The "cherry blossom front" is working its way north, and since early March, Japanese news reports have included progress reports of this "front" as it works its way up the Japanese archipelago. The front usually arrives in Tsukuba around the first of April, meaning that the blossoms just begin to open at that time. They usually peak a few days after that. This year, things are right on schedule, but the weather will play a big role in exactly when the magical event occurs and how long it lasts.
In Tsukuba, there are a number of excellent places to enjoy the cherry blossoms, including:
* Oike Park in Hojo off of Route 125 at the base of Mt. Tsukuba (a nice place to rent a row boat)
The Kokai River walk is especially nice. Weekend evenings tend to be a bit noisy with "hanami" revellers, but other times are usually quiet and peaceful. Dress warmly, bring something to sit on (it is often muddy), and pack a picnic lunch.
If you don't mind going farther afield, Shimotsuma, Mito and Hitachi also have excellent trees. Located about 30 minutes to the northwest of Tsukuba on Route 125, Shimotsuma is known for its Sanuma Sun Beach, a great summer fun spot, but the entire Sanuma Lake itself is surrounded by cherry trees, making it a nice spring outing as well. To find it, continue on 125 past the junction with Route 294 for about 2 km., and turn to the right at the corner with all the stone lanterns, etc. It's on the right a few hundred meters from there.
Kairakuen in Mito is one of the most famous gardens in Japan and is especially well-known for its plum blossoms in early to mid March. There are, however, plenty of cherry trees as well. Hitachi's Kamine Park, located just north of Hitachi Station, has a very nice amusement park and a small zoo, all surrounded by about 1000 cherry trees.
Another kind of "hanami" well worth a trip is the Daffodil display at the Hitachi Seaside Park on the coast just east of Mito. With 700,000 daffodil bulbs of 102 varieties together with 30,000 hyacinth bulbs and other flowers, it is truly spectacular. The flowers are at their peak in late March or early April. Hitachi Seaside Park also includes an amusement park with 24 different attractions. It's a nice outing for a family affair. Beware, however, that it is closed on Mondays.
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