The ideal time to see the cherry blossoms in Tokyo is late March. However, what about all of the people who can’t visit Japan during that short period of time? We’d like to recommend places in the north Kanto and Koshinetsu regions where the cherry blossoms start to bloom in April. We’ve carefully selected only convenient destinations accessible from Tokyo via JR or highway bus for day trips. In this first half of our feature, we’ll introduce fantastic leisure spots for all-day fun even before and after seeing the beautiful cherry blossoms!
In addition to their pasture and horseback riding club, Senbonmatsu Farm offers a day-trip hot spring, a grilled mutton restaurant, and a variety of other attractions at this "leisure farm." Beyond that, the grounds feature a total of 200 Yoshino cherry trees! They line the farm's main street on both sides, blocking the sky and making a 300-meter tunnel of cherry blossoms.
As you enter a world of pink blossoms, you see a 4km bicycling path ahead of you. The bicycling path is a relaxing trip around the farm, dotted with more cherry blossoms. With bicycle rentals available at the farm, we highly recommend the trip. You may even find a rare treat among the rental bicycles: a tandem bicycle meant for two riders! (¥1,000 rental fee) If you get the chance, would you give it a try?
At this time of year, the Yuran Basha horse-drawn tour carriages are popular as well. Enjoy the elegance of the cherry blossoms from your relaxingly swaying horse-drawn carriage, as well as the ones along the bike path.
Fun Before and After Viewing Cherry Blossoms!
Ride a Hot Air Balloon!
Enjoy a three-minute ride in a hot air balloon, 20 meters above Senbonmatsu Farm! The real pleasure is the 360° view of the Nasu Mountains and the farm grounds below, full of cherry blossoms in bloom. Enjoy a relaxing sensation of floating into the air that you can't get anywhere else. Balloon rides are available from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. on days that aren't windy, so head straight to the balloon area after you arrive. Located in front of the cherry blossom viewing area.
Horai no Nasu Senbonmatsu Farm
799 Senbonmatsu, Nasushiobara-shi, Tochigi-ken. Tel: (0287) 36-1025. Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (may vary).
Open daily. Free admission.
Access from Tokyo
• From the New South Exit of Shinjuku Station, take the JR "Nasushiobara Resort Express" highway bus to Senbonmatsu Parking Lot (located within Senbonmatsu Bokujo Farm). (160-minute trip). Short walk from parking lot.
• From Tokyo Station, take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen Line to Nasushiobara Station (approx. 75-minute trip), then take a taxi from Nasushiobara Station (approx. 20 minutes).
Hot Air Balloon Rides
Available weekends and holidays from April 1st to December 31st (daily during Golden Week and summer vacation). No rides during poor weather. Same-day reservations required. Hours: 9:00-11:00 a.m. Prices: Adults: ¥2,000. Children 3 years old through elementary age: ¥1,500. Children 2 and under: ¥1,000
Located at the base of Mount Haruna, Ikaho Green Farm offers 1,500 cherry blossom trees across 19 different varieties to announce the arrival of Spring. The trees are in full blossom during both the blooming of the Yoshino cherry trees in mid April and the blooming of the Yaezakura cherry trees in early May, making for an excellent cherry blossom viewing destination for an exceptionally long period.
When you arrive, try climbing the 550m mountain overlooking the area. If you look toward Mount Haruna from there, you'll see the fantastic scenery of the blooming Yoshino cherry trees below you like a sea of clouds! The view is famously stunning.
On weekends from April 12th to 20th, there are cherry blossom horse-drawn carriage rides, cherry blossom card guides, etc. planned for the area around the overlooking mountain. You can enjoy viewing the cherry blossoms in your own personal style. Sheepdog shows on the cherry blossom-lined pasture and original sweets made with cherry blossoms are bound to make your trip fantastic.
Try picking your own strawberries at the strawberry greenhouse at the farm (available until the end of May). The strawberries grown here are juicy Benihoppe strawberries, with the perfect tartness. Spend your 20 minutes picking the ripest, reddest strawberries, and have your fill! If you'd like to take some strawberries home, too, you can try harvesting your own 300g of strawberries (¥1,200) or buy strawberries available for sale. The greenhouse closes when the strawberries run out, so it's best to visit as early as you can!
Ikaho Green Farm
2844-1 Kanai, Shibukawa-shi, Gunma-ken. Tel: (0120) 81-5335. Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (last entry: 3:30 p.m.). Closed Mondays through Thursdays from mid January until the end of February (except holidays). Admission: Adults ¥1,200. Children 3 years old through elementary school age ¥600. http://www.greenbokujo.co.jp/
Access from Tokyo
From Tokyo Station, take the JR Nagano Shinkansen/JR Joetsu Shinkansen line to Takasaki Station (approx. 50 minutes), then, from Takasaki Station, take the JR Joetsu Line to Shibukawa Station (approx. 30 minutes). From Shibukawa Station, take a Kanetsu bus toward Ikaho Onsen to Green Makiba Mae bus stop (approx. 15 minutes). Located next to the bus stop. (Taxi ride from Shibukawa Station is approx. 10 minutes)
ECO Strawberry House
Open daily from early December to the end of May, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (or when strawberries run out, whichever comes first). All-you-can-eat strawberries (20 minutes): Adults ¥1,300. Children 3 and up ¥1,000. (Starting May 12: Adults ¥1,300. Elementary age children ¥1,100. Children 3 and up ¥800) NOTE: Farm admission separate.