Less nose-gazing (hana-mi), more flower-gaping (hanami)

Today was a beautiful one, with a high of 20 degrees Celsius. Walking along the street, I saw a parent and child coming up the opposite way. The child was blowing big, fat bubbles into the air, and the wind kept sweeping them back the way the child had come. Unfortunate for the child, but I got to enjoy the fruit of their labors–walking surrounded by bubbles that caught the afternoon light, reflecting the cherry blossoms in full bloom.

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Hirano Jinja Hanami

You know, I thought I was done posting about the fleeting beauty of spring blossoms. I guess that’ll show me, eh?

We’ve been blessed with some gorgeous weather in Kyoto lately. Think 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit) and not a cloud in the sky. This is unusual because normally around cherry blossom season, we get one or two days of being able to check the sakura out before the rain knocks them all down. This time, we had almost an entire week of uninterrupted sunshine.

Which is fortunate, because if we hadn’t, I might not have been able to get to Hirano Shrine.Hirano small 003

This shrine was recommended to me by a student who was shocked I hadn’t been there before. After the student urged me to see the blossoms, I gathered a group of friends and off we went to investigate.

If you’ve been up around Kitanotenmangu Shrine before, Hirano is about a 5-10 minute walk away, and is free to enter. I’d recommend checking it out even if it’s not spring, because the grounds are pleasant to walk through. That said, I’ve found another new favorite cherry blossom place!Hirano small 001

Upon entering the gates, I was greeted with a row of food stands and spots for people to sit and enjoy a drink. The cherry blossom trees leaned over this row, looking for all the world like a natural 商店街 (shotengai, or covered shopping street). As you go from stand to stand, checking out the fried chicken, yakisoba, and other goodies on sale, you find yourself eventually at the front of the proper shrine itself.

When I first entered, I thought I would see maybe one or two large trees. I had no idea that there would be a garden full of blossoms. It was almost overwhelming; there were so many potential shots you could take with your camera. Hirano small 004

The only downside was that there weren’t any free spots to sit down and just enjoy the blossoms. All the ground space was pretty much taken up by stands and whatnot that fenced off “their” area; if you stopped in to sit for even a few seconds, a waitress would rush over to hand you a menu and ask you to order something. If you don’t mind walking–or if you don’t mind dropping 500 yen for a beer–this is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon or early evening.

So! That wraps it up for the spring blossoms for this year. Where did you go? What did you see, and do you recommend it?

Kyoto Botanical Garden: Conservatory

It’s spring~!

Hi, guys. We’re finally getting into weather where I don’t have to bundle up under piles of winter clothes. And while the plum blossoms are still mostly thinking about blooming (but haven’t quite yet), it’s been too lovely out to sit around waiting on a single type of flower.

I’ve talked before about the Kyoto Botanical Garden. Located just outside Kitayama Station on the Kyoto Karasuma Subway, the gardens cost a ‘whopping” 200 yen to enter. They’re a great place to spend an afternoon in almost any season. There’s a playground for kids, a plum blossom grove, a rose garden, a European-style garden area–you name it, they have it. But today I want to talk about a specific feature: the conservatory.

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Obligatory Hanami Post

First of all, it’s no longer March- thank goodness! The worst of the goodbyes are over with and that means I get to relax and focus on happier things like the warmer weather.


As someone who grew up near DC, I am very used to going to see cherry blossoms in spring. Living in Japan just makes it that much easier because they are everywhere. Go to a nearby school or a river and you’re bound to spot a few. Go hiking and you’ll be surrounded by them.


And people.

But hey, that’s the joy of doing anything in nice weather, especially in Japan.

Hanami ( 花見) is a practice in Japan where you go out, find some cherry blossoms, plunk yourself under them with some friends or family members, and enjoy yourselves. Many people bring drinks and food along–some even have little barbecues! In some places you have to be very early to get a spot, which is often claimed by a tarp or leisure mat of some sort.

Me, I don’t like fighting over spaces so I just find a place where there are a bunch of them and walk. Along the river is my favorite choice, but going into the mountains is a close favorite. If I’m pressed for time, I at least make sure to visit a shrine and walk around there for a bit.


Whatever you do, watch out for large parties of Hanami goers. If you’re not on your guard you might be pulled onto a tarp and offered a drink by people you’ve never met before. Especially if you know ANY of the language! (Note: this is also true for summer barbecues and other get-togethers).

More importantly, whatever you do, be sure to take advantage of the season…

Not only for the view, but also for… THE SEASONAL EDIBLES!

More on that later.