Schauwecker's Japan Travel Blog
by Stefan Schauwecker, webmaster of japan-guide.com

This blog is intended to record some of my travel activities in Japan.

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2010/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

Today was one of Kyoto's busiest days of the year

Warm and sunny weather has caused cherry trees to burst into full bloom in many cities across Honshu yesterday, including in Kyoto, where I check out Nijo Castle, Kyoto Botanical Garden, Gion Shirakawa, Maruyama Park, Okazaki Canal and Heian Shrine today.

It was another beautiful day, perfect for cherry blossom viewing, and Kyoto was extremely busy. Hotels for Saturday had been booked out citywide for weeks, and a lot of patience was necessary when using the city's public transportation system, which is inadequate for a city of the size of Kyoto even on regular days and especially so on busy days like today.

Waiting lines at the bus terminal in front of Kyoto Station

To prevent getting stuck in packed buses in traffic jams, I adhered to my principle of using rail bound transportation whenever possible, as trains and subways are faster, more reliable and easier to use than buses. Although the subway was as packed as the Yamanote Line during rush hours between Kyoto and Karasuma-Oike Stations, it got me around the city relatively efficiently.

Nijo Castle
April 4, 2010 - from "still closed" to "beyond the peak" and everything in between

I started with a visit to Nijo Castle (Nijojo), the former Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa shogun, where a wide range of cherry tree varieties are planted around the spacious castle grounds. Because different types of trees bloom at different times, cherry blossoms can be enjoyed during most of March and April at Nijojo. Yet, because at any time there are always some trees out of bloom, the overall experience may not be as overwhelming as in hanami spots where all the trees bloom at the same time.

A tree in full bloom in the Ninomaru Garden

Today, the somei yoshino trees around the northeastern corner of the castle grounds were at full bloom and most spectacular, together with some weeping cherry trees that were at or approaching full bloom.

Somei yoshino trees in the northeast corner of Nijo Castle
Somei yoshino trees in the northeast corner of Nijo Castle

Nijojo is also famous for its many late blooming cherry trees, so called yaezakura (or satozakura). Yaezakura are cultivated cherry tree varieties with blossoms of more than five petals. Many yaezakura trees at Nijojo were still closed today or had only just started opening their blossoms.

Yaezakura trees in Nijo Castle

While single blossoms of yaezakura trees are particularly pretty to look at from a close distance, the trees as a whole appear less intense than earlier blooming trees, because their leaves develop at the same time as their blossoms (instead of after them), giving the trees a less homogeneous overall look.

Amayadori - an early variety among the yaezakura
Ichiyo - another early variety among the yaezakura
Taihaku - the Great White with especially large blossoms

Kyoto Botanical Garden
April 4, 2010 - full bloom

My next stop was Kyoto Botanical Garden, located halfway between the Shimo and Kamo Shrines just next to Kitayama Station on the Karasuma Subway Line. Besides a lot of other flowers, bushes and trees, the garden contains a beautiful small forest of weeping cherry trees and somei yoshino.

Kyoto Botanical Garden

The somei yoshino and the shidarezakura (weeping cherry trees with five brightly pink petals) were at full bloom, providing a spectacular sight, while the shidareyaezakura (weeping cherry trees with more than five dark pink petals) had only opened around 60 percent of their blossoms so far.

Kyoto Botanical Garden
Kyoto Botanical Garden
Kyoto Botanical Garden - opening blossoms of a shidareyaezakura

Another highlight was the majestic weeping cherry tree next to the large lawn area in the center of the garden, which happens to be the niece of the large weeping cherry tree in Maruyama Park (see report further down the page). The tree stood in full bloom and looked spectacular.

Majestic weeping cherry tree at Kyoto Botanical Garden
Majestic weeping cherry tree at Kyoto Botanical Garden

Gion Shirakawa
April 4, 2010 - full bloom

A few dozen cherry trees line the pretty Shirakawa Canal which flows through the Gion district north of Shijo Avenue. The trees were at full bloom and attracted a lot of viewers. Note that if you follow the willow lined canal upstream for about a kilometer, you will eventually arrive at the Okazaki Canal, another popular hanami spot (see report further down the page) near Heian Shrine.

