What were the thoughts in my head the whole time we were in Tokyo last spring? “I can’t believe I only visited this beautiful country now! I wish we could stay longer, there’s so much to see. When can we go back? I can’t wait to go back. I wish we could live here for awhile!” Yes, we fell in love with Japan the moment we arrived.
This place has been in my bucket list for quite awhile now, or more specifically, experiencing Spring in Japan. But unlike other Asian countries, visiting Japan can be costly especially during the sakura season. When we were planning this trip, I couldn’t decide where to go. Do we do Tokyo or Kyoto or Osaka or all? There’s just so much to see in Japan. I wanted to go to all, all at once. But since we’re traveling with a senior citizen and a baby and it’s all unfamiliar to us since we’re all first-timers, we decided to just visit Tokyo first.
Sakura blooms in Tokyo end March to early April so to be sure, we booked our trip to be on April 1 to 5, making it an advance birthday treat for my mom who’s birthday is on the 10th of April. Our flight was the first flight out, at 7am and we arrived in Tokyo at noon, 12pm. It was cold at around 12 degrees in the morning then 8 degrees at night. It was a good weather, perfect for exploring!
On our first day, we only have a half day of exploring. So after checking into our flat which I rented at AirBnB in Shinjuku, we went to explore the nearby shopping places in the area.
The next day, first on our list of course was Shinjuku Gyoen Park, their National Park. It was just a very short walk from our place and I love that we got to go there early in the morning at around 9am when there were no lines. This is listed as one of the best places to see the cherry blossoms and I couldn’t agree more! I love this park so much that I wish we could have explored the other parts of it as well. But it’s just too big that I think we were only able to see just a small portion of it. But nonetheless we really enjoyed our time there. I loved the sight of blooming sakura trees welcoming us as we arrived. Huge flowering trees in all kinds – pink, white, blush and more. It’s just all so lovely! Elian loved running around the sprawling grounds and my mom enjoyed watching the sights and the people. We spent our whole morning here leisurely. When we left for lunch, there’s a long line of people hoping to get in. So big tip to remember, for you sakura lovers for next spring, always do this first on your list. Early in the morning is best when there are no lines and you have full energy to walk around and enjoy. Best to also bring a mat for you to lie around, read a book, enjoy snacks and take a nap under the sakura trees. Thinking about it now, makes me want to go back again! *sigh*
For lunch, we went to Butagumi. This is a super yummy discovery! It was the best lunch after a beautiful sakura morning at Shinjuku Gyoen Park. We took a cab here from the park and it was about 1700 yen or 800 pesos. Butagumi is in Roppongi Hills at 2-24-9 Nishiazabu, Minato, Tokyo. Taxis are costly in Japan but for this trip, we had no choice and really allocated budget for transportation to be able to maximize our short time here. We wanted to save our energy for exploring plus convenience is key when we have 2 babies in tow — my mom and our son lol.
We got there at 11:30am and they were just opening. There was already a short queue outside. We didn’t make reservations so we were lucky to get there early and got a table right away. Everything we ordered was yummy! We love their appetizers of smoked sausage and mozzarella cheese. And their katsus are really good, soft and made from the best pork. Make sure to watch the video at the end of this post and catch the chef cooking in Butagumi hehehe!
After lunch, we spent the rest of the afternoon in Chidorigafuchi and Imperial Palace Gardens. Again, this is one scenic spot for the cherry blossoms. Tokyo is really beautiful everywhere you go. Just walking on the street, you can enjoy different kinds of cherry blossoms. Every corner is just too photogenic! We ended our day in Shibuya where we met Hachiko and crossed the Shibuya Crossing.
Overall, it’s true what they say about how first impressions last. Japan’s first impression to us is just superb and has left a mark even after leaving. Everything is clean, people are well disciplined, polite and just very much helpful even if they can’t speak English. We didn’t see anyone littering at all. Everything is just beautiful and well preserved. And we truly love it. Visiting in April during the cherry blossom season made our first experience of Japan even more beautiful because of the lovely cold weather (it made exploring more enjoyable and less tiring) and the scenic spots of sakura everywhere.
I’m glad we made this dream a reality this year and I’m glad I got to share this with my mom finally! This was also Elian’s first travel with her and I’m glad we all got to share this first experience of cherry blossoms together. A couple of years ago, when I brought my mom to Seoul for her birthday, we missed the cherry blossoms for a few days. It bloomed the moment we left! And so it’s amazing to finally get to see it in Tokyo in full bloom for her birthday, 5 years later and now with Elian.
This trip just has so much love that one post is not enough! Japan has definitely made it to my best of the best and one of my most favourite countries ever. Next post will be the other half of our trip! 😀
Watch this video, to see more of the places we got to see in our first days in Tokyo!