Spring in Japan is Sakura time! On April 6, we visited one of the most beautiful places to admire it – Mount Yoshino in Nara Prefecture.
Actually, we were planning a “sakura-hunting” tour throughout the Nara prefecture on both 6 and 7 of April, but as we received a special request from both our students, who joined us on April, 6, we adapted the Saturday tour for parents with toddlers. Thus, we shortened our program, dedicating all the time to Mount Yoshino and its unique nature.
If you think that being in one place all day is boring, you are totally wrong. Mount Yoshino is like a city of cherry blossoms, which cannot be explored even after spending a few days in it.
But before going to the main spotlight of this tour, we stopped in the beautiful cherry blossoms garden by the river to let our tiny group members rest a bit and take a few photos. We don’t know if this place has a name, but the view was fascinating. Great start of the trip!
We are full of energy and ready for the main adventure!
(photo from the river, we)
Mount Yoshino is one of the most popular places for admiring the blossoming cherry trees for many centuries. It is said that the first trees were planted on its slopes more than one thousand three hundred years ago, and now there are about thirty thousand cherry trees of different varieties. The most common variety is Yamazakura, which is mountain cherry.
(photo of Mount Yoshino)
The slope of Mount Yoshino is about 8 kilometers long. It is divided into four territories: Shimo Senbon (“lower thousand trees”) in the foot of the mountain, Naka Senbon (“central thousand trees”), Kami Senbon (“upper thousand trees”) and Oku Senbon (“remote thousand trunks”) in the peak of the mountain. On the way to the top, there is a tourist town, where you can buy local souvenirs and enjoy seasonal food, available only during the cherry blossom period. On weekends, the streets are flooded with tourists and roads are closed for vehicles, but today we were lucky. Roads were open for cars and we could reach the top enjoying the view of the pink cherry jungle from the window.
Cherry trees on mount Yoshino usually begin to bloom at the end of March or at the beginning of April and reach their peak in the middle of the month. Due to the difference in altitude, the cherry season at Shimo Senbon, Naka Senbon, and Kami Senbon begins with a delay of a couple of days as the flowering front moves from bottom to top. The trees at Oku Senbon bloom later than others. The beginning of the flowering season and its duration are highly dependent on weather conditions and vary from year to year. We planned the tour in advance, based on the official forecasts of flowering, but, alas, not everything goes as predicted by the forecasts, and this year the cherry flowers opened their petals later than expected.
We started our journey at Oku Senbon, but all we can see are buds on the trees. But still this place has its own special atmosphere, and the air is so clean and sweet that it makes you feel dizzy. If you have time, be sure to climb the small hills that start beyond the huge arch of the Shinto gate and take a walk along the fragile cherry trees, shivering in the wind. In Oku Senbon blooming period lasts almost a week longer than in the rest of Yoshino, but the start is also late. Since we had nothing to admire, we explored this place through the windows of our car and moved to the next level – Kami Senbon.
In Kami Senbon neat little houses begin to dilute the natural beauty. It is hard to imagine that someone lives at such a remote place, and yet, somebody does. However, the signs of civilization fit into the landscape and make it more interesting, allowing us to enjoy a fresh different view.
In Kami Senbon there are several small parks where you can relax and eat your lunch admiring cherry blossoms. But today trees are not blossoming yet, and we decide to go the next level – Naka Senbon.
On the way to the “central thousand trees,” there are Naka Senbon Park – one of the most beautiful places to admire cherry blossoms. Even now, when the flowers are barely beginning to bloom, we can understand the attractiveness of this place. The park occupies several low hills covered with cherry trees and offers wonderful views. We were a little envious to those who will come here in a week. They surely will see a truly amazing view. But for now it is still earlier to admire cherry blossoms here, and we prefer to devote our time and the energy of our little companions to explore other places. Passing the park, we enter the city along the ridge of the mountain.
The area of the “central thousand trees” is full of life. Most of the hotels, shops, restaurants, Shinto and Buddhist temples of Mount Yoshino are concentrated here. Among them is the Kinpusen-Ji temple complex, which includes Dzao-do, Japan’s largest wooden building after the Todai-ji temple in Nara.
Another attraction is the Yoshimizu shrine, known since ancient times as a popular place for admiring flowers. In 1594, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who united Japan and brought here 5,000 people, organized a huge flower-watching party that lasted for several days.
Yoshimizu shrine was once a place where people came to get permission to climb Mount Omine. In the back garden behind the main building, there is a gate called Hokketsu-mon. Mountain priests used to come here to pray and purify themselves from evil. Even today it is known as a place of purification, and if you look at the gate, you will be released from the influence of evil, which could bring trouble or illness. There is a spell written on the sign at the gate that must be read for purification. If you look at the gate and read it, you can be purified in the same way as the monks in ancient times.
Here, next to the beautiful temples the cherry trees have already blossomed, so we finally got out of the car. Our little passengers were full of enthusiasm, so after lunch in one of the cozy restaurants, we bought a special “Sakura” cola and went to admire the flowers from the observation deck. Today this hill, covered with beautiful pink trees, was not so crowded with tourists, so we managed to take lots of beautiful photos.
After a walk under cherry trees, we went to explore temples. Unfortunately, part of our group cannot appreciate the beauty and unique architecture, but they fully appreciate the wide courtyard, where you can run and have fun right under the blossoming trees.
When we finished with temples, the batteries of our young members were almost done.
(photo of sleeping ryo)
So, sharing out happy memories, we went back to Osaka.