Gion Shirakawa
Gion Shirakawa

Maruyama Park
April 4, 2010 - full bloom

But instead of following the canal, I made a small detour via Maruyama Park, Kyoto's most lively cherry blossom spot. The trees there were at full bloom, including the large weeping cherry tree in the center of the park, which, despite its fragile health, looked spectacular today (when viewed from the right angle).

Large weeping cherry tree in Maruyama Park
Large weeping cherry tree in Maruyama Park

Not surprisingly, the park was extremely busy, all picnic spots had been long taken, and the temporary constructed restaurants were busy serving many hungry and thirsty blossom viewers. The park's popularity seemed to have brought car traffic around it to a virtual standstill.

Maruyama Park

The cherry blossoms should remain spectacular for several days to come.

Okazaki Canal
April 4, 2010 - full bloom

Full bloom has also been reached along Okazaki Canal just outside Heian Shrine.

Okazaki Canal
Okazaki Canal with torii gate of Heian Shrine in the back

Heian Shrine
April 4, 2010 - approaching full bloom (50-80%)

By popular request, I included a visit to Heian Shrine into today's reporting trip. The garden behind the shrine's main buildings is one of the most attractive places in Kyoto to see weeping cherry trees. It features dozens of them, especially the dark pink shidareyaezakura variety, which follows a slightly later schedule than the somei yoshino.

Garden of Heian Shrine

Indeed, many weeping cherry trees in the garden had only about half of their blossoms open today and it is probably going to take another two or three days of warm weather until full bloom.

Garden of Heian Shrine
Garden of Heian Shrine
Garden of Heian Shrine

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List of Posts:
2019/10/24 - Meet Tokyo's new best observation deck
2019/10/09 - Kumamoto Castle reopens

2018/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2018
2018/10/15 - Toyosu Market Opens to the Public
2018/09/05 - New Skyscraper opens in Shibuya

2017/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2017

2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/11/10 - Crossing Kyushu half a year after the Kumamoto Earthquake
2016/04/09 - Busta Shinjuku - a new bus terminal opened on top of Shinjuku Station

2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/09/17 - Autumn Color Report: Daisetsuzan
2015/09/16 - Autumn Color Report: Daisetsuzan
2015/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takada
2015/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumagaya
2015/02/07 - Trial Run to Kanazawa

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/11/14 - Autumn Color Report: Himeji
2014/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera
2014/10/24 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Fuji
2014/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Kurikoma
2014/09/19 - Autumn Color Report: Tokachidake
2014/09/18 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2014/09/17 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2014/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Uji

2013/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2013
2013/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2013/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2013/10/08 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2013/09/21 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2013/09/20 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2013/07/13 - Countdown to the Gion Matsuri
2013/07/10 - Nagoya Castle gets back its palace
2013/07/09 - Ise Shrine Rebuilding
2013/04/25 - New bath house opens in Kusatsu Onsen
2013/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takamatsu
2013/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2013/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Okayama
2013/03/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/02/28 - Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival
2013/01/27 - Winter Visit to Shirakawago

2012/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2012
2012/12/01 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/29 - Autumn Color Report: Himeji
2012/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/14 - Autumn Color Report: Hakone
2012/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Koyasan
2012/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/10/18 - Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu
2012/10/18 - Autumn Color Report: Sounkyo
2012/10/17 - Autumn Color Report: Shiretoko
2012/10/09 - Tokyo Station Renovation
2012/10/04 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2012/10/03 - Grapes and Wines at Katsunuma
2012/09/21 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2012/09/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2012/09/18 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2012/09/12 - Another Trip to Iwaki
2012/05/11 - Sneak Peek from Tokyo Skytree
2012/05/09 - Rainy visit to the Ise Shrines
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takizakura
2012/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2012/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tottori
2012/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2012/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2012/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2012/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/03/15 - Tokyo Plum Blossom Report
2012/03/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/02/28 - Kumano half a year after Typhoon #12

