
If you fancy completely Japaning out, why not combine èŠ±è¦‹ season and æ¸©æ³‰ going with a trip to Kinosakionsen. The trees lining the river are lit with paper lanterns overnight, so consider a late departure/overnight stay in one of the ryokan dotted around town.
Access: JRå±±é™°ç·š(San-in line) to åŸŽå´Žæ¸©æ³‰ or the Zentan express bus.
Along with Shukugawa, Akashi Park is officially a Good Cherry Viewing Place â€“ it was selected as one of the top 100 spots in Japan to get your hanami on. The castle ruins and lake setting make this a beautiful place to lounge around and have a tipple or two.
Access: JRç¥žæˆ¸ç·š(Kobe line) to æ˜ŽçŸ³
Sanyo to å±±é™½æ˜ŽçŸ³
ç«¹ç”°åŸŽè·¡ (Takeda Castle Ruins)
Whether you want to look at cherry trees or not, the Takeda castle ruins in æœæ¥å¸‚(Asago) are well worth a visit. A little bit more difficult to get to by public transport than some of the other locations, the sight of this castle rising over the surrounding countryside is a wonder in itself â€“ the æ¡œ an added bonus.
Access: JRæ’ä½†ç·š(Bantan line) and walk.
Another way to make your time under the trees that little bit more special is to make it into a random dress-up event! At the suggestion of one of my Australian friends, a (rather large) group of us decided to have a Lolita-themed, teddy-bearâ€™s picnic-esque èŠ±è¦‹. If youâ€™re okay with completely justified odd looks, give it a go â€“ it was a blast!