NARA Cherry Blossom Report April 7th

Our “Sakura hunting” tour is successfully complete! We are tired but charged for the full year with amazing memories. Wannaknow, how did it go? Here is our report!

 

Today we went to explore Naru prefecture as a large international company/It took around one and a half hour to our first destination which is mount Yoshino, but we weren’t bored at all.  We enjoyed our trip in a comfortable van charting, playing games and establishing intercultural ties. 

 

The weather was great, and on this warm, bright Sunday, Mount Yoshino attracted much more tourists than yesterday. The road to the top was closed today, so we left our van in the parking lot and walked to our first destination. 

 

The eight-kilometer slope of Mount Yoshino is divided into four sections: Shimo Senbon (“lower thousand trees”) is the foot of the mountain, Naka Senbon (“central thousand trees”) is the middle part followed by Kami Senbon (“upper thousand trees”)  and Oku Senbon (“distant thousand trees “) is the last part on top of the mountain.

 

Today we explored Shimo Senbon, the lower part, where the cherry trees are already in full bloom. This part of the mountain covers the entire area from Yoshino station to the lower part of the city. The van helped us to skip a steep slope between the station and the city, and to avoid waiting in a long line for the cable car.

 

We spent here almost two hours, admiring mountain slope covered in cherry blossoms, trying ice cream with the seasonal taste of Japanese cherry, drinking tea in a cozy restaurant with a wonderful cherry garden and walking to the Naka Senbon to see the blooming pink carpet.

 

We spent a lot of energy climbing slops and taking pictures, but still had enough power to go on. Our next destination was the Hasedera temple. This huge Buddhist temple complex located in a different part of Nara prefecture away from the main tourist routes and it takes us about an hour to go there. A long way, but in totally worth it because this place became the spotlight of today’s program. 

 

Hasedera is the main temple complex of the Bunzan school of Shingon Buddhism. The temple was founded in 686 and dedicated to the Emperor Tenmu. Over the last millennium, the temple burned about 10 times and, nevertheless, restored with enviable persistence. Therefore, it can be compared with the Phoenix bird, reborn from the ashes. 

 

The temple complex is built on the mountainside. From the entrance to the main temple, there is a staircase covered with a wooden canopy, which is almost 200 meters in length and has 399 small stone steps. Pilgrims believed that by climbing them, they could get rid of 108 illusions leading to suffering. We don’t know whether our group managed to get rid of its own illusions, but the view of the beautiful cherry garden on both sides of the stairs made this climb unforgettable.

 

The main temple of the Hasedera complex is one of the largest wooden structures in Nara prefecture. Last time it was reconstructed in 1650 with the support of Tokugawa Iemitsu. From the main observation deck, we enjoyed a beautiful view of the entire temple complex, covered with blossoming cherry trees. The view was so breathtaking that even Mount Yoshino has faded in comparison with it. A variety of cherry trees creates an astonishing picture. 

 

 

After admiring cherry blossoms from the observation deck of the temple, we took a rest in the garden next to the picturesque pagoda and went to our next destination. This is Nara Park, the highlight of which are freely walking deer. If you are afraid that the deer may hurt you with their horns, then you have no reason to worry. There is a custom that originates from the Edo period (1603–1868) and is still held every October. To prevent the deer from injuring people during the mating season, people dressed in traditional clothes cut their horns.

 

“Nara Park Deers” were recognized as a national heritage and, judging by their behavior, they clearly know about it. When we went to the park, they gathered around us asking for food. Of course, we couldn’t resist them and bought deer crackers that are sold everywhere in the park. Taking the crackers, the deer bowed politely like the real aristocrats. That is a national heritage for you!

 

Together with deer, we admired the beautiful cherry blossoms of the Nara park, that is totally different from those of  MountYoshino and Hasedera temple.

 

Passing through the park, we visited Todaiji which is one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples and a landmark of Nara. This temple has a very rich history, but today we came here to admire the cherry blossoms in front of its gate.

 

Thus, today we drove through the entire Nara prefecture and saw a wide variety of landscapes with blossoming cherry trees. Even the Japanese part of our group was surprised and impressed with the beauty that had opened up to us. And members who came to Japan for the first time were totally astonished.

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