Staff Reports
Sean's Japan Travel Journal
by Sean, staff writer of japan-guide.com

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2014/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto

The festival spirit kicks in for Kyoto's sakura season

Under blue skies I arrived in Kyoto to check out some of its popular cherry blossom spots. Over the past week Scott had visited twice to give us a heads up to the cherry blossom (sakura) situation here; today I found the main season to have kicked in.

The sakura season in Kyoto has so far been a tad earlier than that of the average year. The trees at almost all of the locations that I had visited today needed just one more warm sunny day before they reach their best, and tomorrow is forecast to be just that. Day highs are predicted to remain above 20 degree celsius over the next two days, before it becomes a little chilly from Friday through the weekend. This means there could be the ideal scenario whereby the trees reach their peak and become "frozen in state" by the cool weather, preserving the flowers for a couple more days.

Meanwhile, the season has reached its peak in Tokyo on March 30. Please take a look at Raina's report yesterday for some lovely representations of the situation there (my favorite is the picture with the sparrows, about nine from the top).

Arashiyama
April 1, 2014 - approaching full bloom (50-80%)

My first stop was at Arashiyama, which we visit several times a year for cherry blossom viewing (hanami), as well as for fall colors during autumn. Despite it being a Monday, the area was filled with about as many tourists as there were open blossoms. Views were already very pleasant, and I reckon the sakura trees here will reach their best sometime tomorrow. Apart from the mainstream Somei Yoshino cherry trees, there were also several weeping cherry trees that have peaked and Yaebeni weeping cherry trees that have just started to flower.

Arriving at Arashiyama
Visitors stroll the area
Togetsukyo bridge (ongoing repairs by the river bank)
Girl squeals in delight as she avoids a pigeon flying by
Polite rickshaw puller

Okazaki Canal
April 1, 2014 - approaching full bloom (50-80%)

Next, I strolled along Okazaki Canal and found the cherry trees to be in a similar state to those at Arashiyama. I like this cherry blossom spot because you get to see Somei Yoshino trees lining the inner bank of the canal and Oshima cherry trees lining the outer one. Since Somei Yoshino are cultivated partly from Oshima cherry trees, it is like seeing two long rows of parent-child pairs.

Evening illuminations are going on at Okazaki Canal until April 13, from 18:00 to 21:30. Visitors can also tour the canal in small boats. Daytime boat rides are available till May 6 from 9:30 to 16:30. Night-time rides are available till 20:30 every evening for as long as the illuminations last.

Okazaki Canal
Somei Yoshino blossoms
Oshima cherry blossoms

Heian Shrine
April 1, 2014 - approaching full bloom (50-80%) (Somei Yoshino)
April 1, 2014 - opening (10-50%) (Yaebeni weeping cherries)

Close to Okazaki Canal is Heian Shrine, a cherry blossom spot reputed for the many Yaebeni weeping cherry trees standing in its garden. As these cherry trees tend to flower slightly later than the mainstream Somei Yoshino, I wasn't surprised to find them only proceeding towards the quarter mark. Views at the garden will continue to improve and I estimate that it will take at least till the weekend before they reach their best. The few Somei Yoshino trees that dotted the garden were approaching full bloom, like those at the other locations that I had visited earlier.

Arriving at Heian Shrine
Pruning the branches in expectation of the crowds that will come soon
State of Yaebeni weeping cherries
Close up of some Somei Yoshino

Keage Incline
April 1, 2014 - full bloom

The Keage Incline is one of my favorite cherry blossom spots in Kyoto - it's just a very cheerful place: every year when I visit, I am bound to see people having their wedding pictures taken and children having fun balancing on the decommissioned tracks. These tracks were used in the past to carry boats from Lake Biwa (the largest lake in Japan) to Kyoto City. And, the cherry trees just seem happier here too, with most of them having just peaked. Barring any sudden changes in weather for the worse, excellent views should remain till the weekend at least.

Arriving at the Keage Incline
Sakura and fountain
Best wishes to this couple

Maruyama Park
April 1, 2014 - approaching full bloom (50-80%) (Somei Yoshino)
April 1, 2014 - full bloom (weeping cherries)

I ended the day with a visit to Maruyama Park, arguably the most popular spot in Kyoto for hanami parties. It was already pretty crowded at the park considering that it was a Monday afternoon, and the festival stores were already up and running. As usual at the park at this time of the year, there was the smell of burning charcoal, the sound of chatter from the bustling crowds, and the sight of the great weeping cherry tree standing proudly at the center of the park. Today, it was at its full glory, as were the other weeping cherry trees here. The Somei Yoshino cherries were just a little behind, and they should peak too by tomorrow.

