Himeji Castle sakura (姫路城 Himeji-jo) was a last minute choice after the big mountain trek to Takeda Castle. I looked at hanami-walker which is an overly complicated guide to sakura viewing in Japanese. However it’s got great information on light-ups (night viewing) and festivals. I saw that there was a light-up at Himeji Castle and since it was on the way back to Osaka we decided to make a detour. Himeji Castle has a great website in English if you’d like to visit.

 

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Himeji Castle’s mascot is Shiromaru Hime (しろまるひめ). Or White round princess. Silly, but cute and even with her own website: http://www.shiromaruhime.jp/. Her cherry blossom accessory really shows well known Himeji Castle is for their sakura.

Note: Himeji Castle is currently being restored so it may not be the best photo op, but the grounds are lovely especially during sakura season.

EDIT: It just reopened!  Ellie says they will have even more celebrations this year! Yay

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Himeji castle #fromwhereIstand thanks discount shop G.U. for the cheap pants and shoes together 1,400 yen or $12 good enough for a hike.

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Weeping sakura last longer so you’ll often see them in bloom while the “pink snow” has started.

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The pink snow is the best! End of the sakura season is so underrated.

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Twilight heading to the Himeji Castle sakura light-up

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Like snow, but not cold and PINK. Perfect.

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The actual light-up inside the main grounds was cool AND FREE!

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For light-up locations in Japan (sakura and koyo season) they use dedicated spot lights that make the colors really POP.

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Even at the end of the Himeji Castle sakura season the light-up was still great.

Himeji Castle Omiyage!

Compared to other Japanese castle mascots (list) Shiromaru Hime is a true winner. Thankfully Himeji had lots of omiyage to buy to show off your Shiromaru Hime love.

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Sadly both strawberry to show off the strawberry over sakura love but they look tasty.

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Himeji City also has its own mascot and it’s Kuroda Kanbei or just “Kanbei” (官兵衛). It’s based on an actual historical guy named Kuroda Kanbei (english | wiki).

Himeji Castle in Hyogo is a really nice visit and very convenient from both Kyoto and Osaka. There’s also a Hello Kitty cafe that I wish I knew about earlier.  Himeji Castle sakura are really lovely even at the end of the season so if you’re in need of a short trip from the Kansai area, take a look.

Need more sakura? All the sakura posts on the Doll here

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My fourth post on sakura foods and there are some slim pickings lately when it comes to sakura flavored items. It seems the taste preference is switching to strawberry. Japanese it seems think it’s more of a taste foreigners like instead or in super ‘wa’ (Japanese-style) areas of Japan, I saw the most in Kyoto. Sakura kit-kat are available year around at the airports but not really outside of them.

This year Mister Donut Philippines is doing a seasonal sakura offering while Mister Donut Japan is doing a strawberry tasting. Admittedly both foods are pink and sakura flavor is a made up flavor, but strawberries are wonderful everywhere(Norway especially has some delicious strawberries) while sakura is a Japanese.
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Darn you Phillipines! I want to eat a sakura cronut.

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 Mister Donut Japan’s 2015 offerings of a strawberry fare. On sale now.

The Sakura Foods of 2014 I had

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The most traditional of the sakura foods: Sakuramochi (桜餅 wiki) which is a red bean filled, pink rice cake wrapped in a sweet pickled sakura leaf.

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Japan Haagen-Dazs had three flavors for the season: Sakura, Rose and White Peach Raspberry. The rose was my favorite.

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Shinjuku Lumine EST all you can eat buffet place Bittersweet Paradise has a lovely red bean and sakura sauced waffle.

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From Kyoto Takashimaya I found some Sakura Warabi (桜蕨) which is more delicate than traditional mochi.

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Strawberry flavors invading! Found an ichigo-daifuku Choco Cro at the Hyogo Choco Cro.

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An actual Ichigo-Daifuku (イチゴ大福) which is always popular during spring. This was one was from Arashiyama next to my Chirimen sakura Mt. Fuji. I love Kyoto Chirimen.

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A traditional hanami-dango at Arashiyama with Yomogi.

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A sakura taiyaki from a small stall at Fukushima’s sakura viewing.

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A sakura onigiri and the taiyaki both from Fukushima. Thank you Fukushima for your sakura food options!

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Random finds in a Fukushima shopping arcade, both from Sendai (which is quite close to Fukushima).

A sakura donut and a sakura flavored “pie”. I don’t remember the donut flavor, possibly just gave it to my girl Alice. The “pie” was more PopTart.

