Tokyo: Day Trip to See Cherry Blossoms

On my second day in Tokyo, I scheduled a day trip to Mount Matsuda through Viator to see early blossoming cherry blossoms or sakura.  The trip I booked can be found here and was actually operated by H.I.S..  This trip included going to Mount Matsuda to see the early blooming cherry blossoms, a buffet lunch, stopping at Owakudani and a very brief stop at Hakone Shrine.  I chose this tour because I wanted to see the cherry blossoms and there wasn’t any outlet shopping involved.

When I booked this tour, it did say it was a Japanese tour but written English material and translation service would be provided.  This was not so.  We had a meeting spot in Shinjuku and when my friend and I arrived we couldn’t find our tour guide.  (There were a lot of tours meeting up at this one location.)  Eventually someone was able to tell us that our tour guide was running late.  He eventually showed up and we checked-in and started gathering on the bus.  It was interesting because I realized, no one was Japanese on the tour yet unlike what the tour summary had stated, there was no written information provided nor any translation service.  Instead the tour guide who barely spoke English would provide minimal information and then leave us alone.  He would basically say what the next stop was, how long until we arrived and when to meet back at the bus.  Unfortunately, his English was pretty poor and he kept accidentally saying the wrong times but they were so obviously wrong that we were able to question him for the real time.  For example, it was already 1 pm and he told us to meet back at the bus at 12 pm when he apparently meant 2 pm.  He was for sure one of the worst tour guides I’ve had.

REST STOPS

But anyways, after we all got on the bus, we were on our way.  Before reaching Mount Matsuda, we stopped by a rest stop for a 15 minute bathroom break.  The restrooms were extremely clean, with fancy toilets, a light map showing which stalls were open and even a cane holder for the older folks.  In the rest stop, they were also selling snacks and small gifts, had a mini cafeteria, lots of vending machines for drinks and some people selling fruits they brought.  I wish we had more time here to explore the food options but time quickly ran out and it was back on the bus.

MOUNT MATSUDA

As we were driving to Mount Matsuda, we were actually able to see Mt Fuji from the bus windows.  It was a sunny, clear day and made it a perfect day to view the famed mountain.  Seeing that peek of Mt Fuji was incredibly exciting and I couldn’t wait to see the cherry blossoms too.

We hit a little bit of a snafu when we were trying to park because apparently our driver took us to the wrong parking lot at first but this quickly remedied and we were on our shuttle up to the cherry blossom festival area.

The flowers were gorgeous.  Not only were there the pink and white cherry blossoms but also a lot of what I believe were yellow mustard flowers.  Also, because of the clear day you could even see Mt Fuji!

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If you have kids, it’s also a great place as there’s a small slide, a craft area and a small train they can take.  There’s also an orange grove with many people selling oranges by the bag.

The day we went, there were a lot of people, probably because of the clear day.  Many people had their cameras set up to take pictures of Mt Fuji.  We were there for perhaps an hour or so before we headed back on the bus to go to lunch.

LUNCH

Lunch was at a buffet restaurant in a shopping mall.  There were food laid out such as sushi, curry, etc. but there was also raw meat to be cooked on the barbecue grills on the tables and you could boil your own noodles.  There was also various ice cream choices, a make-your-own crepe station and a cotton candy maker.  It was a good choice for a group since there was a little of everything.

OWAKUDANI

Our next stop was in the Hakone region in an area called Owakudani.  Apparently, this area was created during the last eruption of Mount Hakone thousands of years ago and nowadays has numerous sulfurous fumes and hot springs.  You can read more about the area here.  Now, the only thing our tour guide told us is that we had an hour and that the area is famous for black eggs (not much to go on).

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And honestly, I’m not entirely sure what we were supposed to do while we were there.  There was a cable car but I wasn’t sure we had enough time to take it to wherever it went and back and it was incredibly windy up there.  In the end, my friend and I wandered around the shops and bought some of the black eggs though we never actually got around to eating them.  The eggs are black though because they’re blackened by sulfur.  They smell pretty bad which is why we didn’t get to them.  One highlight to the area is that Mt Fuji was also visible from there.

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HAKONE SHRINE

After everyone gathered back on the bus, we headed over for a brief stop at Hakone Shrine.  My friend and I completely bypassed the actual shrine and instead got in line to take photos at a torii (traditional Japanese gate).  We only had 30 minutes in the area so by the time we got our photos it was time to head back on the bus and head back to Tokyo.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

I loved the cherry blossom festival and really wish I had more time at Hakone Shrine so I could actually see the shrine.  I also wish I had a more informative guide, especially when we were at Owakudani.  I feel like I didn’t do the things I was supposed to there because I had no idea what they were.  I don’t always prefer guided tours but if I’m paying for one, I’d like the tour to be more informative.  So I recommend the places but maybe with a different tour operator.

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