Hanami in Kansai 2011

2:00 AM

Although Hanami season is sadly over, I really wanted to share some place for enjoying hanami in the Kansai areaヽ(´▽`)ノ.

As I'm sure any person who nurtures an interest in Japan knows (or maybe doesn't know, there's always time to learn something new(●´-`●)), hanami is a brief few weeks in April (May in northern Japan) where the Japanese go out to enjoy watching cherry blossom trees, hardcore midday drinking and general tomfoolery. Entrance ceremonies are also usually taking place at schools around the country, so I think it's a nice time for celebrating.

Unfortunately, a combination of a shoddy work schedule and sudden sickness prevented me from having a real hanami with my family and friends, so Shota and I decided to venture out together to enjoy hanami. We didn't bother with bento because we're both notoriously lazy (and bad at making bento).

Osaka Castle Park 大阪城公園
Access Info:
You can use the JR Osaka Loop Line or Tanimachi Line or Chuo Line on the subway to get to the castle.
●The station from JR is Osakajo Koen Station 大阪城公園駅. This will drop you off right in front of the park surrounding Osaka Castle. From there it's about a 10 minute walk to the actual castle (this is a rough estimate since the last time I went from that station was a while ago, and it isn't written on their site).
●If you take the subway, you can exit at Tanimachi 4-Chome Station 谷町四丁目駅. The site doesn't say what exit to take from the subway, but I'm sure it'll be written in English at that station (or if you're feeling adventurous/talkative you can always ask a station manager). Next time I make a trip to 4-chome, I'll be sure to look for it so I can share the info( ´ ▽ ` )ノ

 As you can guess, Osaka Castle is really popular place for Hanami. We went on a Thursday afternoon, and there were still a sizable amount of people out drinking and/or sightseeing. The thing I really liked about Osaka Castle's cherry blossom trees is how they're lined up around the outer wall of the castle. 

Like in these two shots! I think no matter wear you go in this park, you get a great seat. Though I'm sure on a really active day, there isn't much room to spare. 

Shota was telling me that years back, the park around Osaka Castle wasn't so nice and filled with a lot of homeless people. Couples would even pay homeless guys to sleep in certain places so they'd have a nice place to sit during hanami. There are signs up in the park now, discouraging that practice, and I didn't see any homeless people that day, so I suppose it's mostly done with(´・_・`).

Once you go past Ote Gate (coming from Tanimachi 4-chome Sta.) or Aoya Gate closer to (Osakajo Koen Sta.) you can find more trees and food! And since this is Osaka, you know there's takoyaki and yakisoba, but this place also had ikayaki (grilled squid). I've had store-bought grilled squid, but I was more interested in the takoyaki that day(*´∀`*) And it was so worth it! Best takoyaki I've had so far~~ And it wasn't that expensive.

Near the same food stand, you can find Hokoku Shrine which was built in honor of the Toyotomi Family (the ones who built Osaka Castle).

Then there's Osaka Castle, which has been turned into a museum that you can enter for a fee of 600 yen. I've already been, and it's not really worth a replay, but if you've not been before, you should definitely check it out. It gives a great view of Osaka from the roof.

I'll be posting more photos (with much less commentary) on the kansai tumblr here.

Sanadayama Park 真田山公園

If you're looking for a more local and family friendly environment for hanami, you can check out Sanadayama Park also in Osaka City. It's also located in a nice trifecta of train stations, Osaka Uehonmachi, Tsuruhashi and Tamatsukuri, with the first two being operated by Kintetsu Rail Company and the later being a subway station.
It's quite small, but it's probably only meant for locales, so it's missing all that Osaka Castle grandeur, but that's okay too(´∀`)
If you have active small ones, this place is perfect since it has a large playground full of interesting things to play on. Shota really wanted to try out this huge bowl shaped slide, but I had to convince him otherwise since a bunch of preschoolers were occupying it at the time. It did look fun thoughヽ(´▽`)ノ
Here's a shot of the playground. Really spacious, great for running around. And Shota trying to show his skills on the bar.

Also, the park had benches under the cherry blossoms, great for sitting down for a bite or just relaxing under the the trees.

I think there were a couple different varieties of cherry blossom planted around the park, but I'm terrible with identifying plants, so I did't even try. I just noticed some were a much brighter pink, while others seems more white like the ones in this photo.

The trees also ran around a baseball field and a couple tennis courts. These are all part of the sports complex that goes by the same name as the park. I'd like to go back to check that out, since I love playing sports. They also had an indoor and outdoor swimming pool(ノ゚∀゚)ノ Seeing those got me so psyched for summer~~

Sakura in Nara Prefecture

Since I have to travel for Nara for work, I took some shots of the cherry blossoms out there as well. Most Japanese cities have their own collection of cherry blossoms, so you don't really have to go to famous places for hanami. As long as there's a tree and some space, 
you've got yourself a party( ^_^)/▼☆▼\(^_^ ) カンパァーイ♪

Sakurai City, Nara 桜井市奈良県
Access info:
Sakurai Station on the Kintetsu Railway, Osaka line.
This city has cherry blossom in it's name, so I figured they must be pretty awesome. And I wasn't let down. 

The largest river that runs through Sakurai City is dotted with cherry blossoms, some areas thick like this photo, while others have a little more space. The families who live next to river are so lucky to have nice prime hanami space whenever they likeヽ(=´ω`=)/.

At some points along the river, there are some stairs leading down to the water. What a convenient place for hanami(●´-`●)!

Also, when out in more rural cities like Sakurai City, being around smells great! I don't remember smelling anything while Osaka (but then my family in Mie always says the air in Osaka is dirtier( ´'A'`)), but as soon as I stepped off the train in Sakurai, there was a lovely fragrance in the air. I could've spent all day hanging around the trees, but I had some place to be(´д`)

 Sakurai is also the home to Japan's oldest road, Yamanobe Road, and one of Japan's oldest temple and highest torii (gateways at the entrance of Shinto shrines), Oomiwa Shrine.

Uda City, Nara 宇陀市奈良県
Access info:
Haibara Station on the Kintetsu Railway, Osaka line.

Another spot off the beaten path, Uda City in Nara!

This town is pretty small (all you can find around the train station is a Mister Donuts and a couple other local shops), but that doesn't stop it from having great cherry blossom trees.

This photo was actually taken about 10+ minutes away from the station, next to the river.

Just like Sakurai City, the trees are lined up along the riverside. They don't go down the entire length, but there's still plenty. Unfortunately, the ground isn't so flat, so most people seemed to be enjoying the cherry trees from benches or car seats.

I've seen some signs outside of Haibara station for nearby temples, but I've yet to visit any. I also see lots of people get off at Haibara in hiking gear, so there must be a nice trail into the mountains here. I'll have to investigate that some other time(=´ω`=;

That's all for my hanami post. As you can see, I didn't really get out for any actual hanami, I was stuck working most of the time, but I really enjoyed looking and taking photos. Hope you found something you like too, if not, I'll be posting more photos (no shown here) on the We ♥ Kansai tumblr here. Check it out sometime!(o゜▽゜)ゝイラッシャーイ♪

Questions and comments are always welcome!

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