Kyoto in Bloom: Exploring Spring in Japan
Earlier this spring, I led GeoEx's Ancient Japan trip to Kyoto and Shikoku, a trip timed for experiencing the magic of the Kyoto cherry blossom. I arrived in Kyoto a couple of days before the trip started. Already the cherry trees were starting to bloom here and there, and the entire country was poised in anticipation, with television newscasts and sakura-spotting websites predicting when the blossoms would peak. But I wasn’t prepared for the sight that greeted our group on the first morning of our tour.
We went to one of my favorite neighborhoods, the Gion entertainment area, and walked to a cobbled alley that borders a sparkling canal and is framed by two long, straight rows of perhaps two dozen cherry trees. Two nights before I had eaten dinner at a sidewalk restaurant, gazing out at those very same trees; at that time the boughs were at about 25 percent bloom.
"Oh my god, in 40 years I've never seen anything like this!" I exclaimed as we neared the street.
What a sight! It was as if overnight the Director of Cherry Blossom Blooming had flipped a switch and—bam!—all of the trees had erupted into pink and white blooms! Everywhere we looked, the boughs had been transformed into pink-petaled clouds. It was officially sakura season in Japan.
It was breathtaking, exhilarating, and I couldn’t stop exclaiming.
At the same time, Kyoto’s humans had bloomed, too, and as we continued our explorations through the day, locals and visitors filled the streets, many clad in kimonos (business was also blossoming at the kimono rental shops!), and all paying homage to the sacred cherry blossoms with their iPhone offerings.
One of the things that astonished me was the variety of cherry trees and blossoms, in shape and in tone. The photos here capture a small slice of that variety—and one extraordinary moment in Kyoto’s spring, when the natural beauties made for a most enchanting stay.
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