Another item off my bucket list

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)


23 thoughts on “Another item off my bucket list”

    1. It certainly felt like we had hit the jackpot! 🙂 After seeing how breathtakingly beautiful the flowers are, I finally understand the Japanese obsession with cherry blossoms.

  1. Oh my . . . this looks like heaven. I imagine that rather than pearly gates, perhaps I will encounter the pale pink majesty of cherry blossoms welcoming me home. You captured their beauty perfectly.

    So glad for you! I’m smiling as I picture your face in the first few seconds of realizing you were not too late after all. 😉

    ~ Cara

  2. Absolutely beautiful. What amazes me is how big the trees are. They look like they’ve been there for a hundred years with their beautiful gnarled trunks – nothing like a cherry orchard in Europe. What a wonderful experience.

    1. You’ve right about the trees. Most of them looked like they had been there forever. And as I was walking through the park, I thought how wonderful that someone had thought of planting these trees those many many years ago, so that we could enjoy the beautiful blooms for years to come 🙂

  3. I’m thrilled for you. Fully experiencing the cherry blossom is entering into another, incredibly beautiful and ethereal world.
    And if you’re going to leave your car at the mercy of a total stranger, Japan is the right place to do so! 😉

  4. I love the little Japanese lanterns suspended from the trees, as though they are not beautiful enough. I’ll bet it was an awesome experience actually being there, strolling through all of those blossoms. It looks like you timed your trip just right, too. Congratulations! And thanks for sharing your experience with the rest of us. 🙂

    1. It certainly was an incredible experience 🙂 And we were lucky that we managed to catch the blossoms. As we started driving north, most of the trees had already lost their blooms, and were sprouting green leaves.

  5. I am so glad you got to see them. I went to the 100 year Anniversary of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. and all the cherry blossoms were gone due to the warm weather that came too soon.
    Thanks for sharing.


    1. Warm weather really makes it much harder to catch the cherry blossoms. Japan was hit by a warm front too, and reports had it that in some areas, the trees reached full bloom in hours instead of days! Here’s hoping that you’ll catch them next year! 🙂

    1. Haha that story will make it to the same list as the time we left our car unlocked for hours in another part of Hokkaido! Thanks for dropping by and I appreciate the kind words 🙂

  6. I think one thousand cherry blossom trees in flower must be so mind-blowing that one must think one has reached heaven. I have seen this place on TV and have no doubt, despite its beauty, that real-life is the only way to experience such an event.

    1. You’re absolutely right! As I was processing my photos, I realized that I could never capture on camera what we experienced walking through that park. Certainly an experience of a lifetime 🙂

    1. Thanks Michelle! 🙂 I was completely over the moon when I first saw them. Who would have thought that the trick is just to plant thousands of flowering trees in one spot. The effect was spectacular!

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