In Japan March is synonymous with Hanami, the feast of the cherry blossoms. Between the last week of that month and the first of April, the Japanese islands are colored in beautiful shades of white and pink and people move everywhere to enjoy the show.
Japan is a very mountainous country with very marked seasons, so spring and autumn are undoubtedly the most attractive seasons to visit this country. While autumn is the kingdom of ocher and red, the spring that is already being lived today is the magical kingdom that you see in the photographs. Y Kyoto is among the best destinations to be surrounded by that intense pink.
Is the Japanese tradition of contemplating the beauty of flowers but it is closely related to spring and cherry blossoms. Sakura is the name of the flowers of this often small tree, with twisted and thin branches.
Flowering occurs from March to April according to the temperatures of the country. For example, in distant Okianawa it begins much earlier, in January, and the cherry trees of Hokkaido, well to the north, you find at the end of April with a lot of verve.
When it is hanami time, the newscasts are full with this topic and each broadcast tells how the flowers are going, how many people have mobilized and so on. The custom is to choose a park, there are some very popular ones, and agree there with friends or family to eat and drink under the cherry blossoms. Day and night, so it's always a great time.
Hanami in Kyoto
It is one of the most popular destinations because in truth the whole city is full of cherry trees. Also, as there are many temples, each scene is as beautiful as a postcard. Getting there is super easy, on the shinkansen or bullet train it takes just over two hours. There I have walked everywhere without problem, but there are buses if walking a lot is not your thing.
Kyoto was the capital of Japan from the 1868th century until almost the end of feudalism, in XNUMX. Today it is a modern city inhabited by a million and a half people and although it was destroyed several times its cultural value escaped it from the bombs of the last during the Second World War. A) Yes, there are about 14 special places to enjoy hanami.
I am talking about the Philosopher's Path, the Maruyama Park, the Heian Shrine, the Haradani-en Garden, the beautiful Okazaki Canal, the old Keage train line, the Daigoji Temple, the Kiyomizudera, the Ninnaji, the Kamogawa River or the Botanical Garden. from Kyoto. You can choose several of these destinations to stroll among cherry blossoms. I was there last year and I spent a whole day walking from here to there, early.
The sun was shining, although afterwards some clouds appeared, so if being in Kyoto you wake up with Phoebus looming, take advantage! This is the route recomendado taking the city's train station as a reference:
- Kiyomizudera: you can get there by walking. I was staying about four blocks from the station and must have walked about ten blocks or less to the temple. In hanami season, people are taking you because they all do the same walk. If you choose the bus the temple is about 15 minutes from Kiyomizu-michi station. It opens from 6 am to 6 pm and on certain dates it is illuminated: 25/3 and 9/4, from 6 to 9 pm. Admission is 400 yen, about $ 4. The site is beautiful because it is a real cherry grove.
- Higashiyama: when you leave the Kiyomizudera temple you can wander through a little street with several stairs which forms the heart of the Higashiyama District. There are shops, ice cream parlors and restaurants along it and also in alleys that open on the sides. Here and there you will see some cherry trees, not many, and some geisha as well, but it is a charming place that as you go through it, it takes you from the Kiyomizudera to the Yasaka Shrine. Half an hour away.
- Maruyama Park: it is right next to the Yasaka Shrine and it is the most popular public park in the city. Your heart is a huge cherry tree that lights up every night. It is surrounded by food stalls and restaurant tables so you can't stop enjoying food and drink under that pink roof. Admission is free and in hanami season it opens until 1 am.
- Philosopher's Path: the truth is that it is difficult to find him with this name. Look what I asked! It's a cherry tree lined canal which is located between the Ginkakuji and Nanzeji temples. Obviously, it is free.
- Keage Incline: you are walking and suddenly you see an old man tunnel and gate system somewhat rusty. Kyoto had and still has a system of tunnels and a canal that connects the waters of the Kamo River with Lake Biwa, which is on the other side of the mountains. This particular part has been in disuse since the 50s and until then the tracks and canals transported boats from the canal higher up. The roads are today a path that you follow surrounded by cherry trees up the mountain, on the sides and down again. It is free and fun.
- Heian Shrine: the cherry trees can be found behind the main building of the complex. The entrance costs 600 yen and who knows why, its cherry trees usually bloom a few days after the rest of the trees, so if you arrive a little late this place should not be missed.
- Okazaki Channel: It is just outside the Heian Shrine and is the channel that connects Lake Biwa with the Kamo River, the river that splits Kyoto in two. On each shore there are cherry trees and you can see the coming and going of boats passing people. The ride is 15 minutes to half an hour and costs 1000 yen per person, about $ 10. If you don't want to spend, you can bet on one of its bridges or on the shore and watch them go by.
- Arashiyama: I put this one last little town on the outskirts of Kyoto. I especially recommend it to spend a whole day. You arrive by train, in a super short trip, and once there it is best to rent a bike at the station and go for a walk. There is a wonderful bamboo forest, a river where you can paddle boat, cherry blossoms everywhere, and plenty of cafes and restaurants to sample local dishes.
All these places you can know in a single day, walking. At the end of the afternoon my advice is that you arrive at the station, cross and go up to the Kyoto Tower to enjoy a coffee and cake while the sun finishes setting over the city. The Japanese love to enjoy hanami so there is a lot of domestic tourism around this time, but don't be scared. The Japanese are kind, considerate, quiet, and very polite.