Have you ever thought of visiting Japan during cherry blossom season? March is the perfect time then. There may be many places to view these blossoms, but Mt. Yoshino is certainly one of the best places to enjoy the sakura season.
Japan is a beautiful country, no matter what season you visit. However, there is something magical during the spring season. Festivities and fine weather await you if you visit the country during this season. Lastly, who could forget about the renowned cherry blossoms, or sakura?
I visited Japan during the last week of March last year – just in time for the sakura. I went to Mt. Yoshino just a day before my flight. Mt. Yoshino is located in Nara Prefecture and is an easy day trip from Kyoto or Osaka. It takes approximately two hours from the Kansai hubs to get to Yoshino Station.
The mountain is home to over 30,000 cherry trees of different varieties. There are four areas where you can enjoy views of the blossoms: Shimo Senbon (lower), Naka Senbon (middle), Kami Senbon (upper) and Oku Senbon (highest point). You can also see several temples and shrines in each area.
The climb starts at the base of Yoshino. From there, you can take the ropeway (610 yen roundtrip) to reach Shimo senbon and the entrance of the town. You can also reach the town by a 15-20 min walk from the train station.
The town stretches from Shimo Senbon to Naka Senbon and teems with restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels. There are also viewing points scattered around the area. While Yoshino is known for the beauty of its sakura, the mountain is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is listed under the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range. Some of these historical sites are in Shimo Senbon and Naka Senbon.
You can reach Kami-Senbon as you ascend further. You will notice that the path gets steeper as you go up. There are fewer crowds and buildings over here, but there are enough flat areas where visitors can enjoy picnics. The lower slopes of the mountain provide stunning views from here.
I had no intention of going to Oku Senbon since this area is covered by a forest and has the least views of the sakura. However, I stumbled upon the shuttle bus going up to the Oku Senbon, so I decided to just go. Indeed, there were no views of the sakura in the area, although you can visit Kinpu Shrine once you get there.
During my descent from Oku Senbon, I visited Yoshino Mikumari Shrine (free admission). The deity enshrined is mikumari, who is associated with water, fertility and safe birth.
You will need a whole day to enjoy Mt. Yoshino as I doubt that you would want to leave immediately after seeing the beautiful scenery in front of you.
Prior to visiting, it is best to check the cherry blossom calendar to see which dates are the best times to go. The mountain tends to get crowded, so it is best to go as early as possible and if you can, try not to visit during the weekend.
How to get there:
I went to Yoshino from Kyoto, but I heard it is much easier from Osaka.
Osaka: Take a train from Osaka Abenobashi Station to Yoshino by direct express (90 mins, 970 yen per one way)
Kyoto: From the Hachijo side of Kyoto station, take the Kintetsu Express train bound for Kashirajingu-mae. From Kashirajingu-mae, transfer to a train bound for Yoshino (130 minutes for express, 1230 yen one way)
If you take the limited express train, it will take 100 minutes and cost around 2550 yen one way.
(RELATED: 6 Classic Destinations You Shouldn’t Miss in Kyoto)
For more photographs of Japan, check out my photography page.