Catching the cherry blossom season in Japan is tricky business. Because it’s difficult to predict when the trees would bloom, trying to plan a trip at the right time can be tough. After we bought our air tickets, I started stalking the Japanese cherry blossom websites every day. Okay, every couple of hours. I couldn’t help it! I have an obsessive compulsive streak. And then, it happened. The trees in Hokkaido started to bloom a few days before our departure. Arggh! So when we arrived in Chitose, we jumped into the car and raced towards Hakodate.
The Goryokaku Park in Hakodate is one of Hokkaido’s best cherry blossom viewing spots. Originally a Western citadel built in the last years of the Edo period, the park is best known for its star-shaped fort and the one thousand cherry blossom trees that have been planted along its moats.
As we drove towards the park, I had both fingers and toes crossed that we weren’t too late. When I caught a glimpse of hundreds of blossoming trees in their full glory, I started squealing in excitement. Stop the car!!
Okay, this is where I digress and tell you what big ding-dong bats we can be. The park was crowded with Japanese families and tourists, and we finally found a car park a good ten minute walk away. The tiny car park was managed by a Japanese old man, and his system was that we hand over our car keys, and pay the parking fee when we collect the car. Desperate for a parking lot, we grabbed our cameras, handed over our keys and started skipping towards the park. Halfway there, we suddenly realized what we had done. In our excitement, we had handed over our car keys to a stranger in a foreign land. With our luggage in it. *facepalm* I am quite certain that there is a traveller’s handbook somewhere that tells you specifically NEVER to do anything like this. In my defence, he looked like a nice old man.
We weighed our options – the place was freaking crowded, there were no lots, we were running out of sunlight hours and the Japanese are known to be honest folks. In the end, we figured that at worst, we would spend the rest of the evening explaining to the Japanese police how dumb some tourists can get. Thankfully, this is Hokkaido and we got our keys, car and luggage back safe and sound from the really nice old man. 🙂
Anyhoo, back to the cherry blossoms.
Seeing a thousand flowering cherry blossom trees in Goryokaku Park was spectacular, and we were blown away by the unbelievable scale and beauty of it all.
That day, I fell utterly and completely in love with cherry blossoms. I wanted to do nothing more than to spend my entire day strolling in the park amongst the flowering trees. The hanami atmosphere was great. Colorful lanterns were strung up and families spread out picnic mats on the grass. They brought food, beer, barbecue pits and even their own tables and chairs. Everyone was laughing, enjoying the flowers and having a ball of a time.
Definitely an experience of a lifetime.
Mapcode: 86 165 027
Itinerary (Day 2): Chitose — Cape Chikyu — Hakodate (Goryokaku Park)