Alone or with others? I suppose with travel it’s always an interesting outcome regardless. It’s been awhile since I’ve travelled alone because the past few times it’s either been with family members such as my mum, or with D who unfortunately couldn’t come with me this time to Japan because he would have loved it so much.
This round I was supposed to have traveled the first portion of the itinerary with my mum but as fate would have it, she ended up not being able to go a few hours before my flight from Berlin was due to take off. I suppose on hindsight, me hurriedly changing bookings from hotels to hostels while in transit in Warsaw was probably a funny sight to behold. Obviously I choose different accommodations when I’m traveling with my mum. 😉 But some things such as ryokans and onsens are really much more fun when experienced with a good friend/family member I feel. This time, there were a couple of awkward moments especially on the first night at the ryokan I had booked for my mum and I. I hadn’t had enough time to email them to inform them that only one person was coming. Though I had mentioned it to the staff attending to me on arrival, perhaps it got lost in translation/my less than competent Japanese and she didn’t manage to convey to the chef that the other party wouldn’t be going for dinner at all. When I arrived at the dinner table, it was to see the table laden with plates of all shapes and sizes lavish ryokan dinner style…enough for 2 people. I sure hope the staff enjoyed the leftover food that I didn’t manage to touch. ^^;;
What was most special for me this first part of the trip though, was the unexpected finding of a real beautiful Sakura park by the river in the resort town of Minakami, Gunma prefecture. After being dropped off at Minakami station for a day trip by the hotel shuttle bus, I proceeded to ask the tourist information staff if there were any local highlights as I hadn’t done any research about the area at all. Thank goodness for an easy to follow map with signs showing the best sakura viewing spots in the area. It was a 20 – 30 minute walk down one long main road to Tone River （利根川）, with a gorgeous view of a mountain range in the distance and a walking path lined with Sakura trees in full bloom. *_* It was such a pleasant surprise being able to see Sakura at that time (second week of April) since there had been so many reports of an earlier than expected blooming season due to warm weather.
It was a real gem of a Sakura spot. So many trees in full bloom in an area that isn’t even particularly well known for its Sakura, thus not needing to compete with the crowds of other camera toting people… ^^ Perhaps next time I would go to a place like that rather than Kyoto for Sakura viewing because it was just the best feeling being able to really walk slowly and take my time breathing in the air, really viewing the plants and having my breath taken away each time I went up and down a little slope and the view changed.
Some views from the local town near the train station:
I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this very simple yet rustic flower arrangement put together by a very elderly gentleman for his storefront. I happened to walk by while he was using a pair of gardening shears to cut the thick stems of these branches and when I walked back again a few minutes later, there it was all done up. It heartens me to think that even someone of his age would take the time to beautify the outside of his store with a fuss-free arrangement of seasonal flowers. Can’t help but adore and respect someone like him for going the extra mile at his age.
So many gorgeous Narcissus （水仙). It was the first time i’d seen so many growing naturally out of the ground. Back in Berlin it was always just seeing chunks of them in buckets at the florist and back in Singapore… don’t think I even saw these at all!
Though I finished my exploration of the town and its lake well in advance of the bus’s arrival time at 3pm and was in search of a good cafe to rest in (to no avail), what brings a smile to my face when I think back to that day was the unexpected way in which things turned out so well. No plans whatsoever and by relying solely on the recommendations of the sole lady at the quiet tourist information centre, I was able to explore the small town of Minakami and enjoy a wholly unexpected incredible view of Sakura in full bloom. Couldn’t ask for more. ❤