The tulips are in full bloom at the shibazakura festival – Enjoy their beauty. Its worth going if you live in Saitama. Actually, its not that far from Tokyo. Mountain cuisine is truly great and the people are just wonderfully nice and welcoming.
Spring has finally come to Japan after a long and cold, though for us, uneventful (Yay, No Snow!) winter. Today we went to the mountain town of Chichibu to see the Shibazakura. Some years ago the townspeople got the great idea to create a carpet of flowers, “Shibazakura” to welcome the spring and welcome visitors to their beautiful town.
On the path we found wild flowers and color of an amazing scope and variety. Yokoze is really an enjoyable place and a lot of fun for the whole family. A gentle climb eventually takes you to the shibazakura, just ahead, but until then enjoy the scenery and the vibrant life and beauty springing up all around you now that winter has faded to a memory.
This wood pile is not just an ordinary wood pile used for firewood. Rather this wood is used to grown mushrooms the old fashioned way. Japanese people in the mountains have been growing mushrooms this way for centuries. Just because it is 2015 some things do not need to change.
On our way home we found this beautiful lake. It is actually an ancient reservoir that has some very interesting history. History going back 1000 years and relates to an up-rising in the region, one of the only uprisings of local people against the central government of the time.
We just returned from this year’s shibazakura going on in Saitama prefecture in the mountain town of Chichibu. You can easily find your way by taking the Seibu Chichibu line train and get off at the Yokoze stop. Follow the big pink signs to your right as you exit the station.
It’s just a short walk through country farms and mountain homes. Its a different path than if you take the train all the way into Chichibu and go to the flower carpet festival nestled in the hills below Mt Bukol.
The last time I got to have venison I was a teenager in the Southern US. I was at a historical re-enactment event and some fellow history buffs made a big pot of venison stew. It was delicious and since then I’ve always wanted to try venison again.
As we approached the entrance to the flower carpet display we found ourselves on the pathway you see above. Just a little further up the trail and on the left we found a little wooden shack and two kind ladies preparing snacks and treats for travelers on their way to the beautiful spectacle of flowers.
Japanese call these korokke cakes “shika menchi” 鹿めんち – You can have a toasted delicious cake made with rice, mountain spices, and ground up wild deer meat.
We were visiting Irumashi the other day. Their is a cool section called Johnson town, the subject of another post coming up in the next few days. Across from Johnson town are schools and a massive park network with places for picnicking, walking, jogging, biking, cosplay shoots, (another post coming) and at least two lakes.
Its a vibrant and great place for the whole family and for…this pond of koi. These fish are HUGE.
In this pond, the koi are feeling the love with splendid colors. Iruma has a beautiful pond and a larger lake. Koi are in abundance in this pond, a koi pond I guess. Their colors are beautiful and they are very friendly.
In this pond, the koi are feeling the love with splendid colors. I’m convinced there is a special magic at work in this park. We did not retouch or re-color the photos in any way. We re-sized them and added our website’s watermark and that was it. I wasn’t sure if I would post them beforehand. It was a cloudy day, the pond was murky and the fish were looking…a little bland. Probably feeling the rain and the chill of the weather.
I guess something happened somewhere because the koi you see above truly represent the life force they gave off to our group. They were very active, jumping around almost, and I guess they just wanted to show their true colors. Remarkable.
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Do you like nature watching like we do? I admit, I also enjoy human watching, especially children as they play together and laugh and run around. But today, there was no great beauty then a park near our home that is truly awakening to spring. Even as the news report tells us if temperatures dropping and perhaps a little snow, I can look back on this day and feel like the trees, I am once again, coming alive after a long winter’s nap.
High on a hilltop, the sakura have awaken
Night Sakura, Tokyo, April 2015 – Last weekend we took the opportunity to visit a new yakiniku restaurant and attend a local night sakura viewing festival. Hanami time is so far one of my favorite times of the year in Japan. The trees are beautiful, the temperatures are rising and you can feel the eagerness an d light hearted feeling of everyone around you as we all know spring is coming into bloom and summer will soon be here. We made our way to the park and as we approached we could see the first sakura lit only by the night sky of moon and stars. Once in the park lanterns of different shapes and colors were strung across the open areas and also generously amongst the trees. What a beautiful site. The place was fairly crowded on this cool spring night. Families, friends, groups of people from work and school all came out to enjoy the beauty of the cherry blossoms at night.
