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Yoshino Cherry Blossom 2010 / Cool Japan

Introduce Yoshino Cherry Blossoms Apr 6, 2010.
Mount Yoshino was the subject of a waka poem in the 10th century poetry compilation Kokin Wakashū. It is also the subject of several poems in the Hyakunin Isshu.
Several important religious and pilgrimage destinations are located around Mount Yoshino, including Yoshino Mikumari Shrine, Kimpu Shrine, and Kimpusen-ji. It is well known for its cherry blossoms, and attracts many visitors every autumn.

Mt. Yoshino is famous for its many thousands of Sakura trees. These flowering specimen trees were planted in four groves at different altitudes, in part so that the famed trees would come into bloom at different times of the spring. A 1714 account explained that, on their climb to the top, travelers would be able to enjoy the lower 1,000 cherry trees at the base, the middle 1,000 on the way, the upper 1,000 toward the top, and the 1,000 in the precincts of the inner shrine at the top.
 2010/04/06 - Yoshino Cherry Blossom

Blooming cherry blossoms bring colour to the mountainside of Yoshino

After a rainy day of cherry blossom reporting yesterday in Tokyo, I was lucky to find clear skies and many open flowers today at Yoshinoyama (Mount Yoshino), which is perhaps Japan's most famous cherry blossom spot. Along the mountainside there are an estimated 30,000 cherry trees, which make for spectacular views and hikes. Yoshino is divided into four areas, which are, starting from the base of the mountain, the Shimo Senbon (lower 1000 trees), the Naka Senbon (middle 1000 trees), Kami Senbon (upper 1000 trees), and Oku Senbon (inner 1000 trees).
At the moment it is a great time to visit Yoshino, as full bloom has been reached at the lower altitudes of the mountain. Yoshino should continue to be a good cherry blossom spot for quite a while as full bloom gradually makes its way up the mountain.

View of Yoshino Station and passing cars from a cable car

Shimo Senbon
April 6, 2010 - full bloom

After arriving at Yoshino Station, the terminal station of the Kintetsu Yoshino Line, I took a nearby cable car that took me a few dozen meters up into the Shimo Senbon area. As soon as I exited the cable car a light gust of wind brought a few petals falling to the ground in front of me. The cherry trees in the Shimo Senbon area have reached full bloom and are starting to fall from the trees in greater numbers. The crowds in the Shimo Senbon were quite dense today, particularly on my way back down the mountain in the afternoon. From now on, I think that more flowers will be falling than will be opening up, but the trees will probably remain at full bloom until at least tomorrow.

Walking under cherry blossoms in the Shimo Senbon

Cherry blossoms at full bloom in the Shimo Senbon

A restaurant in the Shimo Senbon offers great views of the flowers

Kinpusenji Temple
April 6, 2010 - full bloom

During the spring, Kinpusenji Temple has special openings to the public that visitors to Yoshino may want to take advantage of. The combination of cherry blossoms with the buildings of a Japanese temple can make for some attractive views, and I particularly enjoyed seeing the temple's pagoda surrounded by flowers.

Kinpusenji's Zao Hall

A pagoda at Kinpusenji

Naka Senbon
April 6, 2010 - approaching full bloom (50-80%)

The Naka Senbon is my favourite area of Yoshino, because it has a number of spacious park areas with nice views and many attractive cherry trees. There are also less shops and crowds than in the Shimo Senbon area, and I find the Naka Senbon more inviting for a meal under the trees than the Kami Senbon area. The cherry trees in the Naka Senbon are on the whole not quite at full bloom, but will be in a day or two, and today they were nonetheless spectacular.

View of cherry trees from a park in the Naka Senbon

Attractive flowers in the Naka Senbon

Another nice spot for some food

Kami Senbon
April 6, 2010 - opening (10-50%)

The Kami Senbon offers great views over the whole course of one's hike up Yoshinoyama. However, at the moment the trees in the distance are much more impressive than those overhead. I found that there was a large disparity between the development of the trees, with some just opening while others were approaching full bloom. The hike from the Naka Senbon to the Kami Senbon can be quite steep and long, and may cause some visitors some trouble. Although I think I am in generally good health, I became tired for that section of today's hike.
On my last trip to Yoshino I was looking for the Hanayagura view point, and instead found another view point farther into the mountain. This time I made a point of finding it, and was surprised that it wasn't clearly marked and mostly consisted of a small restaurant and outside dining areas. Unfortunately I didn't have time to sit, but the tatami seats that are perched over the mountainside at Hanayagura are perhaps the best spot in the whole mountain to enjoy hanami. However, there is a seating fee of 500 yen per person per hour.

The winding path through the Kami Senbon

Some flowers opening in front of more advanced trees below

Arguably the very best seats on the mountain at the Hanayagura view point

Today I didn't venture past the Kami Senbon into the Oku Senbon area. I heard that the flowers hadn't opened yet, and from my experience last year the walk is quite long and there are only a few trees nestled in a small valley, which does not offer the spectacular views of the other areas.
At the end of the day my only regret was that I did not have more time to spend on the mountain. It is hard to have a better cherry blossom experience than full bloom and clear skies at Yoshino, and I would personally recommend the experience for travellers who will be in the area over the next few days when full bloom advances into the Naka Senbon area.

Cherry blossoms and the train tracks leading away from Yoshino

Yoshino Town Map

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By T.S. on Apr 20, 2010
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Author:T. SATOH