Cherry Blossom Report 2014
Official cherry blossom reports by japan-guide.com

2014 Cherry Blossom Forecast - Schedule of upcoming reports - Popular cherry blossom spots
How to do hanami? - Cherry tree varieties - Post your own report

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2014/04/01 - Kyoto Report
by sean

The festival spirit kicks in for Kyoto's sakura season

Under blue skies I arrived in Kyoto to check out some of its popular cherry blossom spots. Over the past week Scott had visited twice to give us a heads up to the cherry blossom (sakura) situation here; today I found the main season to have kicked in.

The sakura season in Kyoto has so far been a tad earlier than that of the average year. The trees at almost all of the locations that I had visited today needed just one more warm sunny day before they reach their best, and tomorrow is forecast to be just that. Day highs are predicted to remain above 20 degree celsius over the next two days, before it becomes a little chilly from Friday through the weekend. This means there could be the ideal scenario whereby the trees reach their peak and become "frozen in state" by the cool weather, preserving the flowers for a couple more days.

Meanwhile, the season has reached its peak in Tokyo on March 30. Please take a look at Raina's report yesterday for some lovely representations of the situation there (my favorite is the picture with the sparrows, about nine from the top).

April 1, 2014 - approaching full bloom (50-80%)

My first stop was at Arashiyama, which we visit several times a year for cherry blossom viewing (hanami), as well as for fall colors during autumn. Despite it being a Monday, the area was filled with about as many tourists as there were open blossoms. Views were already very pleasant, and I reckon the sakura trees here will reach their best sometime tomorrow. Apart from the mainstream Somei Yoshino cherry trees, there were also several weeping cherry trees that have peaked and Yaebeni weeping cherry trees that have just started to flower.

Arriving at Arashiyama

Visitors stroll the area

Togetsukyo bridge (ongoing repairs by the river bank)

Girl squeals in delight as she avoids a pigeon flying by

Polite rickshaw puller

Okazaki Canal
April 1, 2014 - approaching full bloom (50-80%)

Next, I strolled along Okazaki Canal and found the cherry trees to be in a similar state to those at Arashiyama. I like this cherry blossom spot because you get to see Somei Yoshino trees lining the inner bank of the canal and Oshima cherry trees lining the outer one. Since Somei Yoshino are cultivated partly from Oshima cherry trees, it is like seeing two long rows of parent-child pairs.

Evening illuminations are going on at Okazaki Canal until April 13, from 18:00 to 21:30. Visitors can also tour the canal in small boats. Daytime boat rides are available till May 6 from 9:30 to 16:30. Night-time rides are available till 20:30 every evening for as long as the illuminations last.

Okazaki Canal

Somei Yoshino blossoms

Oshima cherry blossoms

Heian Shrine
April 1, 2014 - approaching full bloom (50-80%) (Somei Yoshino)
April 1, 2014 - opening (10-50%) (Yaebeni weeping cherries)

Close to Okazaki Canal is Heian Shrine, a cherry blossom spot reputed for the many Yaebeni weeping cherry trees standing in its garden. As these cherry trees tend to flower slightly later than the mainstream Somei Yoshino, I wasn't surprised to find them only proceeding towards the quarter mark. Views at the garden will continue to improve and I estimate that it will take at least till the weekend before they reach their best. The few Somei Yoshino trees that dotted the garden were approaching full bloom, like those at the other locations that I had visited earlier.

Arriving at Heian Shrine

Pruning the branches in expectation of the crowds that will come soon

State of Yaebeni weeping cherries

Close up of some Somei Yoshino

Keage Incline
April 1, 2014 - full bloom

The Keage Incline is one of my favorite cherry blossom spots in Kyoto - it's just a very cheerful place: every year when I visit, I am bound to see people having their wedding pictures taken and children having fun balancing on the decommissioned tracks. These tracks were used in the past to carry boats from Lake Biwa (the largest lake in Japan) to Kyoto City. And, the cherry trees just seem happier here too, with most of them having just peaked. Barring any sudden changes in weather for the worse, excellent views should remain till the weekend at least.

Arriving at the Keage Incline

Sakura and fountain

Best wishes to this couple

Maruyama Park
April 1, 2014 - approaching full bloom (50-80%) (Somei Yoshino)
April 1, 2014 - full bloom (weeping cherries)

I ended the day with a visit to Maruyama Park, arguably the most popular spot in Kyoto for hanami parties. It was already pretty crowded at the park considering that it was a Monday afternoon, and the festival stores were already up and running. As usual at the park at this time of the year, there was the smell of burning charcoal, the sound of chatter from the bustling crowds, and the sight of the great weeping cherry tree standing proudly at the center of the park. Today, it was at its full glory, as were the other weeping cherry trees here. The Somei Yoshino cherries were just a little behind, and they should peak too by tomorrow.

Hanami parties

Festival stores

The great weeping cherry tree

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List of Posts:
2014/05/09 - Hakodate Report
2014/05/08 - Matsumae Report
2014/05/01 - Hirosaki Report
2014/04/30 - Kakunodate Report
2014/04/24 - Kitakami Report
2014/04/23 - Mt. Fuji Report
2014/04/23 - Morioka Report
2014/04/22 - Aizu Report
2014/04/19 - Matsushima Report
2014/04/17 - Takato Report
2014/04/16 - Sendai Report
2014/04/16 - Matsumoto Report
2014/04/15 - Fukushima Report
2014/04/15 - Mount Fuji Report
2014/04/15 - Kyoto Report
2014/04/14 - Yoshino Report
2014/04/13 - Osaka Report
2014/04/12 - Kanazawa Report
2014/04/11 - Kyoto Report
2014/04/10 - Yoshino Report
2014/04/10 - Tokyo Report
2014/04/09 - Gunma Report
2014/04/09 - Hikone Report
2014/04/08 - Kyoto Report
2014/04/07 - Tokyo Report
2014/04/06 - Kyoto Report
2014/04/05 - Hiroshima Report
2014/04/05 - Matsuyama Report
2014/04/04 - Tokyo Report
2014/04/04 - Kamakura Report
2014/04/04 - Osaka Report
2014/04/03 - Kyoto Report
2014/04/03 - Fukuoka Report
2014/04/03 - Uji Report
2014/04/02 - Tokyo Report
2014/04/02 - Nagoya Report
2014/04/02 - Kumamoto Report
2014/04/01 - Kyoto Report
2014/03/31 - Tokyo Report
2014/03/29 - Kyoto Report
2014/03/28 - Kumamoto Report
2014/03/27 - Fukuoka Report
2014/03/26 - Tokyo Report
2014/03/25 - Kyoto Report