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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!!

24 comments:

Ba┼čak said...

Why did that they have bloom early this year? I'll be in Kyoto in just over a week. I hope they last... Beautiful pictures, but they got me very worried!

elra said...

Beautiful, it takes my breath away!

Hilda said...

It is so incredibly beautiful Chika. Wish I were there. There are lots of cherry blossom trees in London, but somehow they just aren't as beautiful as the ones in Japan, don't know why.

Lynnea said...

Incredible, and probably even more so in person, but your photos really seem to do them justice.

Rowaida said...

Breathtaking photos! Sooo Beautiful!

Rambling Tart said...

Absolutely GLORIOUS heart-enriching, soul-lifting post! Ahh, you did my heart much good today. :-)

Ta said...

This is so beautiful! I am very hopeful that i'll be able to do to the Cherry Blossom Festival up in DC this year. Promise pictures if i go!

meganlimjewelry said...

Thanks for sharing there beautiful photos! Oh I wish I was able to see everything in person.

Cheryl said...

These are SO gorgeous Chika. I especially love the first shot with the bicycles, you have really captured the relaxed and beautiful atmosphere.

Shal said...

Beautiful pictures... I love cherry blossoms. Where I live (Cheung Chau in Hong Kong) we have the only cherry blossoms in HK, and they were a remnant from the Japanese soldiers in WWII, who felt that the island reminded them of home. Every year hordes of tourists come to photograph the 4-5 trees there. Nowhere near as heavy with blossom as the trees in Kyoto, in fact they look rather anaemic in comparison!

Katherine said...

Your photos are stunning! I wish we had those beautiful cherry blossoms in Chicago.

Fuji Mama said...

GORGEOUS post. You've made me so homesick for Japan!

Heidi said...

Beautiful shots Chika - can't wait to revisit Kyoto.

Teo said...

You really made my day with this post. You are such a lucky person to have witnessed all that beauty! Just lovely!

Kitchen M said...

Ouch... I'm so gonna miss cherry blossom by the time I get there in a week and a half... But your photos made me feel like I didn't miss it. :)

traderjanki said...

what gorgeous and inspiring photographs. i would love to visit kyoto. how long do the cherry blossoms last?

Lu said...

Brava!!! Bellissime le foto!!!

Pat H said...

Thank you for this wonderful post! Pictures are absolutely stunning. Your descriptions are lovely as well.

chika said...

hi, thank you all for your kind notes and hope you all enjoyed the virtual hanami! :)

Basak - ah, we apparently had a warmer March and that accelerated the blooming - though the temps dropped quickly and we ended up having flowers stay on the trees longer. hope you get to enjoy the blossoms in this wonderful city!

Hilda, Fuji Mama, & Heidi - hope you'll get to come back soon!!

Shal - wow, I'd think HK is almost too warm for sakura? It must be beautiful in its own way, I'm sure :)

Kitchen M - I think you might be able to catch a sight of some blossoms, either of late-bloom kinds or at somewhere higher altitude (colder). hope you'll have a great time!

traderjanki - it depends on the variety, but most cherry blossoms last only a few days on tree once it's in full bloom. but there are different varieties coming into bloom in different timings, so overall you should be able to enjoy the blossoms for a period of a few weeks.

yummy2tummy said...

Beautiful pics!

hannah | honey & jam said...

your photos blow me away! so, so beautiful.

Fitri said...

what a beautiful blog :) *I just blog walking and find nice blog.. i will come back again..and again..

sittingwishingeating.com said...

Awesome! Very nice! Can't wait to visit Tokyo in May. A Pity that i missed the Cherry Blossom but its alright, thanks for sharing! :)

Jules said...

Absolutely gorgeous! Spent 10 years in Japan between, Hiroshima, Osaka, Narita and Tokyo. I miss it so much. Thanks for the pics and the posts.