Posted on March 29th, 2018 by Stephanie Miera
Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, is known for its natural beauty. Full of beautiful onsens, massive volcanoes, magnificent waterfalls, and untouched wilderness, Hokkaido is home to some of the most breathtaking views in all of Japan. One of these unique places that is not to be missed is Farm Tomita.
Known for its vast lavender and flower fields, Farm Tomita is one of the most popular tourist destinations on Hokkaido. With over 13 flower gardens and 14 shops and cafes, the farm displays a dream-like fantasy of color and wonder. The summertime reveals fields covered in a rainbow array of flowers, and the wintertimeoffers a photographic winter wonderland.
Summertime is the most popular season to visit the farm, as the flowers and lavender are in full bloom, and the shops are open for business. Farm Tomita is also known for its lavender flavored soft-serve ice cream that you can enjoy while relaxing in one of the quaint cafes after a day of exploring the flower gardens. You can also purchase lavender-based products such as potpourri, perfume, and soaps that have been cultivated at the farm since 1958. The farm opens its own station during the summer (LavenderFarm Station) so that it can be accessed easily by train and a 7 minute walk. In the wintertime, travelers can access the farm with a 25 minute walk or short taxi ride from Nakafurano Station.
You can visit Farm Tomita on our escorted Hokkaido Rail and Drive tour, or on our self-guided Hokkaido Independent Package. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore one of the most colorful and majestic gardens in Japan!
Posted on March 21st, 2018 by Stephanie Miera
Hanami, literally means “flower viewing,” is the traditional spring enjoyment and appreciation of cherry blossoms. There is nothing so typically Japanese as sitting under the blooming sakura trees in a park or on a river bank. It is also popular to make a special trip to a famous viewing area, or to attend a hanami festival. Scenic spots such as castles, temples and shrines are popular destinations, as is taking a boat trip to view the blossoms along the banks of a river. Some people even go to see a single tree that is particularly famous. Around 60% of the population takes part in hanami celebrations every year.
For some hanami is just a stroll in the park, but most people organize a picnic with their friends or colleagues. Everywhere cherry blossoms are to be found, you’ll see groups of people sitting around eating and drinking. The most popular spots become so crowded that there’s hardly a speck of empty ground to be seen. Some companies will send their junior employees to reserve a space for an after-work party, so you might see men dressed in business suits sitting around in a park all day on their blue tarps, waiting for their colleagues to show up. Along with alcoholic drinks like sake, beer, and shōchū, revelers bring food such as fried chicken, sushi, onigiri (rice balls), and edamame (soybeans). Some even go as far as to set up barbecues to cook on the spot. It’s often said that most people are really only interested in eating and drinking, and that the cherry blossoms are just an excuse for a big party.
The cherry trees bloom at a different time every year, and earlier in the warmer southern areas of Japan than the north. Newspapers and TV report on the progress of the blossoms and provide news and forecasts about the “cherry blossom front” as they try to predict when they will come out in each part of the country. The flowers reach full bloom about a week after the first blossoms open, and will be falling after another week or so, though wind and rain sometimes speeds up the process. Perhaps best of all is the end of the season, when the petals fall like snow whenever there’s a gentle breeze.
The special attention paid to cherry blossoms is often attributed to their fragility and short lifespan — a visual reminder that our lives, too, are fleeting.
Posted on March 1st, 2018 by Anna Summers
Studio Ghibli is an animation studio located in Tokyo. Often referred as “the Disney of Japan”, Ghibli is an National icon in Japan. This studio’s work is visionary and deserves its own recognition. Studio Ghibli offers a number of unique and whimsical stories. Their films draw you into a fantasy world that delicately balances the fantastical elements with great realism. The studio still relies heavily on hand-drawn animation. Less than 10% of any project can be comprised of digital animation.
Their compelling stories might convince you magical worlds do exist. The emotional core of these films rest heavily on character development. My favorite aspect of a Ghibli film is the relationships between the characters and viewing their personal growth. These films explore all types of relationships and do not limit themselves to typical stereotypes. I also enjoy seeing the importance of nature reflected on film. Central themes often explore how you interact with, and affect the world around you.
Recommend Movies (Personal Favorites)
Not ready for the adventure to be over? You can visit the Ghibli Museum on your trip to Japan! The museum features animation demonstrations, a theater showing Studio Ghibli shorts, board the Totoro Cat Bus and of course find fantastic gifts in the gift shop. The museum’s slogan is most fitting, “Let’s Lose Our Way, Together”. The Ghibli Museum attracts a large number of visitors. Tickets are limited and you will need to purchase tickets in advance. To purchase your tickets we recommend visiting https://online.jtbusa.com/inquiries/ghibli.aspx. Once you have your tickets make sure to arrive on time. Plan to spend two to three hours at the museum.