The heavy rain and strong winds across the country yesterday wrecked havoc on many of the cherry trees, especially the common mainstream Somei Yoshino cherry trees, in southern and central Japan. In just a day of rain and winds, the cherry trees that were at their peak a day ago shed many of their petals. The Somei Yoshino trees that I saw today looked nice but a little patchy with a mix of full bunches and sparse ones, and were definitely not at their peak any more. The trees also had petals falling in the slightest breeze. One attraction of this stage of the cherry blossom season is seeing cherry blossom storms (hanafubuki), where the wind picks up the petals and it kinda looks like it's snowing. While it may be very tempting to give some branches a nudge or shake for effect when you're taking pictures, it is bad hanami etiquette to do so and such actions should be avoided so that everyone can enjoy the flowers for as long as possible.
I headed back to Kyoto for the second time this week to check out the state of the flowers as well as some of the later flowering cherry tree varieties, as we start moving towards the end of the season for the mainstream Somei Yoshino cherry trees. With warm and sunny weather forecast for this weekend, it should be a good time to see the last of the Somei Yoshino blossoms and enjoy watching the petals fall ever so gently in the breeze.
I visited Arashiyama first thing in the day and checked out the park near the Hankyu Arashiyama Station and the Monkey Park Iwatayama. The trees at the park had lost some petals in yesterday's bad weather, but still had enough blossoms on the tree to look nice. The ground was also covered in pink petals, and I saw a couple of tourists making petal angels on the ground. Moving up to the monkey park, I found the sakura season of the few cherry trees there to be over. However, the view of Kyoto City from a height of 160 meters was still pretty cool and I also got to see some monkeys lounging around.
Ninnaji Temple:Approaching Full Bloom
From Arashiyama, I took the Keifuku Line to Ninnaji Temple, which is famous for its later blooming Omuro cherry tree variety. The blossoms were only midway towards full bloom when I was there today, and visitors can look forward to more blossoms opening over the next few days. The temple complex is relatively large and there are also a few different varieties of cherry trees at different stages of bloom. Along the Keifuku Line is a sakura tunnel between Narutaki and Utano stations, where the cherry trees that line the tracks bloom. Today, I found the trees here to have petals falling, but still attractive. Each time a train passed, there would be a flurry of petals in its wake and it was a beautiful sight. I expect this weekend to be one of the last chances to see the cherry blossom petals flying in the wind before they all get stripped from the trees.
Heian Shrine:Full Bloom
My final stop for the day was Heian Shrine, where I also went four days ago. Today, the weeping cherry trees in the garden behind the main buildings were at full bloom, and even more enjoyable to walk through compared to before! For those in Kyoto this weekend and want to see cherry blossoms at full bloom, the garden at Heian Shrine would be the place to go. I expect the blossoms to remain at their peak through the weekend and for a couple more days after that.