The official start for Kyoto's cherry blossom season kicked off yesterday on March 31 as expected after the warm temperatures on March 30. The official opening is announced when five or more open blossoms are observed on the representative tree, which in Kyoto's case, is located on the Nijo Castle grounds. However, yesterday's rain and low temperatures did not encourage many more buds to blossom, and many of the cherry trees in the city still sported more buds than blossoms. With warm temperatures and blue skies predicted for the next few days, the best viewing period for Kyoto is expected to be from April 7 to 15.
Up to now, the blossoms across the country have been developing at a slower pace due to the cooler temperatures. But with warm weather forecast for next week, the yet unopened buds are expected to explode in the warmth, creating the much anticipated blossom canopy in the cities. THe best viewing period for most major cities in the Kanto and Kansai regions is forecast to be in the coming week.
Sam visited Tokyo yesterday and reported that the flowers are progressing well. With the warmer temperatures in the coming week, I believe that the cherry trees in Tokyo are just about two to three days away from reaching their best viewing period.
My first stop for today was the approximately two-kilometer long Philosopher's Path that follows a small stream towards Ginkakuji Temple. Despite the official start to the season being announced for Kyoto city, the cherry trees that line the path do not have any open blossoms. It should be less than a week of warm temperatures for them to reach their best with lots of open flowers.
From there, I headed down towards the Okazaki Canal, one of Kyoto's popular cherry blossom spots. Today, the blossoms have yet to open and I expect it to be another two or three days before we see any blossoms. The canal is illuminated from now until April 9 from around 18:00 to 21:00 allowing visitors to enjoy the blossoms in the evening. Boat rides (25 minutes, 1200 yen) along the canal offer a different view of the blossoms and are available from 8:00 to 21:00 (admission until 20:30) during the peak sakura season. Outside of the season, boat rides are available from 9:30 to 16:30 until May 7.
The Keage Incline is connected to the canal and lined by about one hundred cherry trees. The popular cherry blossom spot was not as crowded as it usually gets today as the flowers have not blossomed yet. I expect flowers to start opening from tomorrow and the best viewing period to start from around April 8.
Returning to Maruyama Park, not much has changed since my last visit two days ago. More blossoms have opened on the weeping cherry tree in the middle of the park, but the mainstream Somei Yoshino cherry trees have yet to blossom.
Kyoto Imperial Palace
Finally, I headed to the Kyoto Imperial Palace to check out the small grove of weeping cherry trees in the northwestern end of the park. The cherry trees were approaching full bloom and drew the most visitors in the park. If you want to see some open blossoms in the next couple of days, the weeping cherry trees in the Kyoto Imperial Park is the place to be.