Plan for the day
Our plan was to visit Takato Castle in the morning. The castle was only 11 km from Ina City where we had spent the night. In the afternoon we would be driving some 324 km taking about 4.5 hours to reach Mount Yoshino. The “best viewing period” for cherry blossom at Mount Yoshino ended the day before so we were not placing a lot of hope for a good outcome. After Yoshino we would be staying in Kashiba town which was about 40 km away.
By End of the day
Takato Castle was stunning, it definitely was worthy of its title as one of the three best places to see cherry blossom and we were so glad that we had visited it at its very best stage! By the time we reached Yoshino Mountain in the late afternoon we were both too late in the day and also in the season to view its cherry blossom so we did not went further than its carpark. With the beautiful memory of Takato Castle cherry blossom scene still fresh in our minds we did not regret missing Mount Yoshino’s.
It was a short drive to Takato castle, it took us 20 minutes to arrive at the castle but it took us longer to find a parking space for our car. The carparks nearer to the castle entrance were cordoned off, the security guards would not even allowed us to turn into the roads bordering the castle ground.
Eventually we parked at local resident car park for a fee ¥700 (per entry) and walked about 600 metres to the entrance of Takato Castle.
It was about 9 am in the morning and the air was surprising very cold. The walk on the way to the castle ground entrance was already lined with beautiful cherry blossom trees. These trees looked old and huge and they were lovely.
Just outside the entrance to the castle ground was a restaurant so we quickly went in to grab our breakfast. Four bowls of plain ramen came up to ¥2800, double the price of a similar ramen that we had eaten two mornings ago in Tokyo! With our stomachs filled we were ready to combat the cold air so Takato Castle here we come!
Takato castle usually did not charge any entrance fee but during cherry blossom season it collected ¥500 per person for entry. I guessed outside this season nobody bothered to come to this place.
Today the place was packed with visitors and one of the reasons was probably that it was Saturday. It seemed like the locals were out full force to visit this place especially when its cherry blossom was at its peak bloom stage.
The place was filled with old cherry trees, huge and tall, with wide spread branches full of cherry blossom. Compared to old these old sakura trees, young trees would not be as magnificent as they did not have high and long branches that had enough flowers to blocked out the “entire” sky!
Walking along the well marked path we were so mesmerised by the beauty of this place. Trees after trees, each one more magnificent than the other. Apparently in this castle park there were 1500 sakura trees.
We were looking everywhere for the castle but just could not find one. We found a Taikoyagura drum tower, a small shrine but just no castle. Then we realised that this place was called Takato Castle Ruins Park (高遠城址公園, Takatōjōshi Kōen) and not Takato Castle Park which meant the castle was long gone.
Just when we were getting restless we came to section of the park where there was a long stretch of food tents. So in between viewing the cherry blossom we got to taste Japanese street food. Yummy…yummy the food certainly tasted better in this beautiful setting!
When it was time to move on, I felt so regretful that we could not stay here to see this wonderful magical land in the night setting. At night this park would be illuminated for viewers. It would surely be a different gorgeous scene.
Sakura Ice Cream!!
On our way to Mount Yoshino
The journey to Yoshino would need about 6 hours as according to our car GPS, which was 25% longer than the 4.5 hours based on google map. Our driving duration was closer to that calculated by google map than our car GPS. I believed the car GPS timing calculation was based on the official speed limit of 80 km/hr, but most cars on the expressway was driving at around 100km/hr.
We initially thought of parking our car near the lower ropeway station at Yoshino and to go up to Mount Yoshino by cable car, unfortunately the cable car system was under upgrading maintenance (for many months) which meant “cabling up” was not possible. So we drove up all the way to a huge car park just outside Mount Yoshino park entrance. At the car park a staff came by to collect ¥1000 for parking. We were rather surprise as on our previous trip here in autumn parking was free.
I managed to talk to another staff who spoke good English and he told me that that Mount Yoshino park would closed in half an hour and we would need to leave then. On checking with him as to where we could see cherry blossom he told us that most flowers were gone, and we would have to walk to the upper part of the mountain to see flowers. To get to the upper part the walk would require about 45 minutes starting from the carpark. Oh dear, in the 30 minutes that was left there was no we would see any cherry blossom.
On further query, the staff also told us that tomorrow this entire carpark would be off limit to private cars as it had been allocated to tourist buses. He suggested driving up to a higher part of Mount Yoshino using a different road. But he also cautioned us about the very very limited carpark spaces there. He said, “Good luck to you if you can manage to find a parking space.”
With that advise there was no option but to leave Mount Yoshino now as for tomorrow we had to think through and decided if we still wanted to come back.
Dinner at CoCo Restuarant
On our way to our hotel for the night we drove through Kashiba town. After going through the various eating places on our google map we zoomed into CoCoIchibanya. In Japan CoCoIchibanya had many outlets and was considered as fast food joints.
We had fun ordering our food, selecting the spicy rating of our curry. Mum chose non spicy, I chose normal, Yat Thong took more spicy and Lin Ying another level up. The food definitely tasted better than those served in Singapore. The bill came up to ¥3900.
Our Accommodation for the night
Hotel D.D. which I booked two days ago on booking.com turned out to be a love hotel. I had half suspected that it might be a love hotel because in booking.com most hotels around the vicinity had a “adult only” phrase attached to their names except for Hotel D.D. The cost for two rooms (a twin and a double) was ¥17600 inclusive of breakfast.
On arrival, upon looking at its setup and decoration it was definitely a love hotel. There were subtle love signs everywhere.
Our room was pretty comfortable any nice and romantically furnished. It even had two doors. So that someone standing at the outer door could not see all the way into the room. Beside the outer door was a small window just nice for breakfast to be accepted by the occupants without opening the door.
We were fine with staying in love hotels as in Japan these hotels did not look sleazy, the rooms just had more facilities and items to cater to the comfort of lovers. In our room was a karaoke set and there was even a control for piped in music to be turned on for the room and the ensuite bathroom. The bathroom had all kinds of body lotions, scents etc etc. It even had a jacuzzi with an overhanging TV. The main thing Lin Ying noted was missing was condom. Hahaha…