I have walked away from doing Japan walking tour type photo posts but I miss simply showing photos. I’m also very happy to show photos around the Nagano area. It’s my favorite place in Japan and I do hope to live there one day. This special walk was from the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Matsumoto Museum of Art to Matsumoto Castle.

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Sometimes you go walking and discover a weirdass wooden scultpure of a what is known in JP wikipedia as a “Samurai stature”

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One part derp one part hideous it’s a frog statue of a Frog Samurai riding in on a…frog? Matsumoto’s old shopping street’s mascot is the frog. A pun on kaeru (to return) and frog (kaeru). They even have a Frog Matsuri in June. It looks like a childrens fun event.

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The beginning of Nawate Dori (なわて通り) it’s only a walking street no bikes or cars. Check out that side derp. There’s another concrete frog on the right.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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There’s such a cool balance of architecture in Matsumoto. And of course always beautiful mountains in the distance. Despite being a small town (population 227,392) it’s really a thriving town lately.

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On such a pretty day lots of Matsumoto citizens were out enjoying the scenery. Except for the castle and coming down from the mountains in Nagano it doesn’t get a lot of tourist hype which is one of the reasons I try to recommend it.

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I’m forever a sucker for an old building and a weepy sakura
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Matsumoto is mostly a car city and there’s lots of lanes. It makes the city feel a bit more open.

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The Matsumoto manhole covers remind me of Yayoi Kusama’s dots. It is her hometown.

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The street looks mostly filled with small snack shops and little classic stalls. Not really the typical souvenir items either. Some used stores with just about everything inside as well.

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A vending machine advertising the Japan Basketball League or B-League. Nagano prefecture was originally called Shinshu (信州) so many Nagano things (food, culture, sports) are called Shinshu. The Brave Warriors are on the B2 or bottom level of the two tier B-League system.  Side note: It’s nearly impossible to get B-League swag. As a Basketball stan I would fully rock the apple yeti mascot merchandise.

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All throughout Matsumoto lots of pretty rivers run in the main part of town. There’s a lot of walkable space on each side.

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I’m always in love with how many tiny plants and ecosystems Japanese places can fit on such a small place. Where else to find a pond but in the corner of an Okonomiyaki place?

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Matsumoto castle in one of its best seasons. I previously blogged about Matsumoto Castle and the sakura when I visited in 2015. But I feel I got even better shots of the castle at golden hour.

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Since castle grounds are free lots of people walking their dogs in the area. Shiba alert!

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Casual hanami and coverage was great!

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Matsumoto’s sakura as always lovely.

I’ll have more Matsumoto and “Shinshu” posts because I really love the area.

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In the past years I’ve been down on Tokyo sakura viewing. I mean when you can have a gorgeous castles in the background, see sakura on a mountaintop viewing regular sakura seems a bit boring? My mind really changed about how pretty Tokyo sakura viewing can be last year. One of my favorite spots was Nakameguro (中目黒). Nakameguro is famous as a destination for sakura because of its beautiful Meguro river that flows through it. The sakura drip over and its truly a gorgeous sight.

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The quintessential Nakameguro Sakura View (TM) and people free!

 

Nakameguro is a sought out place to live in Tokyo because of its hip but laid back vibe. It’s right next to fancy Daikanyama but not as expensive, so a lot of younger people live in the area.

Reasons I like Nakameguro Sakura:

Because it’s a river walkway you may be put off by the concrete of it all and lack of proper Tokyo sakura hanami viewing space, but these two things put off people so it’s much less crowded than places like Ueno Park, Yoyogi Park and Inokashira Park that get tons of drunk rowdy people. And it serves alcohol and lots of places to eat unlike Shinjuku Park. It’s also free unlike Shinjuku Park. If you can get a bench along the river it’s easy to spend several hours gazing and chatting.

 

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Sakura suits the river so well. I do think the Tottori river sakura are more beautiful but for central Tokyo sakura these are hard to beat. I headed out with Nicola and Linda.

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During a weekday the crowds are manageable and we were able to snag seats.

