5 Safe Sakura Viewing (Hanami) Tips During Pandemic
…And Cherry Blossom destinations around Fukuoka
Sakura viewing (or Hanami ) is a favorite past time in Japan during spring. Unfortunately, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and by doing such gatherings we are just exacerbating our dire situation. In Japan, the cases of COVID-19 are still increasing and the government only REQUESTS people to refrain from get-togethers. But, this doesn’t stop numerous cherry blossom fans to see and take pictures of their favorite tree. I am also guilty of this, but I tried my best to avoid crowds as much as I can.
Hence, I’ll be sharing my tips on how I was able to SAFELY enjoy Hanami , as well as details of the “Sakura Spots” I found around Fukuoka, where I currently reside.
1. Look for Secret Cherry Blossoms
Not only it’s perfect for safe Sakura Viewing, but it’s also a great place to take shots without being too self-conscious. I’m a pretty shy person, so going to off-the-beaten-path locations gives me more confidence to strike a pose for my photos.
Plus, this allowed me to look for new picturesque places to capture, post more original content on my Instagram, and show that popular destinations are not the only insta-worthy places!
This might take time, but once you found a secret Sakura, it’s so worth it and you feel like you’ve discovered a treasure!
Here are some of Fukuoka’s Hidden Gems:
a. At the back of Nishiraku Grocery Store in Kusami, Kitakyushu
800-0231 Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Kokuraminami Ward, Kusami, 3914-5 ニシラク乳業Transportation:
Ride a train that goes to KUSAMI STATION. From there, take the No. 19 or 51 bus and get off at MINAMI KUSAMI BUS STOP.Parking:
There’s no parking.Best Time to Visit:
It blooms around February.Note:
This place is not a park. It’s just a field. I’m not sure whether or not it’s also used for cultivating vegetables or other plants, because I only saw cherry blossoms when I went here.
In addition, here are no restaurants or toilets nearby only Handsman (DIY Shop) and Nishiraku Grocery Store.
b. Sunatsu Sanchome Park
3 Chome-9 Sunatsu, Kokurakita Ward, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka 802-0014Transportation:
Take a train that goes to KOKURA STATION. Get off from that station and then take a bus that goes to CHA-CHA TOWN (500 meters away or 6 minutes on foot) or SUNATSU 2-CHOME (180 meters away or 2 minutes on foot).Parking:
You can pay for parking in Cha-cha Town.Best Time to Visit:
It typically blooms around the last week of March.Note:
This place is surrounded by houses and apartments, so please respect the residents there and avoid making loud noises. Moreover, it’s a very small park and only has 2 cherry blossom trees, but it’s still has a very mesmerizing quality and it’s definitely Instagramable.
When we visited this place, my husband and I were the only people there, hence we were able to take our time to take some shots and admire the beauty of the cherry blossoms.
c. An empty lot near the parking lot at the North Exit (Kita-guchi) of Itozu no Mori Koen
4 Chome-1-8 Kamiitozu, Kokurakita Ward, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka 803-0845Transportation:
Its closest train station is KOKURA STATION. From there, go to Kokura-eki Iriguchi Bus Stop and ride the bus that goes to NISHITETSU KUROSAKI BUS CENTER (No.1) and get off at ITOZU NO MORI KOEN MAE.Parking:
600 yen for ordinary cars and 1,000 yen for mid and large size vehiclesBest Time to Visit:
It typically blooms around mid-March, but there’s one tree that already has blossoming sakura around late- February.Note:
When you leave at the NORTH EXIT, turn left and keep walking for less than a minute, then turn left again and you’ll see the cherry blossoms
d. Kamikou Park
2. Go Early
The early bird catches the worm and avoids COVID.
Last year, many “Sakura hunters” in Japan weren’t able to enjoy the beauty of cherry blossoms, because of the State of Emergency. Hence, this year, many of them are making up for it and cramming a lot of popular Sakura Spots.
