Begonia Garden

There is a secret garden in a place called Nabana no Sato.  Nabana no Sato is a theme park located in Mie Prefecture, Japan.  I explored that park before for its Winter Illumination but I didn’t even stumble on that garden.

I refer to the Begonia Garden in Nabana no Sato as a secret place because I didn’t know such an ethereal place is confined in what looks like a simple building from the outside.  I just happened to see a picture of it in Instagram and I was like “I didn’t see it when I went to Nabana no Sato!”. That led me to take a second visit.  When I was there, I spent more than half of my time just within that big garden.  It was enough to cool myself during a very humid August summer.

The first room that you’ll enter is filled with Begonias.  According to the American Begonia Society, Begonias have 1500 different species and they can grow from a mere few inches high to more than 12 feet.  For me, they looked like roses, just a little bit bigger.  The begonias on display in Nabana no Sato come in different colors.  Each begonia is planted in a pot.  There seemed to be like a hundred of potted begonia plants arranged carefully inside the huge greenhouse.

When you move on to the other parts of the glass building, you’ll see different kinds of plants and colorful flowers.  I think what makes the place more exquisite are the hanging plants that look like art installations.  Before you eventually make an exit, there is an area that for me would definitely be a perfect venue for a dream garden wedding.  The medium-sized fountain pond filled with floating colorful water lilies and lotus flowers creates a perfect balance to such a flower-packed setting. Everything seems to be in place.  Just have that special someone and your entourage!

The Begonia Garden in Nabano no Sato somehow reminds me that life is beautiful and colorful.  And that it is possible to have that kind of beauty around us if we just continue to care and protect nature.

DSC_0106

This is just one of the sceneries that you can enjoy in Nabana No Sato.

DSC_0107DSC_0127DSC_0146DSC_0167

DSC_0191

There is a restaurant inside the big garden.

DSC_0196DSC_0198DSC_0179DSC_0190

How To Go There:

Refer to my previous post.

Shikizakura (Cherry Blossoms in Autumn)

I saw cherry blossoms blooming in November of last year.  It was rare.  I think it defied seasons.  Tourists go all over Japan in autumn to see the beauty of maple leaves in deep red and crimson orange or the gingko leaves in brilliant yellow.  How did I even manage to get a glimpse of cherry blossoms when spring was like five months away?

It took almost an hour and two train transfers before I reached Toyotashi Station.  I had to wait for another hour before the bus bound to Kaminigi arrived.   Just before I boarded the bus, one of the ladies from a very noisy tourist group asked me something in her own native language.  I didn’t understand her question, of course, but told her the bus was going to Kaminigi.  Her group joined in and all throughout the ride, I was trying to decipher what Asian language she was using.  I thought the group was also going to see the cherry blossoms, but they got off at a different place.  I was supposed to alight at Obara Fureai Park, but I missed it.  The kind bus driver recommended another place where I could view the cherry blossoms, and that was how I ended up in Senmi Shikizakura no Sato.

Senmi Shikizakura no Sato is somehow like a park with a number of Shikizakura trees.  You have to climb a hill to see the trees up close.  It was steep that I still tried to rest for a few seconds before I continued my ascent.  Many of the visitors were old Japanese people, and there were some foreign tourists, too.  There were food stalls in the area but only a limited number of benches where you could stop to take a rest.  There was also a bus schedule posted near the entrance, so you wouldn’t miss the last bus home.

At Senmi Shikizakura no Sato , you can find shikizakura which refers to cherry blossoms that bloom in two seasons—spring and autumn.  Shikizakura in Toyotashi can be seen from October to early December.  The best viewing season is around late November.  Based on what I’ve noticed, the flowers of Shikizakura are much smaller than the cherry blossoms that grow in spring.  They somehow remind me of ‘ume’ or the Japanese plum blossoms. The view of Shikizakura and maple trees in Senmi Shikizakura no Sato is like combining spring and autumn into one season.

Seeing the cherry blossoms in autumn was a surprising thing.  It gives tourists an opportunity to see the sakura in case they missed it in spring.  For those who love nature and flowers, Shikizakura is such a beautiful wonder.

