Mount Yoshino, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
There are many famous places for cherry blossoms, but it’s safe to say that no Japanese person would object to listing among them
the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mount Yoshino in Nara Prefecture.
Mount Yoshino is designated as a World Heritage Site as part of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range,
and is located to the northern end of the Mount Omine Range in Nara Prefecture.
From the northern tip of the Mount Omine Range where many steep mountains stand one after the other,
this enormous mountain ridge spans 8 km southwards and with the arrival of spring,
the whole area is painted pink with cherry blossoms.
Since the cherry blossoms on Mount Yoshino cover such an extensive area, there’s a certain trick to enjoying them.
So, here are some tips along with an introduction to the area.
Enjoy the Yoshino cherry blossoms for a month
Cherry blossoms are a short-lived flower and just as soon as they begin to bloom, they begin to fall, lasting about a week to 10 days.
But you can actually enjoy the Yoshino cherry blossoms for about a month.
The reason for this is the height of Mount Yoshino.
The mountain is actually unique in the way that it’s split into four areas which bloom in turn, starting from the foot of the mountain to the top.
These are the Shimo Senbon (lower 1000 trees), Naka Senbon (middle 1000 trees), Kami Senbon (upper 1000 trees) and Oku Senbon (inner 1000 trees).
Another reason for the length of their blooms is the variety of cherry blossom trees.
The Yoshino cherry blossoms are mainly a mountain variety known as Shiroyama-zakura.
Surprisingly, there are around 30,000 trees of 200 varieties that bloom during spring on Mount Yoshino!
The first cherry blossom that you would see in town is the Somei-Yoshino Cherry.
Originally just a single tree, it was grafted to increase its numbers.
Since these cherry trees are all clones, they bloom and scatter all at once.
But on Mount Yoshino, the cherry blossoms bloom in turn, divided into sections by the difference in both altitude and variety.
Because of this, it has become one of the most famous spots for being able to enjoy cherry blossom viewing for almost a whole month.
The Shimo Senbon, Naka Senbon and Kami Senbon each offer different ways to enjoy the cherry blossoms.
How do you get to the cherry blossoms on Mount Yoshino?
To access Mount Yoshino, use the Kintetsu Railway to get to the nearest station which is Yoshino Station.
From there, most people will use the ropeway.
You can walk from Yoshino Station to Senbonguchi Ropeway Station, which is about 3 minutes away on foot.
Senbonguchi Ropeway Station is in the lower Shimo Senbon area,
and it’s a quick ride to Yoshinoyama Ropeway Station which is still in the lower area, taking about 3 minutes again.
Since you can take in the spreading views of the cherry blossoms from all the carriage windows,
you’ll want to keep riding for just a little longer.
Incidentally, the ropeway is always crowded every year during the cherry blossom season, so make plans that allow plenty of time.
After arriving at the Yoshinoyama Ropeway Station,
head up the entrance path to Kinpusen-ji Temple where many cherry blossoms and shops welcome visitors alongside the road.
When the Shimo Senbon area is in bloom,
why not go on foot instead of by ropeway and take in the sights while walking to Yoshinoyama Ropeway Station?
Climb up the Nanamagari slope and you’ll see many cherry blossoms in full bloom here as well.
You can climb up while enjoying this wonderful sight.
Enjoy the Shimo Senbon blossoms in the evening
At an altitude of around 230 m to 300 m, the Shimo Senbon area is known as the entrance to Mount Yoshino.
The cherry blossoms around the Nanamagari slope located within this area are lit up from the end of March to the end of April every year.
There are three areas which are lit up from 18:00 to 22:00.
The soft lighting makes the cherry blossoms magically float, revealing a beautiful world.
Compared to the day time, there are relatively few people who come to see the light-up,
so this would be one of the best times to relax and go enjoy the blossoms.
For those who don’t handle crowds well, one way around this would be to just see the blossoms in the evening.
But the cherry blossom season can be unexpectedly cold at night, so be careful with what you wear.
Go hiking and enjoy the Naka Senbon blossoms
At an altitude of about 350 m to 370 m,
the Naka Senbon area has a walking trail just off the approach to the temple where you can walk among the mountains,
and it’s a great place to stroll around.
Here you can enjoy hiking surrounded by cherry blossoms.
The views change with each step and there’s a certain sense of elegance as you view the cherry blossoms while taking in the nature.
In contrast with the main path approaching the temple,
the crowds ease off allowing you to enjoy the blossoms up close while breathing in the fresh air.
However, this walking trail is mostly unpaved, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
Enjoy the cherry blossoms together with the sunset in the Kami Senbon area
The Kami Senbon area stands at an altitude of about 370 m to 600 m and here you’ll find the most scenic spot of all, the Hanayagura Observatory.
If you look down below from here, you’ll see Yoshino extending far and wide, filled with the colour of cherry blossoms.
The observatory is at an altitude of about 600 m and is approximately a 75-minute walk from Yoshino Station,
which is the nearest station to Mount Yoshino.
It’s also a bus ride from the Yoshinoyama Ropeway Station, which takes about 30 minutes.
The best way to enjoy the observatory is to see the spectacular view of the sunset together with the cherry blossoms!
As the sun slowly sets, the blossoms are illuminated by the setting sun and gradually dyed from a pale pink to a crimson red.
This is a unique sight that can only be seen for a truly limited time during this season.
This is the best way to enjoy views from the observatory that are all the more spectacular.
One of the greatest power spots in Nara Prefecture
There’s actually more to Yoshino than just the cherry blossoms.
Kinpu Shrine is the greatest power spot in Nara Prefecture.
Enshrined in the Oku Senbon area at an altitude of 600 m to 750 m, the local deity is Kanayamahiko-no-Mikoto.
This shrine is believed to improve wealth! Since ancient times,
it has been believed that there is a vein of gold running from Kinpu Shrine to Mount Omine.
There are old tales that tell of climbing this mountain and gaining gold,
and so this shrine is popular as a power spot for improving people’s wealth and fortune.
So, now you know how to enjoy the cherry blossoms at Mount Yoshino in Nara Prefecture.
The blossoms can be enjoyed in a different way each time you visit, so please use this as a reference.
Also note that during the cherry blossom season,
buses temporarily operate between Yoshino Station to the Naka Senbon area in the middle of Mount Yoshino.
If you want to head even further to Oku Senbon,
get off at the Naka Senbon stop and then take the mini bus from nearby heading towards Oku Senbon.
Just like this, you can fully enjoy viewing the cherry blossoms by using the special bus services and
without having to go on foot, so please relax and enjoy the Yoshino cherry blossoms.