There is something beautiful beyond words every time one experiences Japanese Cherry blossoms for the first time. Of course, the cherry blossom (Sakura) is not just a flower but also a cultural symbol of Japan. Wherever you go in the world, people attribute this iconic flower to Japan. It’s no wonder that people from all over the world flock to Japan to experience this season every year! When I imagine a cherry blossom; so transient, mysterious, beautiful, elegant… I am reminded of the rich and beautiful culture of Japan. It’s not surprising that my desire to experience the cherry blossom season was one of my primary reasons for wanting to visit Japan for the first time!
Almost three years ago when I was living in Osaka as an exchange student, I was fortunate enough to visit many famous cherry blossom viewing spots in Kyoto. However, since then I haven’t had the chance to visit again, and the longing I felt to return to Kyoto to experience them once more continued to burn as spring began to roll by. Now living in Tokyo where the streets are bustling, the people are busy, and life is constant; I decided nothing would compare to Kyoto where time seems to bring you to a different era, and all feels at peace. I immediately bought my shinkansen ticket and set forth to spend one week in Kyoto to discover a new favourite cherry blossom viewing spot.
Upon arriving at Kyoto, I immediately noticed the crowds of people wherever I went. It might have been because I was travelling to popular tourist areas, or that it was cherry blossom season, but from previous experience and from what locals have told me; it seems that there is never an end to the crowds of tourists that are present in Kyoto. Kyoto being the former imperial capital of Japan, I completely understand why so many are captivated by the historical and rich cultural beauty of this city; it is a world on its own.
First stop: Keage Incline! This was on my list of places to go, as I heard it was less known to tourists, meaning a more enjoyable experience under the cherry blossoms. I couldn’t have asked for a better day, the sun was shining and there was not a cloud in sight. The moment I spotted the first rows of cherry blossoms, I felt my heart skip a beat; It was like falling in love all over again!
Keage Incline is well known for its rail line, which was used to connect channels in the past. Keage Incline is on the side of the Lake Biwako Canal, and is lined with stunning rows of cherry blossoms along the rail track. There were many families and couples as well as photographers wandering along the tracks, but this didn’t bother me as I only had eyes for the blossoms.
A great way anyone can check when the best time to go visit cherry blossoms in any part of Japan is to check online for the peak dates of the season. Https://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php is a great site which not only tells you the dates, but also shows you trends of over the past ten years for the first and full bloom dates.
During this season, it’s quite common for both tourists and Japanese people to rent or wear a Kimono while enjoying the cherry blossoms. Personally, it is one of my favourite things to do during this season and I recommend it to anyone who really wants to experience and feel that traditional beauty that in my opinion, the cherry blossom embodies.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to experience riding a boat underneath the cherry blossoms during sunset; which is another activity to check out during this season, I hope I’ll be able to try it next time. Make sure to go early to catch a seat, or check online if they accept reservations as many people do line up to ride the boats.
Although I recommend trying to catch the cherry blossoms when they’re already bloomed, I have noticed that if you go towards the end of their cycle (which is usually about two weeks), you will also experience the magic of a ‘Cherry blossom blizzard’ (Sakura Fubuki) which is something you don’t want to miss. I never would of thought that these small cherry blossoms could make it seem like it was raining pink! Every time I experience the cherry blossoms, I can’t help but keep wanting to return; and I know I will for years to come.