Day 1 – To close one of our main travel white spots (China will follow next year), we booked a two weeks trip to Japan early April, hoping to catch up with the cherry blossom season. We decided to mainly stay in Tokyo and Kyoto, with a short trip to Kanazawa and the Japanese Alps, as there is so much to see in these two cities alone. And with our JR rail passes we got to be very flexible to add some day trips to close by sights as well.
Splurging on Swiss tickets, we booked a direct flight from Zurich to Tokyo. It always amazes me that there are passengers that no matter the time of day can get into a plane and sleep for most of the flight. We at least napped a bit before arriving at 8am in Tokyo, a.k.a. 1am Swiss time. The next three hours we queued. First for the passport control and then at the JR office to change our vouchers into train tickets. Totally worth it though, for two weeks we paid 46k yen (about 400 CHF), while the ticket Tokyo to Kyoto alone would cost one-way about 14k yen. Also, all the seat reservations are for free and they have super helpful, English-speaking staff at the main train stations to help with the schedule. We also booked a pocket WiFi with JR, to be sent to our hotel. Highly recommended, to have access to google maps in towns and look for public transport connections and the right exits to take at their vast metro stations.
After another hour on the train, we finally arrived in Tokyo. Feeling jetlagged but not wanting to miss out on any sights, we dropped our luggage at the hotel close to Tokyo station and went off to Ueno park, listed as one of the best spots for cherry blossom spotting. Not sure why, over the next couple of days we got to other places we liked a lot more. In Ueno park on a Sunday, there was about 1 person per cherry blossom. In the evening we went to Chidorigafuchi Moat close to the imperial palace. It’s a 700 meter walkway flanked by hundreds of sakura (cherry) trees of different varieties. Very stunning! For the main photo spot there is a well organized queue, allocating the same time to everyone to take their pictures before being ushered away to free up the space for the next group.