Here is the second round of my sakura guide in the Land of the Rising Sun. This time I give a brief rundown of some scenic spots in my favorite Japanese region of Kansai. The region is huge. But my 2014 trip at the height of cherry blossom season was spent mostly in Osaka and Kyoto. I initially combined both Osaka and Kyoto in one post, but it turned out to be way too photo heavy for my liking. Thus, I’ll post another set for Kyoto in the next few days.
I actually just came back from a trip to the Kansai region. This recent visit was right smack at the Winter/Spring transition where the weather was very erratic and spring was creeping in. It was still absolutely beautiful any time of the year.
Osaka Castle is right up there in the most iconic sights in the region. It’s a huge area and a must-visit if it is your first time in the region. You can find a sprawling park and museum within the vast grounds and easily spend a day or afternoon just roaming around.
The best part of visiting this popular spot during sakura season is you get to be in awe of the numerous cherry blossom variants within the grounds. There are more than 4000 cherry blossom trees planted in the expansive grounds ripe for some hanami parties.
The photographs above were taken in Nishinomaru Park, which is just at the foot of the Osaka Castle grounds. The blooms come in all sorts of bright and romantic colors. It is apparently especially beautiful at night when all the trees are lit up and locals flock in to find the best spot for hanami viewing. I recommend taking as many photos as you can and take your time while going around. Do not rush.
You could easily spend a gorgeous spring day here with the numerous festival food stalls around. You do not have to worry about going hungry. Remember to bring comfortable shoes! The walk within the expansive grounds and up to the Castle is pretty long. I remember this to be one of our more tiring days since our home base then was in Kyoto.
Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
This is a beautiful shine in Osaka known for its unique architectural details. It was also our first shrine visit in Japan. As our first stop, this shrine set the bar high for all the future temples or shrines in Japan. It was that gorgeous, especially at the height of spring. The bright orange high-arched bridge shown above is an emblem of Sumiyoshi Taisha. It stands over a pond full of black turtles.
Apart from the sacred trees, calming zen pond, and the pops of bright sakura trees scattered throughout, I was most impressed by the presence of Japanese locals who treated the area with such solemnity and reverence. This is true to the rest of Japan. As much as these temples, gardens, and shrines invite numerous tourists daily, it is readily apparent that these places and the traditions that revolve around them are deeply ingrained in their daily lifestyle.
The relaxing atmosphere and gorgeous architecture provide prime spots for great photographs of the cherry blossoms that are also in the area. Take your time when visiting these shrines. Being in Japan always triggers powerful feelings of being in such a foreign place. This is one of my favorite travel realizations every time I am fortunate to travel abroad somewhere so different from home. Everything feels excitingly new.
Nakanoshima Area, Osaka
When planning our itinerary, we would always try to study areas/neighborhoods within the city we would visit. I find it a lot interesting to compare and experience how different or similar certain neighborhoods are from one another.
The Nakanoshima area is the center of political, cultural and business hub in Osaka. You can find a concentration of several municipal offices, banks, parks, art buildings, science museums, libraries, public halls and all other cultural facilities. Situated near a river, the area paints a picturesque and modern skyline.
We had a leisurely stroll without any particular specific stop. Thank you, Google Maps, for making that possible. It is during these strolls where I realized that you can spot cherry blossom trees everywhere during the peak season! You can rest assured that even if, for some reason, you could not go to the popular areas, you will still get to stumble upon these romantic trees in the region.
There are definitely more places to spot cherry blossoms all throughout Osaka. It’s a huge city with a vibrant atmosphere. They celebrate the season quite festively with all the spring or sakura-themed delicacies in the restaurants. I’ll post the Kyoto version soon.
Image Credits: Pearl Margaret C. Ganzon