March 31, 2013

Night Viewing at Harimazaka

Visited Harimazaka again this year to see the night blossoms. Unfortunately, I went around 18:30, and the night sky made my photos turn out grainy.

Unlike other spots that are famed for their nighttime cherry blossom viewing, Harimazaka doesn't employ strategic lighting. The street is lit by mere streetlamps.

They light the flowers up very nicely, though.

Unlike last year, the area wasn't packed with visitors, although I remember it being a lot colder.

Lantern lights reflected onto the little man-made river they have running alongside the path. It was drained after the 2011 earthquake, so I've never seen it in action.

View from across the street.

In the Dead of Nakasaki-cho

Near Nakasaki-cho Station in Osaka. I'd heard it was an interesting, arty area filled with shops, cafes, and galleries.

It's hard to tell when the stores aren't even open. This was at 11am on a Sunday morning.

Judging by the handful of stalls that were open, it seemed like your regular old shotengai (shopping arcade), with cheap food, clothing shops, and pharmacies. Not quite the Koenji I was hoping for.

To be fair, I should save my judgement until I actually visit this area at night.

A sign for the koban (police station).

A bookstore posted a very long-winded, borderline incoherent message saying that it would not be open that day. ("To be stepped on and kicked at but grow to be strong -- that is the life of a weed. We believe books are life.")

The tiger is a nod to the baseball team Hanshin Tigers.

Coffee bean dispenser.

A takoyaki stand and its ever-innovative menu. I did not have the courage to try out the Takolian -- takyoyaki with semi Italian food-inspired toppings such as ginger sauce, wasabi, yuzu (a type of citrus) pepper and parma ham, and tomato sauce and cheese.

Osaka's stray cats are apparently fancy.

The giant tunnel shape of the station looks practically European, but the unabashed use of fluorescent lights is clearly Japanese.

A View of the Osaka City Central Public Hall, which kind of looks like the new Tokyo Station buildings.

The nearby bridge lights up in rainbow colors at night.

March 29, 2013

Third Cherry-blossom Viewing at Kiyosumi Gardens

My third visit to Kiyosumi Teien during cherry blossom season.

The kanhizakura cherry blossom trees were the big draw last week, but in a week or so, people will be coming to view the yaezakura, signalling the end of hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season.

You often see birds pecking at the flowers, and now I know why. The sap was practically pouring out of the branches.

This ibis was quite skilled at catching small fish, one after another, oblivious to the man wearing a tracksuit who kept throwing bits of bread at its head. (At Kiyosumi Gardens, you can purchase bird/carp food.)

Another ibis that had decidedly less skill.

I was quite bemused to see the rubber dinghy that gardeners use to get to the island-like spots in the middle of the pond.

Purple and white magnolias, so much less magnificent than at Shinjuku Gyoen.

 A plant I found close to the park that I have not been able to identify.

March 27, 2013

Cherry Blossoms and Daffodils (And Some Others)

Shinjuku Gyoen photos, continued. This particular cluster of yanagizakura (literally "willow cherry blossoms") amassed a crowd of park visitors who were oohing and aahing over its beauty.

It wasn't just the cherry blossoms; the daffodils planted around the trees were also in full bloom. The scent of the flowers mixed in with the warm air just so. A genuinely heady experience.

You have to duck under the canopy of branches to really notice the daffodils.

Magnolia stellata.The name makes sense when you look at the buds.

Japanese cornel, a species of dogwood.

March 26, 2013

An Early Sakura Moment at Shinjuku Gyoen

Shinjuku Gyoen, one of Tokyo's most popular gardens. I visited about a week ago, when the majority of cherry blossoms were not yet in bloom. This is generally seen as a minus, but the plus side was that I was able to see trees that are often overlooked in the pursuit of finding the best day to view the sakura.

But then again, aside from a magnificent magnolia tree, it simply meant that I was able to see a different type of cherry blossom, instead of the standard somei yoshino (Yoshino cherry). Notice how these trees are pink, instead of the more pervasive white somei yoshino flowers.

The petals were surprisingly veiny.

Having visited the park only once or so before, I realized for the first time how vast Shinjuku Gyoen is. That said, it is about one-sixth the size of Central Park.

Branches so long, they look like trees stuck horizontally onto another tree.

It was virtually impossible to get a shot of a flowering tree that did not have a person with a camera standing in front of it.

This type of cherry blossom is called kanhizakura. The kanji for kan has the meaning of "cold", which I guess refers to the fact that it can bloom at relatively colder temperatures than other sakura.

The Prettiest Magnolia Tree in the World (at Shinjuku Gyoen)

The prettiest magnolia tree in the world, in full bloom at Shinjuku Gyoen Park about a week ago. Is it not as impressive as a sakura (cherry blossom) tree at its height?

The sight of all the different layers of branches and flowers spread out under the clear sky was honestly astounding. I'll be honest, though: its prettiness is mostly due to its size.

The area surrounding the tree was littered with fallen white petals, but flowers still appeared abundant on the branches.