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Kyoto: Blossoms Opening

Keage Incline

As the cherry blossoms continue to progress across the bulk of Japan, the trees around some of the more southern cities, such as Kumamoto, are starting to hit their best viewing period. While Raina continues reporting from those areas, I spent the day in Kyoto to increase our coverage to more of Kyoto famous cherry blossom spots. The blossoms officially opened on March 23rd in the city and look as if they are advancing pretty much as expected with most trees around the sights I visited today still approaching the halfway mark.

Okazaki Canal: Blossoms Opening

Today kicked off with a stroll along the Okazaki Canal, part of the waterway system that connects Lake Biwa with Kyoto and runs from the base of the Keage Incline and the Kyoto Zoo past the approach to Heian Shrine. The canal is lined by dozens of cherry trees, which overhang the water and can be enjoyed both by walking along the embankment or from boat tours which operate seasonally during the cherry blossom season. This year the boats run from 9:30 to 16:30 through May 8th and cost 1200 yen per person. The boats also run special evening illuminated tours through April 10th during the Okazaki Canal's light up event.

The cherry trees along the canal tend to be slightly behind the main Kyoto blooming season, and this year was no exception. The majority of trees were still in the early opening stages and will probably need at least to the weekend to reach their peak.

Okazaki Canal
The blossoms are in the early opening stages still
Torii gate at the approach to Heian Shrine

Keage Incline: Blossoms Opening

Next to the Okazaki Canal is the Keage Incline, which was originally built during the early Meiji Period to connect the lower elevation waterways of Kyoto city to a higher elevation canal that runs all the way to Lake Biwa. The Keage Incline, which utilized a rail system to transport the small cargo boats up and down the slope, is lined by dozens of cherry trees, and the area has become an extremely popular sakura spot for the beautiful combination of the abandoned rails and cherry blossoms.

The blossoms along the incline were a bit further along than those lining the Okazaki Canal, and more inline with the main blossoming season in the city. Though still relatively early - most trees were still well below the 50% mark - the warm weather that will hit Kyoto over the next several days should, if anything, speed them along to a peak that will likely hit around the weekend.

Along the Keage Incline
Opening blossoms
Lots of people out enjoying the blossoms

Philosophers Path: Blossoms Opening

The Keage Incline connects (albeit indirectly for walkers via Nanzenji and detour through the neighborhood streets) to the Philosophers Path. This two kilometer long, paved trail follows along a canal that leads through the neighborhoods of northeast Kyoto to Ginkakuji. The canal is best enjoyed in autumn and spring, but is especially nice during the sakura season as the path is lined by several hundred cherry trees whose branches extend over the canal and walkways forming tunnels of blossoms to stroll underneath. Like the sites visited earlier in the day, the cherry blossoms along the Philosophers Path are still in the early opening stages and likely won't reach their peak until around this weekend.

Philosophers Path
Blossoms opening along the Philosophers Path
A busker entertaining a group of tour guides-in-training under the cherry blossoms
Philosophers Path
Strolling under the blossoms

Arashiyama: Blossoms Opening

My final stop today was the Arashiyama district on the outskirts of Kyoto at the base of the city's northern mountains. As a result of their location, the blossoms here tend to open a little bit later than the rest of the city. However, this year is slightly different as the trees around Arashiyama looked pretty much on par with the rest of Kyoto. I'm guessing that the cold snap that slowed down the season around the central city likely had less of an effect in this typically cooler area, which allowed the blossoms here to catch up. If it continues like this, then I would expect the trees here to peak around the weekend together with those around much of the rest of Kyoto.

Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama
The blossoms have caught up to the main Kyoto season
Picnicking in Nakanoshima Koen, which is lit up in the evenings from dusk until 22:00 through the blooming season
The restaurants and food stalls on Nakanoshima were surrounded by blossoms
The area between Nakanoshima Koen and Hankyu Arashiyama Station is a great place to enjoy the cherry blossoms
These guys were definitely enjoying themselves