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The sakura do really cover all of Meguro river. Because of the shade and temperature differences theres a wide range when you can see sakura on just this one walkway.

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When we finally got seats this was our view. Pretty special right? The river really makes the crowds feel not so crowded. You can see one of the food trucks parked across the river. There were lots of tasty food options.

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The strawberry champagne was a big seller.

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We also got a bottle of pink sparkling wine to celebrate the season. Instagram worthy!

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Bonus! This super cute poodle we saw while enjoying an impromptu hanami.

 

Visiting Nakameguro for Sakura viewing:

Sakura season is finicky but even with buds or falling off the Nakameguro Matsuri is lovely to see. They do a light up as well for those seeking out a sakura light-up. It’s also an easy walk if you just want to put in an hour to view but not the whole day.

Nakameguro Station is a small station that can get super crowded during sakura season it’s on Tokyo Metro Hibiya and Tokyu Toyoko lines easily accessible through Shibuya. If you’re going at night or during the weekends I suggest getting off at Daikanyama Station of the Tokyu Toyoko Line (8 minute walk) or Ebisu Station on the Yamanote Line (14 minute walk) and walking to Nakameguro both of which are nice walks. Daikanyama has tons of cafes and cute food options in case Nakameguro gets too busy.

 

 

My first Sakura post of the year! I have more planned. I really got to enjoy sakura last year and I unfortunately can’t visit this year so hopefully posts on the blog turning pink will cheer up.  :hearts3:

 

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Sakura Foods in Japan is back with another edition. I love these posts!! It gets me so excited for eating more of them. Pink delicious food it’s a venn diagram of what makes me happy. And a lot of them were eating during traveling within Japan which makes me ultimate happy.

For the past two years other than my time in Japan and moving (to sample Atlanta’s good sweet spots), I’ve spent my life sugar free. I don’t eat fruit other than berries, I only use stevia in baking. That’s it. My eyes love sugar, my body hates it. I do tend to go crazy in Japan, but the rest of the time I abstain.

And for you sugar haters this sakura foods post actually includes some savory sakura items because I’m not picky when it comes to sakura food! Actually some of my favorite sakura foods haven’t been sweet.

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Top pick of most delicious sakura food. This sakura udon handmade at Hanamiyama in Fukushima. There is a light floral pickled taste to it.

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Sakura muffin picked up at Saitama on our way to Matsumoto Castle.sakura-foods-in-japan-ootoya-sakura-parfait

Sakura shows up in unexpected places like Ootoya (previous post on healthy eating in Japan here). And it lists its calories (along with allergies!). That whole thing for 380 calories seemed solid.

sakura-foods-in-japan-ootoya-sakura-parfait-closeupThe real deal wasn’t as cute, but it was tasty and for the Sakura-nesss you got sakura mochi AND a real sakura blossom on it. And if you don’t know this about me yet, I will eat every wa sweet in site. Red beans and matcha? I’m THERE!

So many layers. The sakura cronut at my favorite bakery chain Pompadour. This was my man’s favorite sakura food or at least he ate it most days it was available. :smiley:

Sebastian Bouillet macaron’s from Ikebukuro Seibu. Clockwise: Frambroise, Pina Colada, SAKURA and Shikuwasa (a Japanese citrus).

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Sebastian Bouillet is a confectioner based in Lyon and Tokyo. Makes very interesting macarons if you’d like to branch out from Laduree.

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Sakura fish? Yup it’s common in fancier restaurants. Chaya Macrobiotic in Shinjuku Isetan is one of my favorite healthy places to eat in Tokyo. Since Macrobiotic eating centers on seasonal it’s lovely they added some pickled sakura and other flowers to their fish. Although it’s a fancier place their lunch is only 2,160 yen ($18.00) so it’s not going to break your budget.

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Can’t pass up sakura season without a jaunt to Floresta Donuts. Last year was a cat sakura donut, the year before that was bear and chick. I’m curious what this year will bring. Love Floresta!

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Sendai Sweets went overboard with their Sakura Daifuku. Check out all that multi-mochi levels and fresh cream.