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An odd find was sakura ice cream at a “Warawara” izakaya in Tokyo. I told my friend to make them into boobs, she obliged. I’m an adult who was sober. One of those statements was true.

I’m excited to do a 2015 post soon, but I hope they’re not even more lacking than 2014. It seems to keep going down.  :regret:

Previous Sakura food posts:

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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Osaka sakura at Osaka Castle and the Kyu-Yodo River (旧淀川 Kyu-Yodo gawa) cherry blossoms show off all I like about sakura season. The cherry blossoms are free to enjoy and these types of events always seem more for everyone. Also it’s a stretch of land that’s nice but becomes absolutely gorgeous in Spring. It draws a lot of people out and especially on weekends and everyone is having a good time. Free and for everyone, proletariat sakura!

I know there’s such beautiful photos of tons of sakura creating a pink universe for Japan, but they’re everywhere. Sometimes just in basic places: a lone old sakura tree in a schoolyard, a public park, or in someone’s garden.

Atashida and I decided to have an impromptu hanami and the Kyu-Yodo River was perfect for it. Then I went back last year to enjoy again. Two years of Osaka sakura in one post!

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Sakura and Osaka castle! The grounds are free to walk around in so you can spend zero and enjoy.

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Although not as plentiful as summer or fall festivals a few food stalls pop up around hanami viewing spots.

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Some people get really serious to reserve a spot for hanami.

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And some people just pull up a bench and enjoy the view. It’s definitely a whatever you feel like atmosphere.

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Lots of boats traveling down for Osaka sakura

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People waiting in line for the boat tours.

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There were even different types of sakura on the river.

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I can’t find out what this cherry blossom flower type is but I love the double color.

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Last year I went back and it was on a weekday past the prime sakura viewing season so the river was mostly empty except for joggers. Working out through sakura season must be nice!

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Falling sakura on water are so pretty.

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Last year the leftover Osaka sakura were so nice. We were there in early afternoon and everything was reflecting and peaceful.

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The quick gets at a local Sunklus conbini for the hanami. The drinks are Kirin’s special sakura can beer and a peach chu-hai. Those dango say 3-color dango but they’re actually known as “hanami dango” and they’re special to the sakura season. The candied apple was an actual candied apple with a hard candy shell. I thought I would lose some teeth eating it.

Osaka sakura aren’t as fancy as its neighbor Kyoto but it’s a lovely free time to have.

Travel savings tip: I recommend to people especially during sakura and koyo season to stay in Osaka. You’ll get a better hotel deal and travel to Kyoto is only 10 mins via shinkansen or an hour via regular train. Kyoto hotels book up months in advance and the ones left over are usually very pricey. Osaka hotels can be around 7,000-12,000 yen a night ($65-110) for a good location and a decent place. Plus Osaka has a lot of shopping and food options especially at dinner time compared to Kyoto.

Estimated cost of travel day, because I like to show that traveling Japan doesn’t have to be expensive:

Travel: We stayed in Osaka but used transit to get to Osaka castle. About 500 yen roundtrip rail pass unnecessary. 14 day rail pass is around $30USD a day.

Lodging: My hotel was 7,400 yen a night in Osaka.

Food: Breakfast was bakery breads and canned coffee 500 yen, Lunch was Kushi katsu at Daruma around 1,400 yen, refilled bottle of waters (free), dinner was a splurge at Kani Doraku crab for 2,500 yen.

Total spent without lodging or travel: 4,200 yen or $39

Total including everything (food, lodging, travel): 14,000 yen or $126 for two people: 18,000 yen or $160. I also bought some Donki eyelashes and makeup for 5,000 yen.

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March 12 – April 12 on Universal-Doll is going to be all about Spring Japan travel (with the occasional fashion update thrown in because #fashionblogger). I’m especially going to talk about some more unexpected destinations like this Castle in the Sky along with travel tips. But I’ll also have some Osaka and Kyoto news as well.

 

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My best photo that shows how it feels to be at Takeda Castle and it’s the first photo. May as well stop the blog post now.

I found out about Takeda Castle in Hyogo (竹田城 Takeda-jo) through rocketnews. Never did I think I would travel somewhere because of a site that mainly posts photos of whacky Japan and plastic surgery. But it was their one rocketnews post in a few about how pretty some things in Japan are.

Takeda Castle is known as Japan’s Machu Pichu because of how it an old ruin that nests above the clouds. It’s known as Takeda Castle, but really it’s just ruins from a leftover castle built in the 1400s on a mountain. It doesn’t have a big foreign tourist draw, but when I was there a lot of Japanese tour groups were visiting.

