The cherry blossoms were officially announced to have started opening in Kyoto on March 27 this year. Today I went to Japan's former capital city to check on the progress of the cherry trees since Raina's report last Saturday. I visited several cherry blossom spots in Kyoto and discovered that early blooming tree species were at peak and the classic Somei Yoshino were still three or four days from full bloom. With warm weather forecasted from Thursday through the weekend, I predict the best flower viewing period in Kyoto to start Friday or Saturday and last until the end of next week.
In other places across the country yesterday Joe reported that petals around Kamakura would likely be at their peak by this weekend. Similarly, yesterday Raina went to Osaka and estimated full bloom to happen this weekend as well. If you are in the southern half of Japan, the end of this week and this weekend are shaping up to be the right time to get out and enjoy the cherry blossoms.
The first location I explored was the famous Kiyomizudera Temple which was founded in 780 and is one of the most celebrated temples in the country. Of all the spots I visited today, Kiyomizudera had the least blossoms, and most trees were displaying less than a third of their petals. However there were a few photo-worthy spots, specifically the stone stairs below the pond near the exit. Also, the weeping cherry tree along the stairs which lead to the Higashiyama District was at full bloom and attracting hordes of photographers. For those interested, there is a special night viewing event at Kiyomizudera from 18:00 to 21:00 each night through April 7 and costs 400 yen.
Next, I made my way to Maruyama Park which is about a two kilometer walk from Kiyomizudera Temple through the photogenic Higashiyama District. During cherry blossom season, Maruyama Park is known not only for beautiful blossoms but also for the fun atmosphere created by the outdoor seating where visitors can admire the blossoms while eating food from nearby food stands. Here, I was happy to find the huge weeping cherry tree at the center of the park was in full bloom and looking magnificent. The blossoms around the food stands and seating were still not half open. Toward the back of the park however there were several trees worth admiring. Each evening the park is also illuminated by lights until midnight.
My last stop of the day was the Kyoto Botanical Garden, which is home to a wide variety of flora and lies next to the Kamogawa River in the north of the city. There are two main sections with cherry trees. The first is directly in front of the main approach. Here the trees were generally the most developed of any I saw all day, with some varieties along the inner walking paths nearly at full bloom. The second section is smaller and sits next to an expansive lawn. Here a few groups were enjoying cherry blossom parties (hanami), however the majority of the flowers have still yet to appear. The Kyoto Botanical Garden also hosts a nightly light-up event from 18:00 to 21:00 that runs through this Sunday.
I ended with a stroll along the neighboring Kamogawa River. On the eastern shore there were two weeping cherry trees in full bloom, but the rest that line the bank were still yet to open. On the opposite side, the Somei Yoshino trees were about half open and several hanami parties were underway.