Mount Yoshino is located in Nara Prefecture and is currently known as one of the top cherry blossom spots in Japan. The sakura trees you will see in Yoshino are over a millennia old and the beautiful slopes are covered with over 30,000 cherry trees. During the cherry blossom festival, these mountains look as if they are floating. We decided to take a day trip to Mount Yoshino in order to see this beautiful place for ourselves. So here is your guide to the best sakura in Japan: Mount Yoshinoyama.
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Getting to Mount Yoshino
We decided to visit from Osaka to Mount Yoshino for one day. We expected to be more challenging but then transportation in Japan is pretty great, so no complaints on our part. To get to Yoshino you can get a direct express train which takes roughly 90 minutes and costa 970 yen. You can also get a limited express train which costa 1480 yen and takes just over 70 minutes. Note that you need to book a seat reservation for the limited express trains and these are usually fully booked during the cherry blossom season.
Alternatively, you can get the JR trains from Osaka to Yoshino-guchi station. It takes about one hour and it costs 840 yen. However, you need to change trains at Oji station. From Yoshino-guchi station you need to transfer to the Kintetsu Yoshino Line to Yoshino. This takes 30 minutes and it costs 380 yen. Please note that this part of the journey is not covered by your JR Pass.
The moment you arrived in Yoshino, make sure you queue right away to reserve your ticket back to Osaka. We arrived at around 10 AM in Yoshino and booked the train back for about 7 PM. This gives you plenty of time to wander around Yoshino and enjoy your time on the mountain.
What to do in Yoshino
Once you arrive in Yoshino, you can pick up a local map and start exploring. There are several street food stalls located just in front of the train station entrance. If you are hungry, this is a good time to grab a bite. During the sakura season, there are free shuttles you can take from the train station to the centre of the town. We recommend walking up the mountain, on the narrow pathways, as the views are worth it. You will be walking next to gorgeous cherry trees and the paths are well marked and paved.
At the top, you will enter the town of Yoshino where several locals have stalls with food, restaurants and souvenir shops. As you can expect, during the season, all of them are quite packed and the roads, as narrow as they are, can be very busy with tourists from all over the world. A bit of patience is required. Don't stop, but keep on going up the mountain. En route, you will encounter several shrines and beautiful gardens. Take your time, admire them, photograph them up-close. The further up the mountain you get, the less busy it will get.
Visit the Kinpusenji Temple and Yoshimizu Shrine. Venture to Yoshimizu Shrine which offers famous views of the mountains. If you packed lunch with you, enjoy a hanami picnic under the sakura trees. Alternatively, we recommend popular Japanese food such as a hearty ramen, silky tofu katsu or delicious bento boxes. We went to a restaurant which offered beautiful views over the mountain slopes, all covered with cherry trees. It was incredible.
We went all the way to the Kami Senbon (upper area of Yoshino). This area is less crowded but it also offers more restricted viewing points. However, there are still several cherry trees in the area which usually bloom a week later than the rest, due to their location up the mountain. So if you still wish to visit Yoshino, but later in April, this is a good place for photography.
Yoshino is all about walking, enjoying your time in nature, and photographing the most beautiful sakura in Japan. It makes a wonderful day our from Osaka, Kyoto or Nara and we truly recommend it to anyone who loved the outdoors.
When to visit Yoshino
It depends on your preference. If you visit Japan because of the sakura season, then expect crowds in Yoshino. Yoshino is mountainous which means the cherry blossoms a little later than in cities. So make sure you time your arrival well. We recommend beginning to mid-April. If you just want to enjoy a beautiful day out on a mountain, Yoshino is a great year-round destination. You can enjoy it during Spring in Japan and have it all for yourself, with fewer crowds to bother you. Winter in Japan makes Yoshino a beautiful, white landscape. We visited mid-April and found Yoshino to be busy. However, the cherry trees were still not in full bloom due to the recent weather shifts which are affecting Japan.
Are you ready to visit Yoshino? When are you going? Tell me all about your experience in the comments section below.