Yoshinoyama, The Cherry-blossom Mountain
Mount Yoshino (吉野山) is the most famous sakura site in Japan. With more than 30,000 cherry trees covering the whole mountain, the very idea seems fantastic. But is this really the best site? To get off to a good start, here’s my favourite scene of the day.
Mount Yoshino is divided into four levels, each with a slightly different atmosphere and the blossom at different stages. So the site can be enjoyed over a long spring season, as there’ll always be pink petals around! But of course that also means the mountain will never be completely covered with sakura from top to bottom. Oh, zannen, too bad.
For me, the best stages are Shimo Senbon and Kami Senbon in the first half of the climb.
This first half of the walk offers lovely views of the cherry trees seen from below, plenty little stalls with tasty bites to eat (the mushrooms are delicious even if everybody doesn’t think so), and a few shops before you serenely reach the temples.
Of course, cherry trees line the route on all sides and behind the stalls you can find secret, hidden corners, so much prettier! There I found a beautiful sakura adorned with a bunch of mistletoe. Perfect for brewing up a nice little seasonal potion 🙂 Fetch the pruners!
The best places to observe the profusion of sakura are too often taken over by commercial premises. You’ll have to stop for tea and cakes to appreciate them.
I prefer a single tree giving a wilder impression. Rebelling against their background, they seem to transform it.
Yoshinoyama is readily accessible. There are parking spaces at the foot, Yoshino station for those without a car, also bus services and even a cable car. But in truth, the whole route is easily covered on foot and a day is more than enough to see everything without rushing.
I don’t really recommend climbing up to the last stage (Oku Senbon) – better spend your time exploring the local temples.
Kinpusen-ji Temple (Zao-do)
This is the second-largest wooden temple in Japan, after Nara’s Todai-ji.
The day’s favourite. This temple is 1,300 years old and the pretty pagoda is surrounded by sakura.
Mikumari Shrine (吉野水分神社)
Second favourite! This was built in 1604 and is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The entrance hall is incredibly beautiful with a huge sakura set in the middle. I ruined the atmosphere by settling down with an ice cream…
Sakura Motobo (櫻本坊)
This temple is the centre of the Shugendo cult, very active around Yoshino. Wikipedia explains: The focus or goal of Shugendo is the development of spiritual experience and power (gen) by practising (dō) virtuous asceticism (shu).
End of the walk…
We then climb up as far as Shinpu shrine, but there’s not much to see on the way, it’s more for the pleasure of the walk. But we take the opportunity to stop off at some places of interest on the way back down.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been to Yoshinoyama – I was also there three years ago, when I took the picture that’s most often stolen from the internet :/ Recognize it in this old post?
It looks pretty much like the picture above except it was taken with an infrared camera, hence the candyfloss effect.
The most photographed view at Yoshinoyama is from Hanayagura Viewpoint. The sun sets in front of you, and unless you arrive very early in the morning it’ll either be above or right in your eyes. It’s supposed to be the most impressive scene but because of this orientation problem, very few good pictures are taken from here. Over to you 🙂
You’ll have guessed that I’m not happy with my shot and maybe I should have given this spot another chance and waited until the sun sank lower.
So what do you think of Yoshinoyama? Is this the best spot in Japan for sakura? Maybe you know better or cooler places?