March 24, 2010
the first spring fever (aka cherry blossoms)
The rain continues to pour down on us here in Kyoto, but there have been some beautiful springy days every few days. The most recent of such a day was this past Monday (which happened to be a national holiday), and I decided to take advantage of the short-lived sunshine to catch views of the first sakura, or cherry blossoms, in (nearly) full bloom...
I headed to Kyoto Gyoen, or Kyoto National Garden where the Imperial Palace is located. While a visit to the Palace normally requires a permission in advance (although it is open to the public twice a year), the Garden is basically a park and open to the public all year around - perfect for a picnic day out and having kids and dogs running around.
As you go into the park through one of the gates near the north-east corner of the park, you'll soon see rows of huge cherry blossom trees...
... and rows of people. But trust me, this isn't nearly as bad as it can get during the height of the season!
While the most common and widely seen sakura may be the kind called somei yoshino, the kind that first comes into full bloom is usually shidare zakura, or "weeping sakura", characterized by the long branches of blossoms swaying graciously.
Well it's pretty much impossible to take a good picture of blossoms with nobody (or anybody else than those you're trying to take a picture of) in it at most of the cherry-viewing spots, and after a while you'd start wondering if you are trying to shoot blossoms or humans.
And that used to annoy me when I was desperately trying to get some decent shots of the flower, but these days I have become more relaxed about it - I'd just enjoy the general atmosphere of excitement and cheerfulness that surrounds us, all of us, who admire the blossoms in our own ways.
After a bit of blossom viewing (and people watching), I took a little break for a few bites of goodies...
Ciabatta sandwich with provencal chicken (lots of olives and tomato) and a croissant filled with whipped cream and custard, that I'd picked up earlier the day at the beautiful bakery Le Petit Mec a few blocks to the west of the Garden (map) - complete with a bottle of green tea from, well, a convenience store. Now if you happen to remember that I came to Kyoto to spend a day of cherry blossom viewing in the spring of 2005, I did the exact the same thing back then: eating pastries from Le Petit Mec at the Kyoto Gyoen. Reckon things haven't changed too much over the five years?
Except maybe, I did have more time this time around, hanging about and looking around, taking my time admiring the beauty that was cherry blossoms.
And last time I didn't get to walk around the Garden much outside of the Northeast corner where the shidare zakura trees are, so I decided to go and explore deeper into the garden... (Truth is, I just walked down to the south and not necessarily "deeper into" the place, but anyways.)
Not surprisingly, there are a lot more to see in the garden other than cherry blossoms, and many trees and plants were full of flowers in bloom, too.
In fact, even though shidare zakura was nearly in full bloom, cherry blossoms of most kinds were still buds and would have another few days or even weeks before they'd come into bloom. What was in full bloom right now, rather than cherry, was peach blossoms.
And I swear I can't tell cherry blossoms from peach (or apricot or apple or pear, really), but I was 100% sure that these were peach blossoms. Why? Well, I'll let you into a secret:
A large sign that reads PEACH GROVE standing by the trees does give you some ideas, right? ;)
We love our sakura a lot, but momo (peach) is pretty darn adorable, too...
And so everyone was having a good time chatting, clicking, playing, and napping away the afternoon under the trees, some with their families and friends, some on their own. Isn't this a perfect way to spend a weekend or what?
... Now a little more of walk should warrant a few more bites if you ask me...
In another departure from my same old "Kyoto Gyoen & Le Petit Mec" combination of five years ago, this time I ventured into a new, um, bakery. This one's called eze bleu (map), another bakery near the Garden, also on Imadegawa Dori street.
It's not that the bakery itself is that new (it's been there since 2002), but it was my first time going there. Pictured are another sandwich (smoked salmon and avocado this time) and another croissant(-like pastry) (filled with cream and fresh raspberries), and I also bought several more pastries to take home. I like Le Petit Mec, but this one wasn't too bad either - must go back for further, ahem, research. In fact, Imadegawa Dori is what one might call the "bakery street" in Kyoto - apparently there are more than a handful of good bakeries that are worth a visit along this street, and I should go and check them out one of these days. Oh yes.
But oh, we are talking about the Garden and cherry blossoms today...
Well, this is pretty much it. This is how I spent an afternoon full of blossoms of many kind and a nice long-ish walk. Although you might think you've had enough of cherry blossoms around here, it's far from the case; more blossoms will be in full bloom over the coming week or two, and there will be more pictures/talks of cherry blossoms to come, for sure. So bear with me, or enjoy with me - after all, it's only a short few weeks' of craziness that happens once a year, and this is how we celebrate the arrival of spring.
Yes, spring is here!!
posted by chika at: 3/24/2010 05:13:00 AM