Today, I head to Japan's most famous cherry blossom spot, Mount Yoshinoyama in Nara Prefecture. There are about 30,000 cherry trees planted on the mountain slopes and many of them are of the Yamazakura variety.
Rain over the past weekend may have put a damper on many cherry blossom viewing (hanami) plans, but there were still enough blossoms left on the trees to make for a pleasant hanami viewing today. Rain and relatively strong winds are forecast for tomorrow in many places across the country, and these have the potential to shorten the sakura season in cities where full bloom (mankai) has been reached for a few days already.
However, the weather looks relatively clear for the rest of the week and this week remains to be the best viewing period for many of the cities in the Kansai and Kanto regions. While the forecast rain may shorten the longevity of the blossoms, visitors can look forward to hanafubuki where the sakura petals fall in large numbers, coming down like snow.
Yoshinoyama has a longer cherry blossom season compared to most cities in general thanks to the range of elevation the trees are planted across. The mountain is typically divided into four broad regions, with Shimo Senbon being the lowest region and the first place to start the cherry blossom season, before moving upwards to Naka Senbon and Kami Senbon, and finally Oku Senbon which is the highest region. The trees are currently at different stages of bloom and mankai is expected later this week.
Mount Yoshinoyama tends to get very crowded during the peak cherry blossom season and it is recommended for visitors looking to take the morning limited express train into Yoshino to buy their tickets ahead of time. Temporary shuttle buses from Yoshino Station provide access into the Oku and Kami senbon areas, while a ropeway connects to the Shimo Senbon area. Good walking shoes are advisable for those intending to visit the areas in the higher elevations as there tends to be a fair bit of walking.
I started my day from Yoshino Station and took the bus to the Naka Senbon area before walking up into the Kami Senbon area. I found the cherry trees here to be mostly in buds with only a handful of flowers open. Full bloom is expected at the end of this week, making the Kami Senbon area an ideal place to head to if you are in the Kinki Region and want to see cherry blossoms this weekend.
As I started my walk down the mountain, there were visibly more flowers open. I found the cherry trees in the Naka Senbon area to be still under the halfway mark to the peak. I expect the flowers to be at their best towards the end of this week and their best viewing period to carry on into next week.
Moving lower down the mountain back towards the station, the cherry trees in the Shimo Senbon area were almost at their best. The weeping cherry trees were at their peak and had some petals falling already. I expect the rest of the cherry trees to reach full bloom within the next day or two.