Today I headed back to Kyoto to cover what is likely to be our final cherry blossom report from western Japan this year. After today's report we will be focusing our attention toward the Tohoku Region with a little bit of Tokyo and Fuji Five Lakes reporting thrown in for good measure.
The main cherry blossom season around Kyoto has been wrapping up this week, and the few blossom, if any, that were left on the trees were falling at the slightest provocation. We ended up getting lucky with the weather, though, as the strong wind and rain that were originally forecast to hit today instead spread itself out and ended turning into a light drizzle that lasted through the night. This was strong enough to knock down the last of the Somei Yoshio petals, but not so strong as to significantly damage the later blooming varieties of cherry tree that can be found around the old capital. These later trees typically peak a week or so later that the main season, making them your best chance now to see cherry blossoms around the city.
My first stop this morning was a follow up visit to Arashiyama in northwestern Kyoto. The trees around the district are mostly the more common Somei Yoshino variety rather than late blooming cherries, but they typically bloom slightly behind those around the central city due to their location at the base of the northern mountains. The cherry blossoms around Arashiyama were falling fast when Raina visited on April 8th and by now are very much at the end of the season.
Next I headed to Ninnaji Temple just a few stops away on the Randen Train. The expansive temple grounds are home to a nice grove of late blooming Omuro cherry trees that were about halfway to full bloom when we reported from the temple last week. Since then, the Omuro trees have reached their peak and displayed nice full bunches of flowers with some of the largest, roundest petals I've seen on a cherry blossom. The petals looked to be just starting to fall from the trees, and yesterday's light rain probably brought down a few more than would have otherwise fallen on their own. But overall Ninnaji Temple's trees were still very much around the peak and will remain one of the best cherry blossom spots left to visit in the city until the heavy rains forecast for Sunday arrive.
My final stop of the day was Nijo Castle, which was approaching full bloom when I visited way back on April 1st. Today the Somei Yoshino trees around Nijo Castle were firmly at the end of the season, but the former castle grounds has two areas that feature late blooming cherry trees: the Sakura-no-en (Cherry Blossom Garden) and the pathways along the western wall.
The Sakura-no-en is filled with a large variety of later blooming cherry trees, but it was difficult to tell exactly what was what since they were not meaningfully labeled and you can't enter the grove. Since there is a lot of variety, the trees were all at slightly different states. The majority were right around full bloom, while a few were just starting to drop petals. These should remain nice for several more days and possibly into early next week if it does not end up raining hard on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Yaebenishidarezakura weeping cherry trees along the western wall were at the tail end of best viewing and were starting to drop their petals pretty freely. This part of the castle grounds should continue to look nice through Saturday, but a strong rain on Sunday will likely end the season here. Note that the Nijo Castle grounds will be illuminated in the evenings from 18:00 to 21:30 through April 17th. Admission costs 400 yen and ends at 21:00.