Mori “Apricot Village” Apricot Blossom Festival Update #2

April 6th, 2010 by
Category: Seasonal Topics

Chikuma City’s signature event, the Apricot Festival in Mori’s “Apricot Village” officially started on April 2nd.  But how about the apricot blossoms?  Have they showed up on time for their own party?  Some of our guests that went on the 2nd came back disappointed, saying that the trees weren’t in bloom yet.  However, our town’s Tourism Association website said as of the 5th that the blossoms were at 20% (whatever that means!). 

Last evening, I went to see with my own eyes how Mori’s famous apricot trees were doing.  And the result?

Some of Mori's apricot trees already in full bloom

Some of Mori's apricot trees already in full bloom

Mixed, but worth seeing!

This tree's blossoms at 20%?

This tree's blossoms at 20%?

The majority of the trees, especially in the upper reaches of the valley, were still just in bud stage.  However, several of the trees, especially ones in sunnier spots, were already in full bloom.  So I would say it is definitely worth seeing now.  And with today’s nice weather (the high temperature is predicted to be 63F), more and more of the trees will start to bloom. 

For me, the real draw for Mori’s apricot festival is the quiet, pastoral setting of the valley.  It has a quaint, rural feel to it that is especially enhanced this time of year with the soft pink, delicate apricot blossoms.  And, of course, don’t miss the apricot ice cream!

New this year is a connector bus from Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, leaving every morning at 8:50am.  So if you stay the night at one of the onsen ryokans, you’ll have easy access to the apricot blossoms the next day. 

The Togura Kamiyamada Onsen to Mori's Apricot Village Connector Bus

The Togura Kamiyamada Onsen to Mori's Apricot Village Connector Bus

So don’t pass up this chance to see Japan’s largest number of apricot trees in bloom at Mori’s “Apricot Village”.

Mori’s Apricot Festival will run through April 16th.  Updated information on the Chikuma City Tourism Assoc. website (in Japanese only).

Hiking Season Has Started

April 29th, 2009 by
Category: Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

April and May sees the start of the hiking season in many areas in Nagano.
The Alpine Route – April 17th; Kamikochi – April 27th; Mt. Norikura – May 15th; Mt. Ontake – April 25th(see blog)

I climbed Mt. Hikarijoyama in Azumino on April 18th. I enjoyed a great view of the cherry blossom canopy and the Alps.
Mt. Hikarijoyama is 912m high and can be climbed by people of all ages and abilities starting in March.
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Another Apricot Season Comes to a Close

April 13th, 2009 by
Category: Events, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing
Photographers lined up to get that last good shot of the apricots, 2009

Photographers lined up to get that last good shot of the apricots, 2009

Well, it happens every year.  Just as there is a rolling wave of cherry blossom viewing from southern Japan to the north, there is a much shorter wave of apricot blossoms in Mori, Anzu no Sato.  Every year, the apricot blossoms at the lower elevations near the entrance of the valley bloom earliest, with those at the top of the valley showing their flowers last.

I just went up there and, aside from the trees at the highest point of the valley up by Daikoji temple, all the blossoms are fallen off, and leaves are starting to spout. in their place.  If you are planning on going up to Anzu no Sato this week, you might get lucky and see some apricot blossoms further up the mountain, but the season is pretty much over this year.

But when the Apricots blossoms are gone, the cherry blossoms are in full glory.  There is a small buddhist temple in Mori named Kanryu-ji, that is surrounded by some beautiful cherry trees which are now in full bloom.  This temple is a hidden delight to foreign visitors, because it features a thatched roof — something that becomes more and more rare to see in Japan every year.

But getting there is a bit of a challenge.  Ask around and people will point the way up the hill.  And once you are there, you’ll find a long, steep stairway to climb up.  Be prepared for some exercise!

Special Cherry Blossom Live Cam from Matsumoto Castle

April 7th, 2009 by
Category: Information, Seasonal Topics

Cherry Blossom Live CamYesterday, April 6th, the Matsumoto City Office officially announced that the cherry blossoms have started blooming.
Besides, a special “Cherry Blossom Live Camera” page have started broadcasting, featured by  Matsumoto citizens’ voluneer website project “Matsumoto Welcomes You!”.
We collaborated with a Suwa-based company who developed a high-resolution live camera system and installed it at the north road of Matsumoto Castle – giving Internet surfers a good view of the cherry blossoms. The Castle park will be lit up, so you can enjoy sakura images even at night (April 7-16 from 6pm-10pm).
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Anzu no Sato, We’ve Got Blossoms!

April 6th, 2009 by
Category: Events, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics
Apricot Blossoms in Anzu no Sato (Doguchi), April 6, 2009

Apricot Blossoms in Anzu no Sato (Doguchi), April 6, 2009

This is now my third post on the topic, and though I have reported on the coming blossoms, and then the snow, and then, well, maybe some flowers, followed by snow again, I am pleased to say that the apricot blossoms are now looking great and the tourists are coming to the area to enjoy their beauty.

My wife, Tomomi, took the kids up to her mother’s house in Mori today and came back telling me that the apricot blossoms are mankai, or full bloom, in the lower elevations of the valley.  At her mother’s house, which is further up the hill, the blossoms are about half in bloom (go-bu-zaki), while the upper areas are about one-third in bloom (san-bu-zaki).

While there are plenty of nice blossoms to see in the lower valley, the best spots are uphill, around the area of the Uwadaira tembo-dai, or the Uwadaira Viewpoint.  This area has hundreds if not thousands of apricot trees all bunched together, with lots of farm truck roads — both paved and unpaved — that you can walk on.  And on a clear day, you can see the Alps in Hakuba to the west.

Because of the higher elevation here, this coming weekend, April 11-12 will likely be the point at which the upper apricot trees are in full bloom.  If the weather is nice, come on up and see it for yourself.  As cliché as this may sound, the valley in full bloom looks as if someone stroked the treetops with a giant brush of pink.

The Apricot Blossoms are coming! — UPDATE

March 21st, 2009 by
Category: Events, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing
Anzu no Sato Apricot Blossoms starting to show.

Anzu no Sato Apricot Blossoms starting to show.

UPDATED BELOW:

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.

Apricot Trees in Mori.

Apricot Trees in Mori (photo taken in 2007)

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…

Earliest Wildflower to Bloom, Fukujuso

February 19th, 2009 by
Category: Events, Seasonal Topics

fukuj0921Fukujuso (Far East Amur adonis) is the earliest wildflower to bloom in Nagano area. It’s a sign that the long winter is coming to an end, and that spring is just around the corner. So, I feel happy 🙂 when I see the flowers for the first time in a year.
Last Saturday, I found fukujuso already blooming in a neighboring rice field. Normally, it starts blooming at the end of February or the beginning of March in my town. However, probably because of the global warming, it was very warm in the last weekend and it started blooming.
In Matsumoto, Shiga Fukujuso Festival will be held on March 7th – 28th.

Shiga Fukujuso Festival website is here (Japanese, not English)