Sunday, April 24, 2016

Tulips with the added bonus of kikumomo...

I know these are not tulips... keep reading....
So for the third year in a row, I visited Sera Kogen during tulip season.. and was definitely not disappointed. I love them so much I always bring some home.

But, instead of just being satisfied with what I have already seen in past years (tulips) I decided to check out a second garden, of a completely different nature, only five minutes away from Sera Kogen, called Skyfarm.

I recommend going to Sera Kogen the Wednesday or Thursday prior to the tulip festival weekend. If you go on the weekend it can become quite crowded. The festival is usually around Earth Day, which is April 22, but of course, the blooms depend on Mother Nature's cooperation.

But first, for those of you who are huge tulip fans, here is some tulip eye candy for you, to start this post off right:

This year they had English signs with the names of the tulip varieties, which my mother and I were both excited about. (If you hadn't read in previous posts, Mom is visiting my family for 90 days and is in the middle of her visit.... she's tagging along with me on all of my bucket list trips that I hope to do before my family moves back to the States this summer.) 

Here are some of my favorite varieties... either because of the flower itself, or simply because of the name...

Once we were done enjoying the tulips (plan on 2 hours and 800 yen), we headed back to the car and drove out of the main parking lot, to the left, and followed the arrows to SkyFarm (open link in Google Chrome to translate), which is known for its yellow forsythia or rapeseed flowers, and pink kikumomo, or peach blossoms. There are also fruiting plum and chestnut trees, which do not flower at this time.

In June, you can visit again for the plum harvest. There were details on that, with photos, but it was all in Japanese, so just keep the date of June 21 in mind for a visit to Skyfarm. And then in September, they have chestnut harvesting.

But during tulip season, for 700 yen, you can go a short hike labeled with numbers for the different views of the forsythia fields you can enjoy. It was a gorgeous day for a short hike... the only kind of hike I like.

Plan on spending about an hour at SkyFarm. There aren't many amenities, so if you want a sit-down lunch, either eat at one of the Sera Kogen cafes, or travel about 15 minutes away to the Sera Dream Park, where there is the Sera Winery with some delicious yakiniku, as well as other dishes. And wine. Lots of wine. If you're traveling with kids, the Sera Dream Park also features a huge playground where they can burn off some steam.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spring Sakura Tradition at the Japanese Mint

I just found out about the Hiroshima Mint's (yes, as in money) collection of 56 different varieties of cherry blossom (sakura) trees last year. I had overbooked myself and didn't make it to see them, so I made it a priority this year. I'm so glad I went. Did you know there are green-flowered cherry blossom trees? I didn't until last week and I loved them!

Originally my friend Hyla, who founded, found out about the mint on the fabulous English website, The mint is only about 45 minutes away from Iwakuni, in Itsukaichi. It is only open for about a week, and we went towards the end of the season, on a Monday, to avoid the large crowds that visit during the weekend. The cherry blossoms at the mint tend to bloom later than the rest of the cherry blossom trees in the area, around mid-April. We went April 18th.

Actual cherries?!
Loved the heart that formed... there were several trees that had them.

The mint also offered commemorative coins, but the only one I wanted, with the Kintai Bridge, was sold out. The little shop is in the back right corner of the garden as you enter.

Parking is a pain... the mint doesn't have any. I doubt it was legal, but we ate lunch at the Coco's restaurant (not curry... a variety of tasty dishes, though), so I just parked there and walked across the street to the mint for the 45 minutes worth of photos I took. Another friend parked about a kilometer down the road in a store's parking structure.