This weekend (and perhaps the weekend after that) are your last chances to view the cherry tree (sakura) blossoms in and around the Izu Peninsula. Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) is a popular past-time for the Japanese. Couples, colleagues and comrades alike can be seen enjoying the natural wonder of the blossoms while bonding over sake and a picnic. And any custom which encourages public displays of drunkenness is alright by me.
There are loads of popular hanami sights around the Izu and they are going to be packed this weekend (being, as I said, one of the last opportunities to enjoy hanami). Here are a few of my personal picks:
The 22nd Annual Sakura Kawazu Matsuri that I had previously mentioned will end March 10th. You can reach Kawazu Station by taking a Ltd. Express Odoriko train from JR Atami Station (both shinkansen and local trains service this stop), or you can take the JR Ito Line from JR Atami Station and change to the Izu Kyuko Line at Ito. View my post on the Kawazu Sakura Matsuri at the link above for more details.
The Shuzenji Plum Blossom Festival will end March 11th. You can view plum blossoms blooming and enjoy various food stalls, eateries and souvenir shops. A specialty of this event is the grilled shiitake mushrooms and grilled ayu (a much coveted fish by fishermen which swims in the nearby Kano River). The festival can be reached by taking the Izu Hakone line from Mishima Station (serviced by both shinkansen and local train) to Shuzenji and then taking a bus to the festival area. Alternatively, you can walk from Shuzenji Station (map reference here, should only take about 20 to 30 minutes).
Not too far away, the Tsukigase Izu Plum Blossom Festival is also taking place. Take a bus for 20 minutes from the aforementioned Shuzenji Station and then walk about 25 minutes to the Tsukigase Onsen (map reference here, just follow the crowds). More than 1,500 plum trees have been planted on 62,000 sqm of land and they are all blooming now.
I have also visited Mishima Taisha Shrine before for hanami purposes and it was stunning. The pond at the front of the shrine, draped with drooping boughs of cherry blossoms, affords some amazing photo ops. Mishima Taisha Shrine can also be reached on the Izu Hakone Line from Mishima. Get off at Mishima Tamachi Station and walk about 5 minutes north (the area is well sign-posted, or you can just follow the crowds. Beware, the shrine can get crowded around hanami season! Map reference here.
If hanami is not your thing, the Noriyuki Winter Illuminations (that I had previously mentioned in my last T.G.I.F. post) will be putting on their final display on March 11th. View the previous T.G.I.F. post for all the details.
Finally, in honour of White Day (in which men and boys reciprocate all the gifts received on Valentines Day to their female friends and significant others), Izu Sea Paradise is holding a special romantic-themed weekend called "Valentines Day and White Day Plan." "Special admission" will be given for a limited time only. Take the Izu Hakone line to Izunagaoka Station and then a bus for 20 minutes, being sure to get off at Izu Sea Paradise bus stop (map reference here).
What are you doing this weekend?
Get excited because next weekend is the Fuji City Sake Matsuri! (I know I have been looking forward to it.)