We are now midway through the cherry blossom season, and many of the cherry trees in the cities from Kyushu to the Kanto Region have reached full bloom (mankai). This week is the best viewing period for many of the cities in the Kyushu, Chugoku, Shikoku, Kansai, Chubu or Kanto regions. Visitors in these areas now should be able to experience the seasonal sakura phenomenon.
I visited Yoshinoyama in Nara Prefecture today and found a large number of cherry trees on the mountain in full bloom. The mountain is covered by approximately 30,000 cherry trees of many different varieties, and especially the Yamazakura variety. While 30,000 cherry trees is a large number, do not go expecting to see a sea of white when the cherry trees are at full bloom. The Yamazakura variety tends not to be as intense as the common mainstream variety, the Somei Yoshino. The mountain is divided into four areas: Oku Senbon at the top of the mountain, Kami Senbon, the upper section, Naka Senbon, the middle section, and Shimo Senbo, the lower section. I visited all the sections except for Oku Senbon.
Some of the earlier flowering varieties had some petals falling off in the wind, but still remain beautiful to see. However, with rain forecast for Thursday, the earlier flowering trees may not last past this weekend, while the longevity of the viewing period of the other varieties may be shortened. The best viewing period for Yoshinoyama as a whole is predicted to last till around April 12 and the coming weekend would be the best time to go there with the good weather forecast.
I started my journey from Yoshino Station at the base of Mount Yoshino, took the bus up to the Naka Senbon area and continued my journey to Kami Senbon on foot. The bus between Yoshino Station and the Naka Senbon bus stop is a temporary one only available during the sakura season. This year, the bus will operate until May 8. There are two to four buses per hour and the one way journey costs 360 yen. It takes about 45 minutes to walk uphill from the bus stop to the upper part of Kami Senbon. The flowers towards the top of Kami Senbon were just opening and some of the trees were mostly in buds. I went up to the Hanayagura viewpoint and got a view of the mountain and her many cherry trees. However, in the lower areas of Kami Senbon, the trees were about midway towards full bloom. I expect the cherry blossom season in the Kami Senbon area to improve further and reach its best viewing period in a week or so.
I made my way down to Naka Senbon and found majority of the trees here almost at full bloom. I made my way around Naka Senbon along a hiking trail and found myself surrounded by cherry trees ever so often. The weather was amazing when I was in the middle section of the mountain and it was simply a joy to walk and enjoy the view. One of the best ways to enjoy the view if you do not feel like walking a lot is to have tea at one of the teahouses with a view. Tables are set along the windows and typically offer unblocked views of the cherry trees. The forecast rain for Thursday may cause some of the petals to start falling earlier, but I expect the trees at Naka Senbon to remain good to see. It should also be crowded with lots of visitors this coming weekend, especially with the good weather forecast.
Heading down to Shimo Senbon, I found the most of the cherry trees here to be at their peak as well. The weeping cherry trees in the Shimo Senbon area, on the other hand, have seen better days. But there are still plenty of other varieties of cherry trees in bloom to see, and still a gorgeous walk back down to Yoshino Station. Many shops and restaurants line the sides of the main Shimo Senbon street, and it felt especially crowded having walked down from Kami Senbon where it was not crowded at all. Like Naka Senbon, the forecast rain for Thursday may cause some of the petals to start falling earlier, but I expect the trees here to remain good to see. It should also be crowded with lots of visitors this coming weekend, especially with the good weather forecast.