Cherry Blossoms, Featured, Matsuri-Festival — March 28, 2013 at 6:48 PM

Sakura (桜)Hotspots in and Around Kyoto!


Somon gate of Daigo-ji Temple (醍醐寺) in Kyoto.

Flower Viewing or “Hanami” is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura or ume tree. The custom is said to have started during the Nara Period (710–794) when it was ume blossoms that people admired in the beginning. But by the Heian Period (794–1185), cherry blossoms came to attract more attention and hanami was synonymous with sakura. From then on, in both waka and haiku, “Flowers” meant “cherry blossoms”. The custom was originally limited to the elite of the Imperial Court, but soon spread to samurai society and, by the Edo period, to the common people as well. Tokugawa Yoshimune planted areas of cherry blossom trees to encourage this. Under the sakura trees, people had lunch and drank sake in cheerful feasts.

This is near the Kyo-Bashi bridge in Fushimi and this River (Uji River) was constructed in 1594.Today you can get a ride on these pleasure boats called in olden times Sanjikkoku. The canal is in some parts lined with Sakura trees.

In Japan, cherry blossoms also symbolize clouds due to their nature of blooming en masse, besides being an enduring metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life, an aspect of Japanese cultural tradition that is often associated with Buddhist influence, and which is embodied in the concept of “mono no aware”. The association of the cherry blossom with mono no aware dates back to 18th-century scholar Motoori Norinaga. The transience of the blossoms, the extreme beauty and quick death, has often been associated with mortality; for this reason, cherry blossoms are richly symbolic, and have been utilized often in Japanese art, manga, anime, and film, as well as at musical performances for ambient effect. There is at least one popular folk song, originally meant for the shakuhachi (bamboo flute), titled “Sakura”, and several pop songs.

Pink cherry blossoms at the Daigo-ji Temple (醍醐寺) in Kyoto.

Here’s a little poem by Saigyo:

“Sleeping under the trees on Yoshino mountain,

The spring breeze wearing Cherry blossom petals”.

Sakura at the junction of Higashioji-Reisen dori in Sakyo-ku, Kyoto!

The gorgeous cherry blossoms at Hirano jinja (平野神社) have been the focus of an annual spring festival since 985. The pale pink petals contrast with vermilion lanterns lining the lanes of this Heian-style complex. The shrine was brought here from Nagaoka, the country’s capital after Nara and before Kyoto. There are 45 different species of 500 or so Cherry trees planted throughout the temple.

There are around 500 cherry trees, which are illuminated at night, on the bank of the Tama River. Under the trees, many festival booths organized by various groups stand side by side and attract many people.
The Sakura is in full bloom here and perhaps will last another week. This Sakura spot has a light up. It’s on the JR Kyoto-Nara line, the station is Tamamizu. Takes about 45 minutes or so from Kyoto station. You can walk along the river for quit some time, refreshing and astonishingly beautiful. The kind of place you could get the inspiration to write a poem…..

Sakura blossoms at the Kamagowa River (鴨川) in Northern Kyoto, between Demachi and Marutamachi. You can walk along this scenic river from Gion all the way to the Imadegawa Street and enjoy the beauty and elegance of these old cherry trees and get a bit of exercise in at the same time!

Along side Kawabata dori, runs a small street parallel with the main road, on the side of the Minami-za kabuki theatre going towards route 1. There is a small canal that runs next to it and it is full of Sakura blossoms. There are the typical red lanterns and petals of sakura cover the road.

This is a bit of an “out of the box” place as it is of the beaten track. The closest station is Momoyama on the JR Kyoto-Nara line and from there a 20 minute walk. It is well worth it as not too many people will be there and there is a nice green grass field to enjoy. Just need a bit of food and some local sake, for which the area is famous. You could combine it with a visit to the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum and have some free tasters.
Fushimi Castle, also known as Momoyama Castle (桃山城) or Fushimi-Momoyama Castle, is a castle in Kyoto’s Fushimi Ward. The current structure is a 1964 replica of the original built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

The Munetada shrine (宗忠神社) is just about 100 meters from the Shinnyo-do Temple (真正極楽寺) and a flight of steep steps leads to the shrine. Cherry trees are on both sides of the steps making this an memorable climb.

The Philosophers Path (哲学の道) is one of those places one must see if you are in Kyoto during the Sakura season. It runs from Ginkaku-ji all the way to Nanzen-ji temple. A small river runs along the path and there are cherry trees everywhere! This little path is lined with shops, restaurants and coffee shops and most of all…..packed with people from all over the world.

Coming from the Philosophers path (哲学の道) and heading towards Shinnyo-do temple (真正極楽寺) you come along this scenic small pathway next to a tiny little canal dotted with overhanging cherry trees.

Cherry Blossoms at the Shinnyo-do Temple (真正極楽寺) in Kyoto!

Cherry Blossoms at the Takenaka Inari Shine (竹中稲荷社) in Kyoto!

Sakura delight in the Old Geisha District of Yamato-bashi (大和橋) in the Gion area of Kyoto!

The Chōken-ji Temple (長建寺) is along the Benten-Hama canal in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto.This temple was founded in 1699 by Tatsube Takuminokami Masanoki. It has a nice garden and some pretty Sakura trees. It’s in walking distance from the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum.

You can see all my sakura pictures here!

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