Some years ago the Chichibu City Council made the decision, like most Japanese towns and cities, to try and revitalize their old town center areas. This Lucky Cat guide post is the first of about 100 such guide/luck charms posts that can be found around the downtown central area. At this manekineko post at the central Chichibu train station there is text below the statue, explaining what the statue is and also guide arrows in left and right directions that point visitors toward the next post. Use your favorite browser to translate the page below for more information about the good luck charms, the guide posts and the wonderful city of Chichibu.
Day trip to Nagatoro
Lucky, we had the chance to visit the stone tatami mats along the river running through Nagatoro. Our first stop though was a walk from the station up to the Kodosan mountain jinja where we spent a leisurely hour or three enjoying the shrine in it’s eternal beauty and also hiking around the hills and mountains above Nagatoro.
Trains from Tokyo on the Seibu-Chichibu line can take you to the sleepy mountain village in less than two hours.
This week we visited Hitsuji Yama Park in Saitama’s town of Chichibu. Chichibu is world famous for their annual Shibazakura flowers which when planted by local townspeople across a small valley create an amazing site to see.
Shibazakura create a blanket of color that is breath-taking to witness.
Surrounding walking trails, sakura trees, a lake and picnicking areas make Hitsujiyama park a certain destination for families, singles, friends and lovers.
We were excited to see so many younger people visiting Hitsujiyama, taking photos, sharing food and drinks and enjoying the beautiful sakura in full bloom.
Special events will happen at the park throughout the spring and summer. A small arcade has been set up featuring food, drinks (tea and alcohol) and farm fresh products from local shops and farms. The local shops present great fare at very reasonable prices. No price gouging going on here.
There are also some very cute sheep on exhibition, always a visitor favorite.
Kids love em and also an agricultural exhibit which features the small trees, Morus, or commonly known as Mulberries provide food for (蚕 ) silk worms. I never knew that (蚕 ) silk worms are entirely dependent upon humans for food, habitat and pro-creation.
Silk worms, or (蚕 ) in Japanese are featured since Chichibu has a long history, going back hundreds of years as a textile hub for some of the finest textiles in Japan.
Chichibu offers an excellent website to guide visitors through the area. For ease and convenience of use the site is available in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean. Click here to visit.
The park address: Hitsujiyama kouen, Hitsujiyama park
Negishi (family and place name) has been around for more than 40 years and could go back a lot longer. However, our family experience with them only goes back to the 1970’s. Photos of the current owner’s family are displayed in the shop. It reminds me of old bakeries back in the United States run by families for generation after generation. Negishi is not a chain, it is a family shop and you can tell, or rather smell the difference, the moment you walk through the doors.
Taiyaki Negishi and the art of Chichibu red bean paste treats
Still run by the same family, Negishi offers fresh taiyaki made daily the old fashioned way, on fish shaped griddles over raw-fire heat (gas stoves). Regular customers come into the shop throughout the day to pick up pre-packaged orders. Walk-ins, like us, are also treated to freshly made, made-to-order taiyaki. It only takes a few minutes until the shop is filled with the sweet smell of taiyaki being made on the griddle. It is a moment to savor if you love Japanese food. It is a moment to savor if you love good food in general.
There is a very special little shop in the city of Chichibu (Saitama prefecture) that makes a delicious Japanese treat called taiyaki. Taiyaki are usually fish shaped pancake dough treats with a filling inside usually made of red beans ground into a paste.
Taiyaki can also be made with custards. My favorite is red bean paste but I also love chocolate custards that have been gently toasted. Oishii! (Delicious!)The taste of red beans in this paste form is gently sweet, not over-powering. It is a mix of vegetable and fruit marmalade kind of taste without the sticky sugar of jellies and jams. It is a paste. It is readily enjoyed with hot or cold teas or juices and is a great addition to a picnic if you are hiking or taking a walking tour of this beautiful mountain town.
Here, Madame Negishi prepares fresh taiyaki for some very happy customers.
When you visit Chichibu be sure to put Negishi taiyaki on your list of places to visit. It is only a few minutes walk from the train station and various temples and shrines can be found on the way.
Chichibu, Saitama, Japan