A bonsai for sale at Takamatsu's Tamamo park, where a huge bonsai convention is held every fall. Photo © A.D. Smith
Just a reminder that on April 19 Hiroshima's craft beer festival begins. The month-long event -- called the "I Love Beer Microbrewery Beer Festa" -- on the old Hiroshima Municipal Baseball Stadium will include all kinds of local brews.
(If you're in the area, it's also a great time to try out the local variety of oranges -- before they're out of season.)
For more info, call 082-248-2657. The stadium is at 5-44 Motomachi, Naka ward, Hiroshima city.
For many readers, vacation time is fast approaching. So, if you're planning a spring or summer trip to Japan, here are a few stories that might help make the flight a bit easier:
Nanohana is thought of as a weed as it grows in the wild, often along rivers, as is the case in the photo above. But the yellow flowers that spring up around April and May are cherished in Japan. Photo © A.D. Smith
With all the hype around sakura -- or cherry blossoms -- right now, I thought it'd be a good time to give some credit to the nanohana flowers that also bloom in the wild around Japan at this time. You can see from the photo above that the nanohana's burst of yellow flowers is pretty ... well, pretty. The plants, known as rapeseed in English, are also delicious as a cooked vegetable.
Sakura in Japan. Photo © A.D. Smith
It's official: Cherry blossom season is taking over Japan. If you need help knowing when to see flowers blossom where, check the sakura forecast.
As for the best tours for you -- depending on whether you'll be with the kids, looking to party, keeping an eye on history or taking a date -- here's the list:
April is all about cherry blossoms. But there's so much more going on across the archipelago this month. Bruno Mars lands in Tokyo. A craft beer festival bubbles over in Hiroshima. A giant pink monster stands in a Kagawa art museum. Find out what I'm talking about by reading below:
Now to April 6: Tokyo's Ueno Park Lights Up
Take a night stroll through Ueno park as some 1,000 lanterns guide you through the park's cherry blossom-lined paths. Expect huge crowds, sake, and fun.
Access: Click here for more information and a map.
Now to June 1: "Playmaking" in Kagawa
Four Japanese artists, including the Osaka-born Brooklyn resident Misaki Kawai, display works that get your childhood imaginations running again. The show, at the Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art, includes Kawai's giant pink puppy-ish creation that lets spectators comb its fuzzy fur and a shadow show created by a toy train set with a flashlight attached to it. Oh, there's also a futon mountain that kids can climb on. Admission to the exhibit is about 950 yen.
April 1 to 30: Kyoto's Miyako Odori Dance Festival
See live, traditional dance performed by maiko girls and geiko girls of Gion Kobu Kaburen-jo theater -- just like they've been doing it since 1872.
Access: Gion Koku Kaburen-jo theater is a 5-minute walk from the Higashiyama Yasui City Bus stop.
April 6: Cherry Blossoms in Osaka's Oizeki Park
Some 600 cherry trees bloom across Oizeki park in Osaka and on this day lanterns light up the festival that includes a tea ceremony, bazaar, concert, and walking tour. (If you can't make it the 6th, don't worry: The park is lit up from April 1 to April 13.)
Access: Oizeki park is located in Izumisano city in Osaka. A map of the area can be found here.
April 12: Bruno Mars at Makuhari Messe in Tokyo
The unearthly talents of Bruno Mars will take the stage at the Makuhari Messe over the weekend of April 12 to April 13 for his Moonshine Jungle Tour. Tickets run about 8,000 to 15,000 yen for the really good areas.
For directions with a map, click here.
Through April 13: Tokyo Cherry Blossom Viewing at Sumida River
The stretch of the Sumida river in Tokyo, from Azumabashi bridge and Sakurabashi bridge is flowered with a thousand cherry trees, so if you're looking to discover hanami, this is to the place to do it. (For more about the area and other great sakura sites, click here.)
Access: The area is a short walk from the Honjo-Azumabashi station. For a map, click here.
April 15 to 25: Kitano Odori Dance Festival in Kyoto
This one promises to be both "elite and tasteful," but isn't all kabuki that way? See the dance drama in action as the rehearsal club shows its stuff at the Kamishichiken-kaburen-jo theater.
Access: The theater is short walk from the Kitano Tenman-gu-mae stop on the City Bus line.
April 16: Japan Mint in Hiroshima Celebrates Sakura
Head to Itsukaichi in Hiroshima April 16 to the 22nd for cherry blossom viewing at the Japan Mint. The area is known as a late bloomer, so it's a great chance to see sakura if you missed it elsewhere in the area. You can view the flowers from until 8 p.m. While the area will be lit up, unfortunately no food or drinks are allowed on site.
Address: The Mint is at 6-3-1 Itsukaichi chuo, Saiki ward in Hiroshima city. Phone: 082-922-1111.
April 19: Hiroshima's Craft Beer Festival
Beer snobs get ready to toast -- for an entire month. Yes, if you've grown tired of rice wine, get tipsy with barely bubbles at the "I Love Beer Microbrewery Beer Festa" from April 19 to May 20 at the grounds of the old Hiroshima Municipal Baseball Stadium.
Address: The stadium is at 5-44 Motomachi, Naka ward, Hiroshima city. Phone: 082-248-2657.
Long before Japanese anime -- or animation -- wowed the world with its vivid images and stunning stories, there were woodblock prints. These images appear timeless, even in today's world of computer-aided art, with their strong lines and saturated colors. If you're in Tokyo, one of the best spots to see ukiyo-e of old is at the Ota Memorial Museum.