Saturday, March 04, 2006

Cherry Blossom-Flattered Castles

It's still a little early for the annual "cherry blossom front" maps to be appearing on TV and in the newspapers, but Nikkei (Japan's Wall Street Journal) published a poll in their life section today on castles and cherry blossoms. I think the poll is just taken over the Internet, so not very scientific, but in this case plenty good enough to be useful. Readers' votes for "Cherry-Blossom-Flattered Castles" (in order):

  • 1) Hirosaki Castle (Aomori Prefecture, up north): 2600 cherry trees of 52 varieties; will bloom late April-early May
  • 2) Himeji Castle (Hyogo Pref., out west between Kyoto and Hiroshima)
  • 3) Takato Castle (Niigata, Japan Sea side of the mountains)
  • 4) Aizu-Wakamatsu (Fukushima, north-central): 1000 cherry trees
  • 5) Hikone (Shiga): 1200 cherry trees
  • 6) Tsuyama (Okayama): 5000 cherry trees
  • 7) Oka (Oita, Kyushu (down south)): 2000 cherry trees
  • 8) Goryokaku (Hokkaido, up north): 1600 trees
  • 9 (tie)) Osaka (Osaka): 4000 trees
  • 9 (tie)) Takada (Niigata): 4000 trees

They also took a poll just on readers' recommended castles:

  • 1) Himeji
  • 2) Matsumoto (Nagano, up in the mountains)
  • 3) Osaka
  • 4) Hirosaki
  • 5) Kumamoto (Kumamoto, Kyushu)
  • 6) Hikone
  • 7) Odawara (Kanagawa? Shizuoka? A couple hours south of Tokyo)

I've been to Himeji, Matsumoto, Kumamoto, Goryokaku, and Aizu-Wakamatsu, and I've walked past Osaka-jo. Himeji is undoubtedly one of the most spectacularly beautiful castles in the entire world; it's the canonical Japanese castle you see on guide book covers. Catch the small museum nearby, too. Himeji-jo is still the real thing; Japanese castles are wooden, and have a tendency to burn down during uprisings or aerial bombardment, so most of them, including most of the ones on this list, are now concrete replicas. The concrete ones often have nice museums inside, but still... Goryokaku is in a five-pointed star of stone walls, definitely go to the top and look out if you visit.

The picture is plum (ume) blossoms near our house.


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