I just went up to Anzu no Sato to teach an English lesson, and I was delighted to see that the apricot blossoms are starting to show. It looks like the couple of warm days we have been experiencing here are leading to a slightly earlier-than-usual blooming.
Anzu no Sato, a popular spot for o-hanami, or “blossom viewing”, is located in Chikuma, just south of Nagano City, and is jam-packed with tourists during the first and second weekends of April, when the whole area seems to turn pink with beautiful apricot flowers. And now that the flowers are already showing, you may be able to get your first good sight of the blossoms next weekend, March 28-29.
Anzu no Sato, which means “apricot village”, is really a collection of villages — Mori, Kurashina, Ikegaya and Doguchi — where residents have been raising apricots for centuries. Most visitors go to Mori and Kurashina, as these two areas have the highest concentrations of apricot trees. Be sure to go to the viewpoint at Uwadaira (I have also heard it called “Kamidaira”), located way up the slope in Mori. This viewpoint offers a beautiful vista of the entire valley that is Mori. And while you are there, be sure to get some apricot soft-serve ice cream!
You can get there by train, on the Shinano Railway, and the nearest stations are Yashiro and Yashiro Koko Mae. They are a 30+ minute walk from the apricot groves, so either take a taxi or bus from there. You can also drive, but expect traffic if you do. There is plenty of parking available (for a fee).
Feel free to walk around and take lots of photos, but remember that the apricot groves are almost entirely private property. Do not go off the streets or walking paths into the groves. Enjoy your visit! Hopefully the weather will be good and you’ll get a nice view of the North Alps as a bonus!
UPDATE (March 27, 2009):
SNOW!?!? Yes, I woke this morning in Chikuma City to see about 3-4 cm of snow all over the place. So much for an early blossom viewing season. Looks like Mariko was right!
Something I learned when I first came to Nagano was the old saying San Kan Shi On, which means “Three days of cold, four days of warm”. It is a weather pattern that happens here every spring. We will have a few warm days followed by a few cold ones and the pattern will repeat, gradually getting warmer until finally after Golden Week, the weather seems to be warm all the time.
So, this weekend probably is not a good time to go to Anzu no Sato. Perhaps next weekend. Sigh…