For our three day stay in Tokyo we had chosen the popular area of Ueno as our base. From Ueno you have easy access from Narita airport, to shinkansen lines and to some major metro lines too. Plus the park and shopping area offers lots to do and see. We stayed at the Hotel Mystays Ueno East. The hotel was standard by Tokyo business hotel standards: a small double bed, small ensuite and kettle provided. The hotel was clean and the staff really helpful (I do have an advantage with speaking some Japanese, their English was not that proficient). We had checked in and dumped our luggage by 12:30 so decided not to waste the sunny day and get out and see that sakura!
Usually the sakura, or cherry blossom, season is over by the first week of April. Thanks to a cold snap in March the sakura bloom was delaying, meaning we got to see Tokyo in full bloom. Some of the best spots in this area of Tokyo to see the bloom is Ueno park and Sumida park. We first headed to Asakusa station, on the Asakusa line, and walked to Sumida Park.
From the park there are brilliant views of Tokyo Skytree and Sumida river with a frame of cherry blossom. Although most may take the train to get here, we walked from Asakusa station, through Sumida park to Tokyo Skytree. We had been up the Skytree on previous trips and I don’t rate it as quite worth the money. However the shopping centre beneath the Skytree is great. We visited the Pokemon Centre and got some delicious ichigo daifuku (strawberry swrapped in mochi – pounded sticky rice – filled with red bean paste), a real traditional treat!
With empty bellies we headed to our old stomping ground, Jimbo-cho. Located in the northern area of Tokyo, above the Imperial Palace gardens, Jimbo-cho is where we stayed on our honeymoon. We had a quick and easy (lazy) meal at Dennys, who’s spring menu was identical to the summer menu of 2013, minus cold noodle dishes!
After dinner we headed to Chidori-gafuchi, the northern moat of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. The 6th of April was the final day of illuminations, even though it was a Thursday. The place was absolutely heaving with visitors to the illuminated blossoms. With a little waiting we managed to get some beautiful shots.
The image of Tokyo tower with the moat was a little more difficult. The spot to get that exact shot is hidden, purposefully. To get to take the famous snap you must queue, we were there for around 30 minutes before we got the front of the queue. Once that happens a bunch of around 15-20 people are allowed behind the tents hiding the view. First come first served for the perfect spot, then you have a few minutes before you are ushered out again. Worth it, but be fully prepped with tripod (if shooting at night) before you reach the front as there is no time to faff about.
All in all a great first day. Photos cannot truly show how beautiful the sakura are, but we try.