Sakura blossoms are out and the weather is perfect for a social-distancing walk along a riverside path.
While Hanami gatherings are ill-advised, taking a walk to view the blossoms is a great way to exercise, take in some fresh air and enjoy these popular spring flowers.
Spring Garden Bonus
Starting on the riverside path across from A-bomb dome, you can follow the path past hundreds of Sakura Cherry-blossoms all the way to the charming town of Yokogawa.
There are paths under each bridge, so you don’t have to wait at any lights and there is plenty of space to keep your distance from others. Until November, you can enjoy the extra colors of the gardens installed as a part of the Hana-no-wa event.
Heading away from town along this path, you will be walking under the Sorazaya bridge, and soon see more people jogging and cycling along this path. There are also big open grassy areas here where events are sometimes held and busy on weekends for group get-togethers in non-COVID19 times.
If you fancy a pretty segway to make this a longer walk, you can turn right here and walk through Central Park at this point. This will lead you past a few flowering trees in Central Park to a row of cherry-blossom trees around the Hiroshima Castle moat.
If you stay along the main riverside, as you continue, you will notice the temples across the river along Tera-dori (Temple street). The large green roof is the Jissoji temple which creates a beautiful backdrop to the colorful, flowering trees and rivers.
You will also start to see SUP (Stand-up-and-paddle) boarders going up and down the river. Yokogawa’s Magic island shop owner Nishikawa-san offers rentals and lessons throughout the year.
Continuing along the path, there are small jungle-gyms for the kids to play on and you can start to see the bridges across the river for trains. The top bridge is for the Shinkansen bullet train and the lower one is for the local trains. Local trains heading left across the bridge will be stopping at Yokogawa station, and trains heading across to the right will soon stop at Shin-Hakushima JR station.
Cross the Misasa bridge to the left and keep left to follow along the riverside. You will soon find small picnic and bbq area complete with table stands set-up along the railing. You are now in the Yokogawa-cho area and will soon see the Yokogawa Ebisu Shinto Shrine with its signature red and white lanterns.
Crowd-free Shops in Yokogawa-cho
Yokogawa is a good option if you are trying to avoid crowds, but want to pick up a few things along your walk. Usually, in April, Yokogawa holds its annual Fushigi-ichi event to celebrate the town’s foundation, but like most events in Japan, it has been canceled this year due to the coronavirus COVID19.
I’d like to point out a few shops in Yokogawa selling items useful for stay-at-home survival. These shops are rarely busy, so sticking to social-distancing practices is easy.
Showbi Kimono rentals and original goods shop is half-way up the main shopping street. The friendly owner is handmaking all sorts of beautiful and unique goods in the shop by using off-cuts of Kimono and Obi material. She has bags, robes and yes also facemasks. The drug store on the nearby corner always has a good stock of toilet paper, tissues and other supplies now in high-demand.
During this Coronavirus worldwide, apparently pasta has been in short supply since the crisis began. So, if you are looking for a quiet place to have a strong coffee or a glass of wine, or want to stock-up on pizzas, pasta, sauces, oils, wine, and other Italian supplies, Italiare is a good resource.
This beautiful Italiare cafe and shop is run by a Japanese owner whose crazy about all things Italian. It was designed by local international artists Mendel Jonkers and Umberto Caiafa giving the shop a modern, colorful, and fun Italian design.
I’d also recommend dropping into the Rakuda Jam cafe, near the Yokogawa Cinema, to pick up a jar of the Sakura Jam. This shop sources its jams from across Japan. The Sakura jam is only available in Spring and is actually filled with real blossoms. I also like to use the citrus jams he sells in dressings and to make immune-boosting hot vitamin drinks.
As you walk back toward the river, it’s a good chance to fill your bag with fresh fruit, and handmade mochi at the Kofujimochi shop take-out window. Also near Yokogawa station, you can find a bakery, cake shop, Daiso 100 yen shop, bank ATM’s and a large FRESTA supermarket.
Once back at the Yokogawa Ebisu shrine with the lanterns, head across the bridge toward the large Jissoji temple roof, then continue left along the riverside path to head back to the Hiroshima city center.
The entire loop, including a short stop for shopping in Yokogawa, took me just under 2 hours. The fresh air, pretty sakura blossoms, and birdsongs along the paths can hopefully help raise your spirits during this difficult time.
With a bit of luck, the blossoms should be around until the middle of April as long as there isn’t too much rain and wind to bring them down prematurely.