Mt. Yoshino and the town of Yoshinoyama in Nara Prefecture are well known for their 30,000 some sakura trees, ancient Shugendo Mountain Ascetic traditions, old time architecture and glorious unsullied nature. One of the best places to view and take in all that nature all at once is the Hanayagura Observation Point.
The Hanayagura Observation Point is located down the street from Yoshino Mikumari Shrine directly above the steep slope overlooking the Kamisenbon section of Yoshinoyama. The viewing point’s location allows visitors to look down through the forest of sakura trees to the looping road below. The sight of the road winding its way through the green canopy was beautiful and inspiring. Seeing it in the spring sakura season when the trees are in their full pink flowery glory must be life alteringly good. Elevating one’s gaze from the roads and the canopy of the sakura forest one’s eyes are then met by the sight of the town of Yoshinoyama, a narrow river of houses and buildings strung along the spine of a mountain ridge between two seas of trees, flowing and tumbling downhill until it seems to disappear at the grand and soaring form of Kinpusenji Temple rising above every other structure insight. The river of buildings appears to end at this “dam” but in actual fact the mountain ridge grows steep again at this point and the continuation of the river is obscured by the slope. Raising one’s eyes again from this point the town of Oyodo and its valley provide the backdrop. On a clear day one can see as far away as the mountains on the western and northern horizons will allow. I got a brief look at that mountainous horizon on my visit before a rainsquall encroached on and then engulfed the town of Yoshino in its misty shrouds showing a real life version and the inspiration for countless tapestry paintings and woodblock prints. The Hanayagura might be the best viewpoint in Yoshino.
Yoshino is located in the center of Nara Prefecture and is served by the Kintetsu Yoshino Train Line. A cable car can take visitors from the train station to the lower slopes of Yoshinoyama and the Yoshino Cable Bus (limited services, check the time table on a bus stop) can take visitors to other parts of Yoshinoyama from there. Alternatively, the NARA Visitor Center in Nara City is offering a free excursion bus service through Halloween of 2015 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays to the first 27 people to sign up to use the service before the bus leaves at 9am. Seen a great view lately? Happy travels!