Hanami parties
Festival stores
The great weeping cherry tree

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List of Posts:
2014/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2014/05/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumae
2014/04/23 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2014/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takato
2014/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fujigoko
2014/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2014/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hikone
2014/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/04/05 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsuyama
2014/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2014/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2014/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2014/03/06 - Shopping around Northern Osaka
2014/01/23 - Nikko in Winter

2013/12/31 - Sean's Travel Highlights 2013
2013/12/06 - Kamakura Report
2013/11/26 - Tokyo Report
2013/11/22 - Kyoto Report
2013/11/21 - Miyajima Report
2013/11/19 - Korankei Report
2013/11/18 - Kyoto Report
2013/11/11 - Sakurayama Report
2013/11/08 - Karuizawa Report
2013/10/29 - Nikko Report
2013/10/18 - Nasu Report
2013/10/17 - Nikko Report
2013/10/14 - Mount Fuji Report
2013/10/10 - Oze Report
2013/09/27 - Alpine Route Report
2013/09/13 - Nakanojo Biennale 2013
2013/08/07 - Exploring Tokyo 2: Around the Tokyo Imperial Palace
2013/05/20 - Tottori Sand Museum 2013
2013/05/07 - Fuji Shibazakura Festival
2013/05/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2013/05/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2013/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kitakami
2013/04/23 - Northern Kanto Flower Report
2013/04/17 - Cherry Blossom Report: Takayama
2013/04/12 - Cherry Blossom Report: Matsumoto
2013/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2013/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Yoshino
2013/04/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Gunma
2013/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2013/04/01 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/03/31 - Visiting Shodoshima for the Setouchi Triennale 2013
2013/03/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2013/03/27 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2013/03/26 - Cherry Blossom Report: Nagoya
2013/03/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/21 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2013/03/12 - Tokyo Early Cherry Blossom Report
2013/02/17 - Tokamachi Snow Festival
2013/02/16 - Zao Snow Monster Report
2013/02/15 - Yokote Kamakura Festival
2013/01/10 - Winter Visit to Manza Onsen
2013/01/02 - Tokyo New Year Report

2012/12/31 - Sean's Travel Highlights 2012
2012/12/11 - Autumn Color Report: Tokyo
2012/11/26 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Takaosan
2012/11/16 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2012/11/15 - Autumn Color Report: Shosenkyo
2012/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Yamadera
2012/11/06 - Autumn Color Report: Naruko
2012/11/05 - Autumn Color Report: Hiraizumi
2012/11/01 - Autumn Color Report: Kuju
2012/10/26 - Autumn Color Report: Minakami
2012/10/24 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/10/16 - Autumn Color Report: Norikura
2012/10/12 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2012/10/09 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2012/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Route 292
2012/09/28 - Autumn Color Report: Kurodake
2012/09/27 - Autumn Color Report: Kogen Onsen
2012/09/26 - Autumn Color Report: Asahidake
2012/09/17 - Exploring Tokyo: Gate Bridge
2012/08/20 - Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial 2012
2012/06/27 - Hiking at Mount Azuma
2012/06/18 - Legoland Discovery Center opens in Odaiba
2012/06/18 - Hydrangea Flowers in Kamakura
2012/06/04 - Tokyo Skytree
2012/05/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sapporo
2012/05/08 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hakodate
2012/05/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2012/04/30 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hirosaki
2012/04/29 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kakunodate
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kitakami
2012/04/28 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiraizumi
2012/04/25 - Cherry Blossom Report: Sendai
2012/04/24 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukushima
2012/04/15 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kanazawa
2012/04/14 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/11 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/10 - Cherry Blossom Report: Hiroshima
2012/04/09 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/07 - Cherry Blossom Report: Osaka
2012/04/06 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kyoto
2012/04/04 - Cherry Blossom Report: Fukuoka
2012/04/03 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kumamoto
2012/04/02 - Cherry Blossom Report: Kagoshima
2012/03/22 - Cherry Blossom Report: Tokyo
2012/03/08 - Plum Blossom Report from Kairakuen, Mito
2012/03/07 - Trip to Iwaki, Fukushima
2012/02/21 - Plum Blossom Report from Tokyo
2012/01/30 - Skiing in Inawashiro, Fukushima
2012/01/27 - Kusatsu Hot Springs