Archive for April, 2007

Japan reveals another vibe when spring season (haru) comes. This rapid-moving country seems to slow down a bit. You’ll find a Japanese in a full-black business suit stops under a sakura tree, sipping his can of Wonda coffee, taking pictures of the first blossoms with his mobile phone. You’ll find people “oooh-ing” and “aaah-ing” at the sight of sakura, and most probably you’ll do the same.

One of the things I’ve always wanted to experience about Japan is to do hanami (sakura viewing). Hanami is the term used when you go to a park, a temple, a side of the river, basically any place where you find a sakura tree, and sit under those trees for hours, drinking and dining, with your friends. The more the merrier.

The city I live in, Kyoto, is one of the most famous cities in Japan to do hanami. Some recommended places are:

  • Maruyama Park. The entrance is free and is best visited at night during the light-up of the ‘sakura weeping-tree’, the center piece of this park. Plenty of food-stands and drunk youngsters all around. Not a calm place to watch sakura, yet it is the place for a fun night out.

maruyama koen hanamiweeping sakura


  • Kiyomizudera (Pure Water Temple). Kiyomizudera is located next to Maruyama Park, so it would be nice to pair both visits together. Although this old temple (built around 780 AD) is more well-known as a place to see the red leaves during autumn, basically this temple is worth visited on any season. Entrance fee is 400 yen (US$ 3.5 )

From Higashiyama (one of Kyoto’s main streets) , visitors must walk up hill around 20 minutes, passing colorful souvenir shops and food stands (make sure to try the sakura tea and ice cream!). There is always a long line to enter the shrine if you want to pray and drink the sacred water, but I found my God – and I am sure many others also- just by standing there on the balcony looking up to the sky and down to the view of Kyoto.

kiyomizu sakura lightupkiyomizusakura1

Kiyomizudera is one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites and now campaigning for the new 7 wonders of the world


  • Philosopher’s Path. On the way to Ginkakuji (silver) Temple, you’ll come a across a narrow long path, tunneled by sakura trees. Japan, particularly Tokyo and Kyoto University have produced a number of Nobel Prize winners, one of them : philosopher Prof. Kitaro Nishida. While Archimedes yelled “Eureka!!” in his bath tub, Prof. Kitaro Nishida found his inspiration along this path.

He probably yelled “Mitsuketa!!”.

ginkakuji michi sakura


  • Nijo-jo (Nijo Castle). Nijo castle was built in 1603 as the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu. It was completed in 1626 by the third Tokugawa Shogun, Iemitsu, with the addition of some structures transferred from Fushimi Castle. Nijo Castle is another National Heritage, a fine rare example of Momoyama architecture period, with a large beautiful garden of flowers. Entrance fee is 600 yen (US$ 5).


Unfortunately, photography is strictly forbidden in the palace, while if you are interested in the history of Japan, each room in this palace has so much to tell.

  • Ohiroma Ichi-no-ma (First Grand Room) is where the 15th Tokugawa Shogun, Yoshinobu, summoned the country’s feudal lords this room and declared that sovereignity would be restored to the emperor. That was the time where 270 years of Tokugawa military rule came to an end.
  • Uguisu-Bari (Nightingale Floor) is the design of the floors in the palace, where it squeaks when you walk. It was used to alert the residents when intruders, such as ninjas, sneaked into the palace.

Arashiyama, Hirano Shrine, Kamogawa River, Heian Shrine and even the smallest most hidden streets are other places in Kyoto to find sakura trees.

Most likely, you’ll open your window and there it is in front of you.


If you are planning to visit Japan during sakura season (usually around March), you must do a very careful weather & prediction check, since the blossoming season is different on every area, different from year to year, and the duration for a full blossom is only around 2 weeks.

But as graceful as they bloom, they also wither and fall gracefully.

Just like how all of us should be.

sakura snow

*be the love generation.


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