Bus Tour to Enjoy Springtime in Yame
Yame’s seasonal flowers, festivals, and crafts experience workshops can be enjoyed in the full-day bus excursion Tabi Suru Chanokuni (Travel Around Tea Country). Tours for international tourists are also arranged on demand. Reservations quickly reach capacity as it is a popular program in which participants can enjoy Yame’s landscape in each season.
This section will describe what the bus tour many guests from Hong Kong joined in March was like. The bus tour theme was “Hirari, Harari to Sakura Meguri (Haru Ranman: Yame no Sakura wo Mederu),” which can be translated into English as “Explore the Sakura Fluttering About (Spring in Full Bloom: Celebrate Yame’s Cherry Blossoms).” Participants visited three areas where cherry blossom trees were flowering beautifully, and they enjoyed a delicious lunch and desserts unique to Yame.
Everyone boarded the bus at JR Kurume Station, which was the meeting place, and after about a 25-minute ride, the first stop was made at Yame Tourist Information Center. The participants got off the bus and had a tour of the Yame Traditional Craftwork Center, where they were fascinated by the various traditional crafts displayed there, including a 6.5-meter-tall Buddhist altar as well as spinning tops, which are popular items considered to bring good luck.
Leaving behind the Yame Traditional Craftwork Center, the bus headed for the first cherry blossom-viewing spot, Yoshimo Shrine in Tachibana district’s Tokudani neighborhood. It was rather thrilling to drive up the mountain road. Yoshimo Shrine is a little-known area and the participants were able to enjoy a harmony of canola flowers and cherry blossoms.
Next, the bus tour continued to Chisan Park (Kankyo no Mori) in Kurogimachi’s Kako-o neighborhood. The deep pink-hued bellflower cherry was blooming gracefully here.
The much-awaited lunchtime came after everyone finished admiring the cherry blossoms. The participants were taken to Mansaiya, a local restaurant that is famed for its steamed eel. The 130-year-old establishment is located along the Yabegawa River and boasts a splendid view of the water. Everyone ducked under the quaint gate and was greeted by the okami, the restaurant’s hostess, who had a lovely smile.
The menu of the day was steamed eel along with their popular karaage Japanese fried chicken. The fluffy eel and soft and springy rice was simply delectable!! There was some concern whether the overseas tourists would find it palatable, but they all seemed to enjoy the food. No one needed convincing why the delicious karaage is the second most popular dish. Hong Kong has karaage as well, but apparently the seasoning is slightly different from that of Japan. It was very interesting to get a glimpse of such small differences between cultures.
Everyone savored the delightful meal as they took in the view of the Yabegawa River seen from the restaurant and shared their photos of the morning’s sightseeing with one another.
The participants spent the rest of the hour freely, such as taking walks along the Yabegawa River. Then the bus departed to the final cherry blossom viewing spot, Kozenji Temple. The weeping cherry, which was in full bloom, is a large, magnificent tree that is said to be 300-400 years old. Everyone was quite taken in by the elegantly exquisite flowers.
After satiating themselves with admiring the weeping cherry tree, the participants headed for the farmers’ market Michibata, which sells inexpensive, quality vegetables. Everyone enjoyed a little shopping and then continued to Hotaru-to-ishibashi-no-yakata : Firefly and Stone Bridge Center. There, everyone was served small parfaits made of Amaō strawberries, specially prepared for this tour, and then they spent some more free time shopping further and taking strolls nearby.
The final stopover was at Natsume, a Yamecha desserts specialty store, which is very popular for its various kinds of confectionery made from Yamecha(Yame tea). The tour participants bought many such desserts there.
This tour unfortunately did not coincide with the full bloom of the Yoshino cherry, as its blossoming time was later than usual this year. Still, the people at the Tourist Information Center wanted to show local cherry blossoms to the tour participants somehow, and thanks to their dedicated research, the tour ended up going to view rare species in little-known places that are not even in the guidebooks. The lasting impression was of the smiles on everyone’s faces as they went home.