Kyoto is well known for its cherry blossoms, which are considered Japan’s national flowers. These flowers are iconic and they are engraved on the 100 yen coin.
Yasaka Shine is the only temple that keeps its famous red-and-white gates opened 24 hours a day. There is a beautiful tradition on New Year’s Eve when believers come to pray and to take home the shrine’s sacred fire.
The first meal of the year is cooked with this fire. Another festival from July gathers people to celebrate Kyoto’s annual Gion Matsuri. Except big celebrations like these, the temple remains peaceful.
The unique spiritual experience takes you to another world, especially if you go there at night and you see the temple surrounded by hundreds of paper lanterns. The glowing lanterns create a magical view, something almost too beautiful to be real.
Even if it isn’t illuminated every night, it really glows at three different times each year. In August, all the citizens commemorate the death of a great warrior, Toyomi Hideyoshi.
The other two occasions are related to the nature. From late October to early December they celebrate monji-gari (i.e. autumn foliage viewing) and from mid-March to early May they celebrate hanami (i.e. cherry blossom viewing). Many sites light up during monji-gari and hanami, but Kodaji Temple was the first one to begin the tradition.
Maruyama Park, also called Gion’s Cherry Blossom, is the home of the famous weeping cherry tree. During hanami people gather here and attend evening events, contemplating the illuminated sights.
The landscape has a heavenly look worth seeing. People from all over the world come to visit Kyoto at this time of the year. At these events people eat, drink, and sing songs under the cherry blossoms. If you go there, you may see ikebana flower arrangements and art displays.
Higshiyama Hanatouro is a 10-day event, a paper lantern and flower festival. Thousands of lanterns are lit up at this time. They light the streets leading up to Higshiyama Mountain, while others light a different direction until they reach the Maruyama Park, which becomes for a short period a true Wonderland. Most of the tourists come during this time, when they may be witnesses of an enchanted landscape.
Every April, for one week, people may enjoy a short trip with the train. The date fluctuates depending on the cherry blossoms’ full bloom.
The train visits the hills and foothills from the West side of the city, reaching such destinations as the UNESCO World Heritage Ninnaji Temple.