Trip Start Jul 22, 2006
59Trip End Aug 15, 2010
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Japan likes neat little lists, such as "The Three Most..." of anything. A few weeks ago, I visited Kairakuen, one of the "Three Great Gardens" of the country. I'd actually been there once before, in the summer, but I thought that since the place is famous for its plum blossoms, I really ought to visit again when the trees were in bloom.
The day of my planned expedition turned out to be rainy and cold, and all my friends bailed on me
The Joban line from Tokyo has a stop at Kairakuen, but it's only open during the plum blossom festival, in March. The rest of the year, you have to get off at Mito Station and take a bus to Kairakuen. Since Kairakuen Station is not a regular one, there were no permanent card readers (for the Suica Card, a rechargeable card for public transit), only employees with portable scanners.
I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised by the number of people who decided, like me, to not let something as trivial as the weather get in the way of their touristing. In Japan, visiting famous sites and bringing back souvenir snacks is a sacred activity; it would take more than near-freezing temperatures and rain to keep people at home. Over the course of the day, I became quite adept at snapping pictures one-handed, as my other hand was frozen in a claw shape around the handle of my umbrella.
As expected, the plum blossoms were lovely; I'm not sure how many varieties Kairakuen boasts, but there were many, many different kinds, ranging in colour from white to deep magenta
In addition to the thousands of blooming plum trees, I saw the home of Tokugawa Nariaki, the daimyo who had Kairakuen built in the 1840's. It was nice to be out of the rain for a while, and once I made my way back through the garden, I warmed my hands and my insides with a cup of piping hot amazake, then spent some time sampling food at the various gift shops before heading back to the train station.