That’s why aside from looking for hidden Sakuras, I also make an extra effort to arrive at my targeted destination when most people are still waking up from their slumber. This gave me peace of mind regarding social distancing and I was able to take photos without photobombers.
These are some of the places that are worthy to go to before it gets congested:
a. Maruyama Park
826-0033 Fukuoka, Tagawa, 19, 田川市丸山町 19Transportation:
You could reach this place by taking a train that goes to TAGAWAGOTOJI STATION. Once you’ve reached that stop, you just need to walk for about 14 minutes to the park.Parking:
There is free parking.Best Time to Visit:
Sakuras start to flower from late March to early April.Note:
Maruyama Park has around 1000 cherry blossom trees, making it a popular spot for Sakura Viewing in Tagawa City, and during this period it also holds an annual Flower Festival.
So, for those who don’t any photobombers in your shot, it’s better to drop by this place around 6 to 7 am. Not only you’ll have this venue on your own and enjoy safe hanami, but you’ll also have fantastic golden lighting when the weather is clear.
Moreover, this park also has some wisterias that flourish around late April to early May.
b. Oura Pond (大浦池- Oura Ike)
Nara, Tagawa, Fukuoka 826-0043Transportation:
Oura Pond is not that far from Maruyama Park, hence you can go TAGAWAGOTOJI STATION and walk for about 18 minutes to the pond.Parking:
Since it’s at a roadside and you can’t enter its premises (as far as I saw), there’s NO PARKING space in here. However, when you do get here early, there’s an empty lot across the lake where you can quickly park.Best Time to Visit:
It blooms around late March to early April.Note:
This pond has a long row of cherry blossom trees that is truly enchanting. So, for those who want to take photos here, I highly suggest going here around 6- 7 am to avoid cars passing by.Moreover, Oura Pond has an interesting legend behind it….
A long time ago, Tagawa suffered from a drought. The farmers decided to dig a big hole, hoping the rain would fill it up and make a pond! A few days later, it rained heavily, but for some reason, no rain accumulated in the pond. Thus, the farmers decided to make a human sacrifice.
The daughter of the head village, named Oura, volunteered to give herself.
At dusk, the villagers watched the girl as she disappeared into the pond. A few days after that, the pond was filled with water and the farmers were able to plant and have a bountiful harvest again. The End.
It’s a tragic, yet fascinating story that makes you wonder that maybe it was real and the reason why Oura Pond has lush sakura.
c. Kamado Shrine
883 Uchiyama, Dazaifu, Fukuoka 818-0115Schedule:
8:30 am – 6:00 pmTransportation:
From its closest train station, DAZAIFU, go to the NISHITESU DAZAIFU Bus Station and take a bus that is bound for UCHIYAMA and then disembarks at UCHIYAMA Bus Station. From there you just need to walk for about a minute.Parking:
It has paid parking space that is available for 100 cars.Best Time to Visit:
Around late March to early AprilNote:
Kamado Shrine is a popular place to travel to by people who are looking for luck in romance. You can purchase various charms or an “ema” (wooden plaques) where you can write your love wishes.Aside from that, Kamado Shrine is frequently visited by hikers. After all, it’s the entrance of Mt. Homan’s hiking trail and fans of the hit anime KIMETSU NO YAIBA because it bears the same name as its main character, Kamado Tanjiro.
3. Choose a Less Crowded Schedule
Sometimes, going early is not the best choice to practice safe Hanami.
Places in the business district or heading to offices have a lot of traffic in the morning. Others are probably perfect morning destinations, but are less crowded on certain days. Therefore, I highly suggest checking online or briefly go to the venue in your itinerary to inspect the best time to visit.
Here are 2 Sakura Viewing spots that are ideal to stop by during their off-hours:
a. Kokura Castle
2-1 Jonai, Kokurakita Ward, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka 803-0813
Ride the train that goes to KOKURA STATION and get off from that station. From there, it’s just a 13-minute walk.
There is paid parking in Riverwalk Kitakyushu.