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They were selling strawberry cream daifuku, but who wants strawberry when you can go for sakura?

sakura-foods-in-japan-sendai-sweets-sakura-daifukuNot the best photo, but #trainlife. Another Sakura production by Sendai Sweets (last year’s sakura foods post had Sendai Sweets sakura).

Unexpected sakura! I ordered some matcha from the excellent matcha shop in Sendai called Ocha no Igeta (お茶の井ヶ田) it’s a must stop for me in Sendai, but the sakura tea dessert was delicious and unexpected.

That 3-d sakura *Homer drooling*

 I actually have a few more sakura foods to talk about but I’m holding them back for Sendai and Nagano posts. So stay tuned for the glory of Sendai foods and Nagano foods. This year I’m already planning to eat more of sakura foods and thus far this year it looks like there’s a lot more choices than usual. Franceslovesyou and I have booked some fancy teas with sakura themes this year so you’ll see some fancier sakura foods too. And I’ll probably take up the challenge to eat the First Kitchen sakura burger because I am a fool.

Previous Sakura food posts:

Sakura Foods in Japan (2015)Sweets Forest in Jiyugaoka – Sakura themed desserts | Q-Pot cafe in Harajuku with Sakura tasting | A collection of Sakura foods (2013) | A few Sakura foods (2011)

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Sendai sakura are definitely worth it if you’d like to prolong your sakura needs. After Tokyo and Kyoto’s sakura season is finished Sendai’s sakura season is still going on. After Tokyo’s blossoms fall off I’m usually left with a pink flower shaped hole. Or like last year the sakura forecast was off and I missed most of Tokyo’s blossoms and instead went to Matsumoto (previous post) and also went to Fukushima and Sendai.

There are three parks in Sendai proper that have sakura: Mikamine Park, Tsutsujigaoka Park, and Nishi Park. I chose visiting Tsutsujigaoka Park (榴ヶ岡) because it’s so close to Sendai station. You can actually just walk it in 20 minutes from Sendai station, or take the train to Tsutsujigaoka station(榴ヶ岡駅) on the Senseki JR line (仙石線).

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The classic vision of cherry blossoms: pink and frilly

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Ohanami indeed. A perfect setting for flower viewing.

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This kid knows what’s up. Best part of weeping sakura, you can touch them easily.

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Since sakura viewing is a drinking pastime alcohol companies provide free lanterns to parks as advertisements.

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This is now my twitter background. Perfect sakura.

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People go crazy over the traditional Somei Yoshino sakura trees. But I’m gaga for the weeping sakura known Shidarezakura. To me it looks like they’re hugging all the revelers.

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The weeping sakura curtain.

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Lots of cute festival food stalls up at the edge of Tsutsujigaoka Park.

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Cost of seeing these blossoms once you hit Sendai station? 0 yen!

Sendai is a really nice place to visit and closer to Tokyo than you may think, it’s only a 95 minute shinkansen ride from Tokyo station. Kyoto gets horribly packed for sakura season and if you’d like a calmer vibe Fukushima, Matsumoto and Sendai are all very good alternatives and have later seasons.

If you’re trying to see more sakura post the Tokyo bloom I really recommend the Fukushima and Sendai experience. You can actually do both in a one-night hotel overnight stay in Sendai (whose hotel rooms are much cheaper than Osaka or Kyoto). From Tokyo head to Fukushima spend your day there (I have a sakura post coming up about them and it’s worth it!) and then train to Sendai. The next day see Sendai sakura and other amusements and then shinkansen out.

Although the tragic earthquake and tsunami of 2011 was originally known as the Sendai quake, there is no damage to witness or radiation danger in Sendai or Fukushima when going to the main tourist spots or just out and about in both cities. But they could absolutely use your tourist dollars, so why not see them? They have a lot to offer, especially in sakura season.

I’m planning to go back this year, but actually to see the burgeoning tourist boom of Sendai’s fox village. Then I hope to check even more sakura.

 

If you missed any previous sakura posts on the Doll check them out here I’ve got a fourth in a series of sakura foods posts coming up too.  :hearts3:

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