Sakura ( 桜、Cherry Blossom ) has started blooming in various parts of Nagano! Now, is this good or bad, cos I'm going to share a series of this flower over a good span of time. So, please bear with me. =)
Introducing Matsumoto Castle ( 松本城 )
Matsumoto Castle is the only tourist spot that I can think of at the place that I'm staying and to find the next, every location would have to take more than 2 hours for travelling! This castle built in the late 16th century is crowned one of the National Treasures of Japan. It is one of those castles spared from cruel bombings during the WWII and thus able to retain its original face till now. Matsumoto Castle has a title of the ' crow castle ' as it is built with a rather dark tone, compared to other castles in Japan. If not for the moody weather, a gorgeous row of northen alps will stand behind the castle and project an excellent view. By the way, it is not tilting like the famous Tower of Pisa, purely, my wrist was failing me. (**)
The castle is surrounded by a deep pond at the front, to prevent easy invasion of enemies. It is once claimed to be the most difficult castle to break in. Now, visitors get to walk in and out of the castle as one wishes, at a mere charge of 250yen at normal days, and 3 times the normal charge during Sakura season like this.
The castle is practically surrounded by Sakura trees of fine species, planted by men. Unlike Sakura trees in the wild, these trees are probably fuller by slightly 2 times in volume. Let's take a walk around the castle, though these pictures are taken on a rather bad weathered day.
The blossoms may be plentiful, but one must refrain from plucking these flowers! In some places where guards or workers are on duty, offenders will receive a warning by a loud whistle, followed by hostile glares. I've also seen senior citizens reprimanding Japanese offenders in a harsh manner. Japanese are people who believe in protecting even the most insignificant lives. Umm... though I seriously feel that they are contradicting people sometimes.... Anyway, just never ever pluck the flowers.
Sakura's full bloom can only be enjoyed in a mere week's time. Its short-lived beauty is so appreciated by the Japanese that they make sure Sakura exists all over Japan. Therefore, Sakura planted, or wild, spreads throughout the country. As the climate gets warmer slowly, blooms occur beginning from southern Japan up to northern part over approximately 2 months' period. Visitors would need to study the forecast and select the viewing location very carefully. Yet I know too well that many foreigners would go home without pictures of sakura, mainly due to unfortunate tour schedule and etc. Hmm... frankly, even locals are caught up in the same predicament alike, for these flowers are so unpredicatable at times! Locals do actually monitor them no less at all.
One good thing about enjoying Sakura viewing at areas other than crowded cities like Tokyo, the population is less dense so it won't be like an almost stampede affair. To know more about Matsumoto Castle, click here.
I caught this stork standing still.
My husband found this birdie swinging on the lean branched tree. So, we're calling it even this session. =)
Besides designated places, Sakura can be seen almost everywhere! This may not apply to bigger cities like Tokyo as they have obviously lesser land to spare. Here, they stand along roads, schools, government offices, facilities, outside households, and not forgetting, Japanese shrines. If you'd like atmospheric pictures of Sakura in Japan, do visit reputable shrines and they should be almost picture perfect spots.
At most large shrines, fine Sakura trees are generously planted too. While I love plump and heavy blossoms, my husband prefers these willow-looking Sakura. He claims that these are truly characteristic ones and generally more precious than others. The older the tree, the larger and wider it spreads, like a huge umbrella with many descending arms. Shrines often have this kind of Sakura, with most of them rather old, so; if you love them...
This is so huge that I couldn't capture the whole thing unless I get close enough, or much further away from it!
Pink curtain over the fresh green carpet. I thought this is pretty.
I'm hoping to share better ones later, so do tune in again!