Mt. Yoshino is the most famous place in Japan for Yamazakura (mountain cherry blossoms), so expect huge crowds every day of the week, rain or shine, during the first few weeks of April. The beauty is well worth the elbow jostling though.
From Abenobashi station (in Tennoji), take either a Limited Express or Express train on the Kintetsu line to Yoshino station (吉野). The limited express train costs more, but saves about a half an hour of train time. This train departs twice an hour, at 10 past and 40 past. The Express train is cheaper but takes about 90 minutes or so. It also departs twice an hour, but at 20 past and 50 past. Click here for a complete schedule.
Route: From the station, follow the crowds to the cable car station. Don’t waste your money. Instead, take the easy, paved path that switches back up to the main ridge. Now, this hike is almost entirely on a paved road, but it really is beautiful. Turn left once you hit the main road, and go past all the souvenir stalls until reaching the first set of temples. The entire mountain is one big World Heritage site, and there’s so much to see. You have a lot of choices, depending on what you’re in the mood for. One recommendation is walking along the road as far as it will take you – to a place called Kinpu Shrine (金峰神社). From this shrine, there’s a proper hiking trail that starts to the right. At first it looks just like a regular forest road, but soon turns into a quiet scenic mountain path. This is what one might call the “real” Yoshino, because hardly any people make it up this far. It’s also the start of the long Omine Pilgrimage route, and if you keep going for about 25km or so, you’ll reach Sanjogatake (山上ケ岳). Your goal on this hike is to make it to Aonegamine (青根ケ峰), the highest point of Mt. Yoshino. It’ll take about 2-1/2 to 3 hours from the train station to reach this point. Although there’s no view from the top, it is a refreshingly quiet place to contemplate life. There are also some “hidden” cherry blossoms on the other side of the ridge which are quite nice.
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