Cherry blossom season in Tokyo typically spans from late March to early April, but down in Atami, the pastel pink flowers have already started blooming in some parks. Located less than an hour south of central Tokyo by shinkansen, this seaside city in Shizuoka has a milder climate than our capital and has an abundance of cherry blossom trees that thrive in winter. The early-blooming winter-variety atami-zakura blossoms, specifically, reach their peak between mid-January and early February.
One good spot to revel in these prized pink flowers is Acao Forest – a flower park overlooking the Sagami Sea. With roughly 650,000sqm of land divided into 13 themed flower gardens, Acao Forest boasts an impressive array of French roses, sunflowers, tulips, wisteria and other seasonal flowers. From now through February 27, however, it’s all about the sakura.
To celebrate cherry blossom season, the park is throwing a sakura festival that includes a special hanami (flower viewing) picnic set offered at the Coeda House café. The sets cost ¥3,200 each and come with hot soup, baked goods and a drink that you can enjoy while admiring cherry blossoms through the glass walls of the café, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma. You can also try your hand at a series of spring-inspired workshops including tutorials for flower wreaths and handmade soap.
To get to Acao Forest by train, hop onto the Tokaido-Sanyo shinkansen bound for Shin-Osaka at Shinagawa and get off at Atami Station (38 minutes). Then board the A64 or A66 bus bound for Ajiro-Asahimachi and ride for 11 stops until you reach the stop in front of Acao Forest (13 minutes).
Admission to Acao Forest is ¥2,000 for adults (junior high school students and above), ¥1,000 for elementary school students, and is free for preschoolers. It’s open from 9am to 5pm (last entry at 4pm) every day except Tuesday.
For more information, visit Acao Forest’s website.
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