Yoshino is famous as the place where people composed Japanese poems that were later compiled into the Manyoshu, an 8th century anthology of Japanese poetry, which Japanese students study from childhood to better understand their mother tongue.
How to get there
It takes an hour and a half by car from Nara to Yoshino. It takes approximately two hours from Nara Station to Yoshino Station. In the Yoshino town, you can walk through on foot. So, using public transportation would be the first choice. It takes approximately six to seven hours to see around, so a one-day trip is possible, but one-night stay is definitely my recommendation.
The distance is about 45 km and the difference in height above above sea level is about 273m with Kinpusenji Temple in Mt. Yoshino (357m) and Nara Station (84m). It was not easy for people in the Heian period to walk or ride a cow car to visit Yoshino.
Cherry Blossoms in Yoshino
The Yoshino area is well known for having over 30,000 cherry blossom trees that cover Mount Yoshino. People planted cherry blossoms as donations and these grew up and created beautiful cherry blossom mountains.
Cherry blossoms were described according to Japanese Wabi and Sabi feeling, traditional Japanese beauty, as people came to Yoshino for cherry blossom viewing in Spring. I felt the strong passions of Japanese to cherry blossoms here. Spring and Autumn would be the best season to visit. This time, we stayed one night at Yoshino in Autumn and enjoyed the chance to feel as if I have walked through the medieval period and the changing colors of Autumn leaves.
What to Eat
When I visited Yoshino, I went to Yoshino Kudzu shop directly. I have always wondered what is Kudzu since I ate Yoshino Kudzu noodles at Kagizen, located in Kyoto’s Gion town for the first time in my life. It is amazing that Kagizen has served only a few kinds of sweets made by Kudzu for nearly 300 years. I was brought to Kagizen’s old merchant store before it was renovated into its current modern shop. This is one of the motivations to visit Kudzu shop in Yoshino.
Kudzuya Nakai Shunpudo
There are several sophisticated Japanese cafes to enjoy Yoshino Kudzu in Yoshino. We visited Kudzuya Nakai Shunpudo. Shunpudo appeared to be doing decent business and on weekends the place is always packed with customers from both Western and Eastern areas. The chef of Shunpudo explained how to create Kudzu at its open kitchen. I had no idea what Kudzu was and even didn’t know it was made from the roots of plants. The most important factor to create Kudzu is water. Yoshino is surrounded by mountains, woodland and clean water. Kudzu is a vine of the legume which is growing everywhere. The owner chef pointed out Kudzu that was coiling around the utility pole just behind us.The hardest part of the process is to soak Kudzu roots in clean water to extract the Kudzu powder. Shunpudo serves warm and semi transparent jelly like Kudzu which the chef cooked in front of us. Kudzu powder is kneaded with water and it becomes Kudzu noodles with a sticky and clammy texture. The store is located on the mountainside and we could enjoy the scenery over the mountains.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Sakamotoya guest house. From the guest room, we could enjoy cherry blossom trees on Mt. Yoshino. Sakamotoya guest house was built by Yoshino-tsukuri style. Yoshino-tsukuri style is an architectural technique for houses built on a sheer cliff and it has a complicated structure of girders. At Sakamotoya guest house, we could observe the structure from the dining room. The inside of the guest house was complicated too and it was like walking in a maze to find our guest room.The scenery from the dining room and guest room was astonishing. Cherry blossoms were expanding on Mt. Yoshino while colors were various when we visited in Autumn.
The Yoshino area is well known as the origin of the ascetic place for monks. The ancient path is still connecting Kumano area and Nara area. With such a long history, the downtown of Yoshino is nostalgic and sophisticated. The pavements are clean and houses are well-kept. We visited Yumoto Hounoya Hotel to take in the hot springs for non-staying guests. Accommodation is beautifully decorated with Japanese furniture and the view of Mt. Yoshino from the open-air bath is magnificent.