Kyoto during cherry blossom season is magical.
Market stalls are up, cherry blossom and green tea ice cream can be found on any corner, the blossoms are in bloom and a breeze flutters petals away. Thousands fly in from around the world to see the infamous flowers. It’s truly a humbling experience to be apart of the change and being able to witness something so incredibly new and different than from where I come from.
When I was 18 I lucked out on plane tickets from Australia to Japan for April 1st for $300 Canadian. It had always been my dream to go to Japan since I was in geography class and first started learning about their rich culture. My Aunt had decided to come with me and the two of us ventured of on Cairns first airplane to land in Osaka Airport. We were welcomed into Japan with green tea Kit-Kat Bars and a video camera taping the event.
Kyoto has to be one of my favourite places for viewing cherry blossoms. You can find them blooming down small alleys and around the historic temples as well as in the parks where hanami (flower viewing) are sure to be taking place. Being lost and confused at directions most of the time, since Google Maps was something I had never heard of, we fumbled our way around Kyoto in search of the pink petals. I’ll never forget the first cherry blossom tree I saw and was so excited that I was finally here. What I didn’t know was that it was just a tiny cherry blossom tree and there was more to be found.
We were making our way to Gion District when we decided to keep walking straight and follow the crowd up these stone steps at the end of the street to find what we had been searching for all along. Maruyama Park.
Food and trinket vendors lined the stone path that wound on both sides surrounding the famous weeping cherry blossom tree and koi ponds. Hundreds of people were eating and laughing and sitting in the grass and at reserved hanami tables all enjoying the festivities that come with cherry blossom season. It’s where I tried okonomiyaki for the first time and the lady kindly made a fresh vegetarian one for me. To finished off I of course had some amazing green tea ice cream since the girl couldn’t understand my awful accent when I tried to pronounce “Sakura.” No complaints, the green tea one was just as delicious. Might I add Starbucks even comes out with a cherry blossom latte that is sprinkled with crushed petal! I highly recommend trying.
Over the next few days we made our way around Kyoto and again stumbled on another amazing viewing place – Philosophers Path. If you’re looking to be surrounded by petals than this is the place to go. The path follows a stone canal which is lined by hundreds of cherry blossom trees that are the best to see in early April. I lucked out and arrived the day the blossoms were at their peak so everything was lush and vibrant.
Shops, boutiques and restaurants can be found along the path as well as some quirky vender food like roasted bamboo and literally a fish on a stick. The path runs between Ginkakujo and Nanzenji neighbourhood, a 5-10 minute walk north of the Nanzenji main temple buildings.
Cherry blossoms meaning varies from person and culture but my favourite is that even though the blossoms only bloom for a tragically short amount of time before they fall and get taken by the wind and rain they are so beautiful while they last. They serve as a reminder of how short and precious life is.
If you’re lucky enough to be in the country at this time then really do your best to appreciate it and live in the moment. Relax and enjoy your surroundings with some ice cream or tea and take it all in. Far to often we are so caught up in getting places and seeing as much as we can in shorts amount of time we often let the time slip us by and never really get the chance to immerse yourself in a new world.