Best Time to Visit:
It blooms around late March to early April.
Kokura Castle was built from 1602-1608. It was burnt twice (1837 and 1866). It was then rebuilt in 1959 and finished in 1990. In my opinion, it’s one of the well-restored castles in Japan and it’s even more impressive during spring. There are about 300 sakura around this castle and one of its photogenic spots is by the riverside.
Not only that this castle has an impressive sight, but it’s also surrounded by many shops and restaurants, therefore becoming very crowded during peak hours. That’s why, I advise going here around 10-11 am or 2-3 pm during weekends.
Also, Kokura castle is close by to Kitakyushu’s City Hall and other establishments, hence there’s a lot of people boing to work from 6-9 am. Avoid those schedules to maintain a safe distance.
b. Sakura no Mori Square and Fukuoka Kenei Central Park
5 Konpiracho, Tobata Ward, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka 804-0022Transportation:
Go to TOBATA STATION, then ride the NO.7 or 40 BUS. Disembark at NISHI SAYAGATANI BUS and from there walk for approximately 14 minutes.Parking:
Free parkingBest Time to Visit:
Catch it blossoms around mid to late March.Note:
Sakura no Mori Square and Fukuoka Kenei Central Park both have a wide-open area and nearby apartment buildings and a nursing home, making it a popular Sakura Viewing spot for families and the elderly. Thus, I highly suggest coming here during weekdays or early in the morning to avoid a cluster of Cherry Blossom hunters.
Furthermore, there is a playground in Sakura no Mori Square, as well as benches and tables that are perfect for picnics. On the other hand, Fukuoka Kenei Central Park has a café close by named KONPIRA, where you can see the mesmerizing view of the park’s cherry blossoms and pond.
4. Visit a Small Venue for Sakura Viewing
This suggestion might seem ridiculous because you can’t do social distancing at all. However, when you have a smaller venue people don’t loiter that much since there isn’t enough space and they easily get bored. It’s a quick way to practice safe Sakura Viewing.
This is a location perfect for this category:
a. Asai no Ippon Zakkura
Mino-1511 -1(耳納1511-1) Yamamoto-machi, Kurume-shiTransportation:
From KURUME STATION, take the NO. 25 NISHITETSU BUS and get off at NAKAIZUMI (中泉) bus stop. After that walk for 20 minutes.Parking:
The parking costs 300 yen and it’s limited to 60 cars. The road here is quite narrow.Best Time to Visit:
The ideal time to go here is in late March to early April.Note:
Although this spot doesn’t have rows of sakura, Asai Ippon-zakura is still worth a visit because not only it’s stunning, but it’s around 100 years old and a survivor of a terrible typhoon in 1991. However, the people of Kurume have managed to save it and make Asai Ippon-zakura flourish again bit by bit.
There isn’t much to do once you’ve taken a picture of this Cherry Blossom, which is perfect because people just come and go very quickly. Moreover, there are a couple of photogenic tree orchards around that area and shops that sell bonsai, flowers, and trees in a nearby street that you could also see.
5. Avoid Public Transportation
As days go by, more and more people are becoming lax with the pandemic, despite it’s far from over. A lot of people are not wearing masks properly, especially inside of public transport. Before, I’ve seen couple of people not wearing masks inside trains or buses, plus there’s not enough room to practice social distancing anymore!
As a result, I rarely use public transportation. I prefer walking or go driving with my husband. By doing this, I avoid enclose areas with strangers and getting in contact with things (eg. seats, rails) I’m clueless whether it was disinfected or not.
I know it may be difficult, but whenever you can, just ride a bicycle, walk, or drive especially when going to faraway destinations or visiting several Cherry Blossom spots in one trip.
And there you go, my 5 ways on how I was able to safely enjoy Sakura Viewing during this pandemic. Do hope that it’ll be over soon, so I can freely travel mask-free or without constantly washing or applying sanitizer to my hands.
How about you? Do you have your tips? Comment it down.
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