Japan in spring is truly something special.
I’ve been to Japan a couple times, but somehow or rather, I’ve never made it during spring. Something that I decided to rectify this year. A lot of the excitement over Japan in spring is because of cherry blossoms or sakura and while I’ve seen photos of cherry blossom trees, seeing them in person was really magical. You never truly get the magnificence of a tree fully covered with delicate flowers in different hues of pink and white, and the beauty of rows of sakura trees lined along a street or park till you see it for yourself.
From the moment I stepped onto the shuttle train in Kansai airport, I did not stop being mesmerised by the pretty trees, whether it was a lone tree by a road in Kyoto or a cluster of them in a park. On the train from Kansai to Kyoto, I was gasping every single time I saw a sakura tree, which led to quite a bit of amusement for my friend. But really, how can someone remain unmoved by the beauty of these trees? Yes, I’m still overwhelmed by the memory after more than a month.
In Kyoto, some of the more memorable places where we saw cherry blossoms was Kiyomizu-dera and Fushimi-inari. I’ve always loved Kiyomizu-dera and think that it’s one of the prettiest temples in Japan, but with its gardens filled with sakura trees, it makes for an even prettier spot to visit.
Fushimi-inari is a must-visit, and I don’t know why I’ve not visited before now. It’s really cool with the thousands of torii lining the path up the mountain. Unfortunately, it gets really crowded, especially at the base, before people start turning back. Don’t bother trying to take photos at the start, save it for when you’re near the top of the mountain. Higher possibility of pictures without tons of head spoiling your shot.
What we did was take another path about a quarter of the way up. It leads to a very pretty shrine where the sakura made a very pretty picture against the shrine. Continue on this less travelled path and you’d find the alternative route up the mountain. Yes, you don’t pass through the gates, the route is definitely more arduous, and you need proper walking shoes because it can get a bit muddy. But, there are less people, you get a nice view of Kyoto about two-thirds of the way up, and it’s a nice walk with greenery all around. There was even a huge cherry blossom tree along the route! We did curse and swear a lot because it gets tough, but I feel that it was worth it. We went down the normal route though, so we did still get to pass through the torii on the way down.
While we were in Tokyo, we went to Meguro River because it was on a list of recommended hanami (cherry blossom viewing) spots. It didn’t disappoint. There are also cafes along the river that were selling glasses of pink champagne, because what’s better than sitting under a cherry blossom tree and having a glass of pink champagne?
Pretty much everywhere you go in Japan during spring, you’d see cherry blossoms and they are really as spectacular as you’d imagine them to be.