 

kMjoprlHere’s a fancy helicopter shot from Infojepang

I showed the post to my man and he was really interested to so we decided to make a day trip of it from Osaka. It’s a very easy day trip from Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe. It took about two hours from Osaka, we stopped at the Wadayama train station for Yoshinoya.

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Travel tip: Looking for cheap and quick? A gyu-don restaurant such as Nakau or Yoshinoya. My meal was 490 yen or $4.50. I ordered the Meat with green onions and egg or top right.

My man was mainly interested because we could hike it, he’s like half-goat so the idea of scaling anything fills him with happiness. I on the other hand love a good hike but hate unstable heights, like it’s my #1 fear (dark water #2). I took a medicine for a long time that left me feeling dizziness with heels above 3 inches, much less a mountain. But I heard hike and agreed. I even bought sensible shoes and pants for the endeavor. And wore eyelashes and full makeup, because I’m me. :smiley:

Takeda Station in Hyogo is the drop off point and Takeda area itself was really pretty!

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If this is the first thing you see when you get off a train, you know you’re in for a treat.

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A little warning about the train, check out that Takeda Castle mascot “Takeji” so cute!!

TakejiSo cute!! (from the Asago City website)

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Takeda station is in the town of Asago and wow the main drag was pretty. New old-style houses that some must’ve been ryokans.

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Koi swimming through the streams lining the main road. Along with cute statues of Mickey Mouse and Doraemon.

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Even Pikachu got in on the action. All the cherry blossoms final road. No editing, they were really that pink.

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If you’re upset you’re going to miss peak time to view the sakura, really don’t be. After is always great. You get to watch them fall and floating down rivers they’re especially lovely.

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And the shrine entrance starts the journey up the mountain.

and there will be no pictures of that.

Remember when I said unstable heights were my number one fear? Well that set off a panic attack.

Really like several panic attacks up the mountain. And because I was on the side of a mountain I couldn’t go down that was just as horrible. So I would have a panic attack, hike up a bit more, panic, hike, panic. And I got asthmatic because I was wasting my energy just freaking the fuck out.

But I got up the mountain and Takeda Castle rocks!

And hiking is not a requirement to see it, most sane rational people who didn’t listen to the whims of a goat man drive up and park or take a taxi. And go up like 3 measly flights of stairs to see the castle. 

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iPhone pano! I never use this but I think it really explains how high up you are.

Takeda Castle’s nickname is “The Castle in the Clouds” you are so high up and the view is just spectacular. Even on an overcast day it’s just uninterrupted and glorious!

We had the bonus of visiting on what a tour guide said that day was full bloom of Takeda Castle. Yup. Sakura in the Sky!

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I bombarded you with a bunch of cherry blossom centric photos and the “castle” is really just raised rocks, it was totally awesome and I’d visit again in another season, during Fall leaves aka koyo it’s supposed to be breathtaking as well. The view is fabulous, the city around it is super cute and it was a very worthwhile day trip. It’s also a place that’s popular with Japanese tourists but still not too busy. Sakura viewing crowds can get suffocating and this definitely wasn’t.

To note: Takeda Castle’s Cherry Blossom season is later than Osaka or Kyoto. We were there on April 10th and Osaka and Kyoto usually are peak times April 1. So if you’re in Kansai later I really suggest getting your blossom on at Takeda!

Bonus! The JR Bantan line from Takeda to Wadayama had super cute trains!

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Man I love wrapped trains. It doesn’t beat the Takamatsu Kotoden train, but it definitely fit its surroundings.

Cost of travel day, because I like to show that traveling Japan doesn’t have to be expensive:

Travel: The trip from Osaka to Takeda is covered within the Japan Rail Pass so that part was included in my original spending. We also went to Hyogo castle on our way back. I walked to the JR Namba stop in Osaka so all travel was included in the Rail Pass. 14 day rail pass is around $30USD a day.

Lodging: My hotel was 7,400 yen a night in Osaka.

Food: Breakfast was bakery breads and canned coffee 500 yen, Lunch was Yoshinoya 500 yen, refilled bottle of waters for hike (free), snack and coffee at ChocoCro was 600 yen, dinner was Takoyaki back at Osaka for 600 yen.

Taxi down: 1,500 yen

Entrance to the castle: 300 yen

Total spent without lodging or travel: 4,300 yen or $40

Total including everything (food, lodging, travel): 14,900 yen or $130 for two people: 22,400 yen or $210.

Other than recommended and out of the ordinary tourist spots for Spring I’ll have advice on packing, ways people overspend in Japan, and Spring tips. So stay tuned  :loveword:

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