2011/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2011
2011/12/13 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2011/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/12/01 - Autumn Color Report: Nara
2011/11/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/23 - Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa
2011/11/22 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2011/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2011/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Sakurayama
2011/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Fujigoko
2011/11/02 - Autumn Color Report: Mitakesan
2011/10/27 - Autumn Color Report: Towadako
2011/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Hakkodasan
2011/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Fukushima
2011/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Zao
2011/10/19 - Autumn Color Report: Naruko
2011/10/13 - Tokyo Fall Colors?
2011/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2011/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2011/10/04 - Visit to the Sunshine Aquarium
2011/10/03 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2011/09/27 - Two mountains in central Japan
2011/09/15 - Furano in September
2011/09/14 - Autumn Color Report: Ginsendai
2011/09/13 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake
2011/09/12 - Failed Visit to the Sunshine Aquarium
2011/07/15 - Hakata Gion Yamakasa Report Trip
2011/06/29 - Eastern Hokkaido Report Trip
2011/06/01 - Ogasawara Report Trip
2011/05/18 - Kagoshima Report Trip
2011/04/29 - After the Earthquake: A trip to Hiraizumi
2011/04/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Aizu
2011/04/21 - After the Earthquake: A trip to Matsushima
2011/04/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2011/04/20 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2011/04/17 - After the Earthquake: A trip to Nikko
2011/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Okayama
2011/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takamatsu
2011/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsuyama
2011/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2011/03/31 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2011/03/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2011/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2011/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2011/02/11 - Shiretoko Fantasia 2011
2011/02/07 - Sapporo Snow Festival 2011

2010/12/15 - Travel Highlights 2010
2010/12/09 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2010/12/06 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2010/12/01 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Sakurayama
2010/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Ise
2010/11/10 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2010/10/19 - Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu
2010/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Hachimantai
2010/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Akita
2010/09/15 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Kurodake
2010/09/14 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake
2010/05/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2010/05/13 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumae
2010/05/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2010/05/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2010/04/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takizakura
2010/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kamakura
2010/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Inuyama
2010/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hikone
2010/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Miyajima
2010/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2010/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2010/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nara
2010/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Himeji
2010/03/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2010/02/22 - Guu Restaurant, Vancouver
2010/02/19 - Zakkushi, Vancouver
2010/02/14 - Hapa Izakaya, Vancouver
2010/02/09 - Yuji's Japanese Tapas, Vancouver
2010/02/08 - Miku Restaurant, Vancouver
2010/02/07 - Shuraku Restaurant, Vancouver

2009/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2009
2009/12/08 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2009/12/02 - Autumn Color Report: Kamakura
2009/11/24 - Research in Nara Prefecture
2009/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2009/11/12 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2009/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji Five Lakes
2009/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Onuma Park
2009/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Noboribetsu Onsen
2009/10/14 - Autumn Color Report: Shikotsu-Toya National Park
2009/09/30 - Autumn Color Report: Kusatsu Onsen
2009/09/16 - Autumn Color Report: Tokachidake Onsen
2009/09/15 - Autumn Color Report: Ginsendai
2009/09/14 - Autumn Color Report: Mount Asahidake
2009/07/14 - Furano Lavender in full bloom
2009/04/16 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fuji Five Lakes
2009/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2009/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2009/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2009/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yokohama
2009/03/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2009/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2009/02/27 - Rainy Izu Peninsula
2009/02/26 - Cherry Blossoms in Kawazu

2008/11/20 - Miyajima
2008/11/18 - Mino Park
2008/11/12 - Fuji Five Lakes
2008/10/28 - Shirakami Sanchi (2)
2008/10/27 - Shirakami Sanchi
2008/10/16 - Nikko
2008/10/10 - Akagiyama
2008/10/08 - Shiretoko Peninsula
2008/09/26 - Sounkyo Onsen
2008/09/25 - Daisetsu Kogen Onsen
2008/09/24 - Mount Asahidake

2007/12/08 - Arashiyama Hanatoro
2007/04/12 - Kanazawa's wealth of attractions
2007/04/04 - Sanyo Coast in Full Bloom
2007/02/28 - Niseko and the Australian invasion
2007/02/27 - Cassiopeia Night Train
2007/01/31 - Cherry Blossoms in Okinawa
2007/01/26 - Skiing in Naeba

2006/12/03 - Chichibu Festival
2006/12/02 - Tanigawa Onsen (Minakami)
2006/11/26 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (11): Hotel Report
2006/11/25 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (10)
2006/11/24 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (9)
2006/11/23 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (8)
2006/11/22 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (7)
2006/11/21 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (6)
2006/11/20 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (5)
2006/11/19 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (4)
2006/11/18 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (3): Takao
2006/11/17 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (2): Hieizan
2006/11/16 - Kyoto Autumn Color Report (1)
2006/11/08 - Shima Onsen
2006/10/25 - Autumn colors at Mount Tanigawa