Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Nara's Cherry Blossom Highlights

Todaiji and sakura

It's not the standard way to do things but the "Mother's First Trip to Japan" itinerary I planned had the two of us busing straight from Kansai International Airport to Nara City. Nara is really more of a day trip destination for tourists but here's my rationale: I knew that we would be jet-lagged and I think Nara is a great town for going to bed early and waking up early.

We were rewarded for our early sleep and early rise with a peaceful and perfect visit to the ancient precincts of Todaiji, Nara's main attraction. I wanted mum's first sight-seeing in Japan to be impressive and I trusted that Todaiji would do the trick. It is the the largest wooden building in the world, after all. We noticed that the cherry trees in Nara Park were in full froth with not one single fallen petal on the ground: peak bloom.

Todaiji and sakura
sakura

Even in Nara town itself, the flowers were blooming. I liked the way these boughs were overhanging the souvenir shops on Sanjyo Dori near Sarusawa Pond.

San-jyo sakura
San-jyo sakura

Here are two special sakura spots in Nara City:

Hirumo Shrine / 氷室神社

Hirumo Shrine is located right across the street from Nara National Museum. Although this was my 6th visit to Nara, I'd never noticed the shrine before, probably because the main feature was off season all the other times I passed by.

One massive weeping cherry tree dominates this shrine. This tree must be hundreds of years old. The photographers were going nuts. People were posing with tendrils of blossoms draped around themselves. There was a real spring festival atmosphere. I would say that Hirumo Shrine is a must-visit if you're in Nara during sakura season but I don't think you'd miss it.

Hirumo Shrine
Hirumo Shrine
Hirumo Shrine
Hirumo Shrine
Hirumo Shrine

Ukimido Pavilion / 浮見堂

This is a pavilion on a bridge which crosses Sagi-ike Pond, located a little bit east of Nara Hotel and south of the museum.

The pale grey arched bridge is set against the background of a dark pond and the white blooms splay out artistically all around. The effect is rather like standing in a black and white print.  The pond is a short way from the rest of the main sites in Nara but there is a loveliness here that is worth a little extra time.

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Thank you to the random dad who took the above iPhone photo for me, it is one of my favourites. There will be more about my kimono experiences later on, for certain!

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