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Yoshinoyama is one of the most beautiful and famous places in Japan to observe the Sakura (Cherry Blossom). Over 30,000 cherry blossom are located across Mountains, which itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding cultural, historical importance, as well as beauty. Historically the area has seen the culture of locals donating cherry tree seeds to the Kimpusen-ji temple, which is the main temple of the mountain area. These seeds were/are planted in the surrounding mountain area. The result is a simply stunning sea of Cherry blossom all over the mountains in Spring.
â–ºThe Yoshino mountain area is quite difficult to get to purely because it is very rural. However, you can get Kintetsu Line trains from Osaka or Kyoto to Yoshino Station, which is the last station on the line. If you are travelling from further afield, you may want to get a Japan Rail Pass to save money on train tickets, click here to buy one from the official vendor. From there you can walk up the nanamagari (seven turns path) to the main street which is the spine of the mountains, essentially where all the shops, Ryokan hotels, temples and cafes/restaurants are.
Yoshino is where my Japanese side of the family is from, and so I spent a lot of time growing up there. So you could say I am a local, and I have written this guide from the perspective of a local. In this way, I am sure you will enjoy the mystery and magic of Yoshinoyama. This guide includes where to go, what to see, and where to stay (accommodation).
►How to get here: Go to Yoshino station, which is the final stop on the Yoshino Kintetsu line. Once you get there you need to walk up the nanamagari (seven bends) path.
The main street runs up the central spine of the mountains. It's basically the main high street in the mountain village. On this street you will find loads of fascinating handicraft shops, cute little cafes and restaurants, souvenir shops selling Yoshino specialities like Kakinoha Zushi (wrapped salted sushi), odango and omanjuu (Japanese seasonal traditional sweets) and all sorts of other fascinating and delicious snacks including Japanese street food, and dotted around are some Ryokan hotels. Everything is very local and Japanese. Further on up the road (Johnny Cash) are the temples and shrines (more information on temples and shrines on this page below).
A great view of the main street of Yoshino mountain that runs along the spine of the mountain. You can see Kimpusen-ji temple main hall 'Zao-do' at the top. Great photo right? Thanks!
Yoshino yama (Yoshino Mountain) has some of the most beautiful and historical shrines in all of Japan. Explore this mini guide on the best temples and shrines to visit.
The main attraction and feature of the Yoshino Mountains is the famous Kinpusenji. Built in the 14th century, it boasts the second largest wooden structure in Japan after Todai-ji in Nara, the Zaodo hall. The temple is the head temple of the Yoshino Kinpusenji-Shugendo religion, which is basically a mountain religion with Buddhism and Shinto influences. They have many events here throughout the year.
►Admission fee: 500 yen for the main hall.
The Zao-do main hall boasts incredible wooden architecture and design. The second largest wooden structure in Japan
Down hundreds of steps is Noten Shrine, locally and affectionately known as Noten San (san is what you affix to the end of people's names when you address them in person). Many people from all over Japan will come to Noten san and pray for good school grades, exam grades etc, due to the belief that the shrine grants good luck and health to body parts from the shoulders and up. There is a corridor where, if you walk up and down it 100 times, it will bring good luck. My grandmother did this for my mother when she had exams.
To get here, you have to go down the stairs on the left-hand side as you look at the Zao-do main hall, then you walk straight along with some little accommodation buildings and turn right then immediately left and follow the path to the hundreds of steps.
►Hours: Open all day
Originally built and founded in the early 8th century, this shrine was actually a temple at the beginning, built to serve as living quarters for Shugendo (a mountain worship sect of Shinto and Buddhism fusion) practitioners.
Later on, in history, the temple played host to some famous people. In the 14th century, the temple served as a temporary seat for the Emperor Go-Daigo as he established an imperial court in Yoshino, which technically meant the shrine was an imperial palace! Emperor Go-Daigo is still enshrined in this temple today.
Later on, in the 16th century, the famous and very powerful warlord, Daimyo and Military Political leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi hosted some of his famous and very elaborate Hanami (Sakura picnic) parties here. So as you can imagine it is a great spot to enjoy the cherry blossom!
The Shrine eventually became a shrine during the Meiji period's separation of Buddhism and Shinto.
►Admission: 400 yen
Yoshino mountain is famous for its amazing Ryokans. A Ryokan is a Japanese style inn or hotel. They usually always have a public onsen hot spring bath, the rooms are traditional Japanese with Tatami flooring and shoji paper doors, the service is incredible and the food is traditional kaiseki. It really is an experience and not just a random hotel for the night. If your budget allows, I highly recommend you spend a night at one as it is a true experience of Japanese hospitality. Below are a few of my personal favourites, which I have been to, and stayed at. It is another great way to experience the Cherry blossom.
♦♦♦♦ 4 star
Chukurin-in Gunpoen is a particularly special Ryokan as the actual Ryokan is part of a Buddhist temple with arguably one of the prettiest little Japanese Gardens in all of Japan. It is one of my favourite spots for tranquillity and serenity. Chikurin-in Gunpoen was originally accommodation for Shugendo (mountain religion) practitioners, but now it is a beautiful Ryokan. The service here is second to none, the food is traditional Kaiseki and rooms are traditional. I would say this is one of the most beautiful Ryokan in Kansai. As you can imagine, it gets booked up far in advance of the busy season of Spring and Autumn as the Cherry blossom and autumn leaves are stunning here, so book quick!
♦♦♦ 3 star
Another very pretty little Ryokan, based in the heart of Yoshino mountains, with incredible views and amazing service. With outdoor hot spring baths, you can relax and soak in the scenery. The food here is traditional Kaiseki and the rooms are relatively reasonably priced. One of my top recommendations!
♦♦♦ 3 star
Slightly further up the road, perfectly located to view the cherry blossom (Sakura) or autumn leaves (Koyo). The first thing you’ll notice about this place is the amazing two fish tanks at the entrance with some really strange and massive fish housed! The Ryokan is one of the oldest on the mountain, and very traditional and beautiful. The views at Yumoto Hounoya are the best by far, as it sits on the side of the mountain, giving it incredible views across the opposite hills. If you want to enjoy incredible views of Sakura (cherry blossom) while having a bath or relaxing in your traditional Japanese room, then Yumoto Hounoya is perfect for that.
Book Yumoto Hounoya quick as it is very popular!