We were back in Kyoto for a brief vacation in mid April and my fingers were crossed that we would catch the beautiful but short lived sakura season which only runs from end March to early April.
Chieko san, one of our favourite Tours by Locals guides had said "no promises" but that she would try as best as she could to make the sakura "wait" for us.
Thankfully, Chieko san's powers worked! Sakura waited for us. Our sakura viewing morning started at Ninna-ji Temple, one of the more important temples in Kyoto and a World Heritage site.
Ninna-ji has a garden of locally grown omuro cherry trees which are lower and closer to the ground and most importantly, they are late blooming sakura.
This map of the temple complex shows the garden devoted to the omuro sakura.
I got so excited when I saw this tree right at the entrance of the temple grounds and was about to run right over and fling myself on it.
Chieko san had to restrain me as she said "you ain't seen nothing yet" -- in more polite language, of course.
This is one of the many varieties of sakura called called ukon sakura. The colour ranges from a light yellow to green. Too bad there were only a few ukon sakura trees -- a cluster would have been breathtaking.
Ninna-ji has built a wooden pathway all around the sakura garden. You can walk through and just overdose on all the loveliness. The faint sweet smell of sakura was also very attractive -- specially to the bees that kept buzzing about.
Everyone had their cameras out, trying to capture the fleeting beauty of so much sakura.
Even if Ninna-ji's omuro sakura were late blooming, the petals had also started to fall. Chieko san said that a windy or rainy day would hasten the end of the season.
The sakura season is dazzlingly, impossibly beautiful but lasts for just a brief moment. It is said to be a metaphor for life -- can we make our lives as beautiful and meaningful as the sakura?
This is yama sakura or the most common type of sakura in Japan. You can see that the five petal blossoms have fallen and the leaves have started to sprout. At its peak, the sakura tree is completely covered in blossoms, without any leaves at all. Such a gorgeous sight!
At the tail end of sakura season, the azalea season kicks in. Here is an azalea bush with its showy pink blossoms, competing for attention with the sakura tree behind it.
We leave the garden and walk over to the belfry, which is framed by this shidare sakura or weeping cherry tree. Much like the weeping willow, the branches and blossoms droop to the ground. I find it gives off a delicate, fragile and slightly melancholy air.
Just before leaving, I take this shot of the temple's five storied pagoda framed by sakura.
This is the priceless gift that Kyoto bestowed on me today.