Monday, April 22, 2024

A Date With Sakura

The Philosopher's Street in Kyoto

Sakura or the Cherry Blossom is the unofficial national flower of Japan. A trip to Japan without seeing the spectacle of cherry blossom bloom would have been a shame. Hence, when the thought of a trip to Japan came, an ideal time to witness the extravaganza took precedence. A detailed itinerary followed.

The Zen Garden at Ryoanji Shrine in Kyoto

More than a dozen varieties bloom in a short window spanning from late March to early April when the bloom can be witnessed in all parts of Japan. I was fortunate to witness the heavenly sight at different locations at the places we visited.

A solo Red Cherry Blossom at Ginza station in Tokyo

Within a few hours of landing in Tokyo, we headed to the Ginza district, an up-market shopping area. As we stepped out on the walkway from the metro station an amazing solo red Cherry blossom next to the station caught our eye. It was a good beginning and more was to follow. A walk from Ginza to Imperial Palace, where the majesty lives, was well rewarded to see scores of cherry blossoms in the adjoining gardens.
Lovely cherry blossom near Tokyo Skytree building

While in Tokyo as we continued our sightseeing adventures we came across the enchanting gardens in some houses and streets laden with colourful cherry blossoms. The banks of River Sumeda close to the towering Tokyo Skytree building looked awesome with several trees of resplendent flowers. The reflection of the trees from the shimmering waters added to the beauty. 

                                                   A View of the Cherry Blossoms at Ueno Park Tokyo

The icing on the cake was the Ueno gardens where hundreds of visitors were partying under the blooming cheery blossom orchards. Despite the rush, the place was spick and span with no litter and people in perfect harmony with nature. Strange as it may sound most Japanese never litter and as a habit collect their refuse back home to dispose of as garbage.

                                        A View of the Cherry Blossoms at Maruyama Park, Kyoto

Some more such experiences of cherry blossoms in other destinations I visited need to be mentioned. Almost every shrine we visited in Japan had blooming cherry blossoms but the Maruyama Park behind the Yasaka shrine in Kyoto swept us off our feet. This is the place to be during the season. The oldest park in Kyoto is at the base of the Higashiyama mountains next to the Yasakajinga shrine. The sun was setting and hundreds of people were parting under the blooming cherry blossom trees, at least a few hundred of them. It appeared that there was a festival-like celebration all around. We wanted to stay here despite having walked more than 20000 steps during the day. Earlier in the evening a walk along the river on Philosopher's Path along the canal was an exclusive experience. The stony path has hundreds of cherry blossoms lined up. The place exploded with colour making this one of the most popular hanami( cherry blossom viewing) spots, The path is two kilometres long begins around Ginkakuji( Silver Pavilion) and ends in the neighbourhood of Nanzenji, The path got its name from Nishida Kitaro, one of the Japan's most famous philosophers who was said to practice meditation while walking this route on his daily commute to Kyoto University. This place was a chance discovery little realizing that it was nothing short of a brush with heaven. The gardens of Nijo Castle in the city also boast cherry blossoms but find stiff competition from the Maruyama Park and Philosopher's Path.

Lovely Cherry Blossom at Hanazono Shrine in Shinjuku, Tokyo
Osaka where we spent a couple of days has its fair share of cherry blossom spots at the Osaka Castle, near the Mint and hundreds of trees swaying majestically along the Okawa River and around the shrines. The Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine is a place of perfect tranquillity and zen. It is among the most important Shinto shrines and the scenery around abounds in beauty. The tranquil waters with cherry blossom trees kissing the water's surface are unforgettable treats.
The serene beauty at Sumiyoshj Taisha shrine in Osaka

No matter where you go in Japan at this time of the year, you will find the cherry blossom bloom. For every few places  I mentioned, there are many others that I could not enumerate as every thoroughfare, the monorail line, Japan Rail tracks, small ponds and highways are strewn with unsurpassed beauty. I only wish I could capture this gist in words, a tall order, indeed.

PS - All pics are mine

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