DSCF2443DSCF2495DSCF2421DSCF2422DSCF2455DSCF2460DSCF2474DSCF2476DSCF2484

How To Go There:

From Nagoya, you can take the Nagoya City Subway Higashiyama Line for Fujigaoka and get off at Fushimi Station.  From Fushimi Station, you can ride the Nagoya City Subway Tsurumai Line for Toyotashi and alight at Akaike.  From Akaike Station, take the Meitetsu Toyota Line for Toyotashi and get off at Toyotashi Station.  The over-all cost is 760 yen, and it takes 53 minutes.  From Toyotashi, ride a bus bound for Kaminigi.  You can tell the driver to drop you off at Senmi Shikizakura no Sato. There are actually many routes that you can take from Nagoya.  The one I mentioned is just one of the possible routes that you can follow.

Magome-juku, Gifu

Do you want to experience how the Japanese traveled from Kyoto to Tokyo during the Edo Period?  You can try walking along the ancient road in Magome-Juku.  Magome-juku walks you back in time during the Edo Period.

Magome-juku is located in Nakatsugawa which is one of the cities in Gifu Prefecture.  It takes 30 minutes by bus from Nakatsugawa Station.   As you walk along the town, you can find museums, restaurants, and shops that sell souvenir items.  The buildings and houses that line the streets resemble the old Japan.

Magome-juku is best explored early in the day.  I went there in late November of 2015.  I rode the first bus from Nakatsugawa Station , and I was the only person who got off in the area.  The tourist center was even closed when I arrived that I just took a picture of the walking map that was posted in one of the shops.  Some shops were still closed and there were even two cars that managed to use the narrow road.  The roads were steep, but I enjoyed strolling and taking pictures while it was still free from crowds.  After an hour, that was when the town was filled with tourists.

Magome-juku is an old post town where travelers during the Edo period rested after a long journey. When it rained, the road became muddy and too difficult to traverse. That’s the reason why the road is covered with stone pavements.  They made life easier for travelers and their horses.   It is also too steep that travelers sometimes leave their horses at one of the lodging places where they stay overnight before they go on their way.

Walking through Magome-juku will give you an experience of how it felt like to travel a long distance during the Edo Period.  It is a place that has become witness to the journeys of old Japanese people.

DSCF2223DSCF2222DSCF2387DSCF2394DSCF2286DSCF2304DSCF2236DSCF2417DSCF2416DSCF2382DSCF2380DSCF2419DSCF2418

How To Go There:

If you are coming from Nagoya, ride a JR Chuo Line Rapid for Nakatsugawa (Departure track number 7 or 11). It might take 71 to 85 minutes to get there. The fare costs 1,320 yen.  Once you reach the Nakatsugawa Station, ride the Kita Ena bus and get off at ‘Magome’ bus stop.  Here is the bus schedule.  I’m not sure if the schedule is updated but I used it in 2015.

 

Shirakawago, Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland is real.  I’ve spent two winters in Japan and on those times I never failed to visit Shirakawago.  It is my favorite place during winter.  I had wonderful memories during my recent travel.

My trip last December 2015 was the most memorable because I got to spend it with my two friends.  I remember the first time I visited this place alone and told myself how special it would be if I could just share its beauty with family and friends from the Philippines.  As we were walking towards the village, my friend –who traveled for the first time in Japan, told me that she was about to cry.  I knew the feeling.  It was snowing heavily and the place was pristine white.  The date we chose to travel didn’t disappoint us because just by looking at the scenery, we knew we were in wonderland.

I enjoyed the place because it snowed all through out from the moment we arrived until we got on the bus.  We had to use an umbrella to keep our cameras dry and to keep the snow from getting our coats wet.  Well, from time to time, we savored the beauty of the snowflakes letting them cover us.

My friend took a lot of pictures and videos of us.  I didn’t have to worry about not capturing my moments in this beautiful place.  We were born in a tropical country so snow is something we considered magical. Each of us took turns making our own little snowman.  We made a video greeting our loved ones a happy new year.  My friend made a snow angel, and then after that, we had to look for missing gloves.

I remember telling my friend that she was lucky because not all first-time travelers in Japan go to Shirakawago unless they read or heard of it beforehand.  This place is famous locally but it’s a secret gem for foreign tourists.  Shirakawago is one place I wouldn’t miss every winter.

DSCF2778DSCF2776DSCF2764DSCF2757DSCF2738DSCF2725DSCF2722DSCF2718

If you want to see how Shirakawago looks like during summer, you can check my previous post Summer in Shirakawago.