Land of the Rising Fun: Kyoto and Nara Edition

When I thought about visiting Kyoto during the cherry blossom season  I imagined a peaceful, haiku-writing, kimono-sleeve-fluttering experience. However, in reality, its actually more raucous, like a hello kitty kegger. Kyoto is overflowing with crowds during April’s Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season, but it’s also overflowing with awesome as well so don’t let the masses keep you away!

Your night should begin in the Beer Garden of Eden (aka Maruyama Park). All the blossoms are illuminated and hang just above your heads like wispy low-altitude pink mashmellow clouds.

So nice I photo’ed it twice! Night cherry blossom viewing is so important in blossom lore that it even gets its own word, yozakura.

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Another must-see is Kiyomizudera, or “Pure Water Temple” which is the most famous temple complex in Kyoto. It looks pretty lonesome in this picture but I had to wait a good 10 minutes to take this shot without accidently taking someone’s family photo.

 

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Behind Kiyomizudera’s main hall is the Jishu Shrine, a place dedicated to Okuninushi no mikoto, the Cupid of Japan. In front of the shrine are two stones, placed 18 metres apart. Successfully finding your way from one to the other with your eyes closed is said to signify you’ll find true love. Or that you peeked, cheater.

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Kyoto at the height of the cherry blossom bloom is like a Japanese watercolour on acid, dip-dyed in a vat of Walt Disney. Here’s a shot down Okazaki Canal at sunset where small wooden boats move you gently down this famous cherry blossom corridor of Kyoto. (And we know wooden boats are my jam!)

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Next we took a short train ride from Kyoto to the city of Nara. Nara is famous for the thousands of deer that roam the massive park at its centre. Deer are considered sacred in the Shinto (native Japanese) religion and considered adorable by me. This bambi is totally punch drunk on blossoms. Look at that sweet little smile. 

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While exploring Nara-koen Park, we stumbled on this grove of blossom trees that were sprinkling their petals like snow. 30 or so deer had also discovered this secret spot and were feasting on the silky pink groundcover. My favourite memory of Japan was happening upon this little blossomy dreamworld.

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Every now and then the wind would kick up and deliver a blossom blizzard. The deer didn’t take any notice.

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The only thing that could stir them from their blossom banquet was the rustle of a bag filled with deer cookies. These are available to buy all over the park. They’re like Bambi crack and taste like dirt flavoured peanut butter. (Just had a little nibble! No judgement please!) Nara deer are so crazy for these biscuits that they have trained themselves to bow for food. They “bow” over and over until you cough up your cookies, making them look like those dashboard animal bobble heads.

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The cherry (blossom) on top was blowing bubbles in this fairyland. The deer were trying to work out whether it was an airborne transparent version of their crack cookies. 

And there you have it, a guide and recap of my Sakuradventures in Kyoto and Nara.

And Happy New Year readers/Mum! My New Year’s resolution is to write weekly. Not for any other reason than this: “Great stories happen to those who can tell them” (Ira Glass)