Japan Trip – Cherry Blossom Season – April 2010

In the wake of the tragic events in Japan recently, I committed in a recent post to finally writing about my 2 week Cherry Blossom inspired Japan holiday in April 2010. A 16 year absence  from one of my favourite countries, this time last year I was headed to Japan in the capacity of chief tour guide and interpreter. My trip group of 3, consisted of my sister, friend and myself. I was designated tour guide because I had lived in Japan in 1993 and 1994, leaving Nishinomiya near Kobe, 3 weeks before the last earthquake there.

Cherry Blossom (Sakura in Japanese) season is one of the best times to visit Japan, not only is it spring but if you time it right and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom you can witness Japanese people celebrating o-hanami, which is basically viewing the Cherry Blossoms while drinking and picnicking in parks and gardens across the country. Not only is it a festive season but the scenery is simply stunning. There are over 400 different types of cherry blossoms in Japan! Cherry Blossom season varies each year but it is usually at the end of March, beginning of April.The flowers only bloom for 7-10 days and can be easily affected by unseasonal weather.

In the capacity of chief tour guide, I decided to by a new lightweight Kathmandu suitcase as we had already purchased our Japan Rail Pass allowing us to get off and on the superfast Shinkansen or bullet train all over Japan. Our itinerary for the 2 weeks was action packed so I wanted to travel easily with my luggage and be the perfect role model for my tour group. I even looked at photos of when I lived in Japan to see what I had been wearing back in the 90’s during cherry blossom season. The weather channel was reporting decidedly cooler weather in the weeks leading up to our trip so I was a little unsure.

The Japan Rail Pass, only available to foreign tourists and which must be bought before arriving in the country was approx $500 (AU) for 14 days, it is worth every cent. We would have spent 1000s of dollars if we had bought separate tickets for each train trip we caught.

I proudly boasted the lightest suitcase after we checked in on our Qantas flight, an overnight flight that departed at 10pm so we could hit the ground running on Easter Friday. My suitcase was filled with strappy sandals, t-shirts, shorts, and a few light jackets for cooler nights, a pair of jeans thrown in at the last minute and a 2nd pair of shoes just in case the weather turned ugly, oh and my Kathmandu rain jacket.(no I’m not sponsored by Kathmandu!)

On the 1st day of sightseeing, to Kyoto, I had to go back to the hotel for an outfit change which consisted of borrowing all my sister’s and friend’s spare clothes so I could brave the freezing zero degree temperatures with a wind chill factor of equivalent to winter on a Swiss ski slope! My boasting of the lightest suitcase was then replaced for the next 2 weeks by complete ear bashing by my travel group as to the inappropriateness of my packing. It turned out to be an unseasonally cold spring! Packing light is not all it is cracked up to be! I will never live this down!

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