Yoshino is famed to be one of the best places to view cherry blossoms in Japan. With an estimated 4,000 cherry blossoms across the valley it’s hard to imagine why it wouldn’t be.
After leaving Hiroshima at 6.13am we finally arrived in Yoshino at around 12pm. You could tell we really wanted to get there by our resolve to continue lugging our bags and digging ourselves deeper into connecting trains.
It was partly not our fault though. We met a Japanese guy from Okoyama on the train who was also going to Yoshino. He gave us some maple flavoured sweets (Japanese love giving gifts) and offered to help us. Unfortunately he took us to a train going in the wrong direction at Yoshinoguchi. You should have seen his heart sink and the grief on his face when he realised he’d led us the wrong direction.
After that he seemed to stick with us and help us translate things to try and help make up for it, but it was fine. The only problem was that the Kintetsu line from Yoshinoguchi to Yoshino only ran every 30 mins.
We ditched our big packs at Yoshino station (big lockers ¥600) and caught the bus the hard way up the hill to Naka Senbon for just ¥360 (way further than the ropeway).
The rain that followed us from Hiroshima finally stopped and we walked uphill towards the Hanayagura lookout. Halfway up mist looked like it was going to obscure everything so we went back. On the way down an old lady invited us into her backyard to enjoy the view. It was really nice of her, but we then also realised the mist was clearing and we headed back up the hill.
We were pretty jealous of the old lady’s view, but further up there was an unnamed viewpoint on the left just before the toilet block. A strange girl was using her iPhone on a full size tripod bigger than my own and we stopped to appreciate the views down the steep slope.
Continuing up the hill the mists rolled in and out, but to be honest I liked the views less and less anyway because it all looked straight down the barrel of civilisation. You can definitely halve all estimated walking times here.
I did find a nice little spot to camp to the right of some stairs just after the toilet block. I have no idea if free camping is allowed, but if I do come back here I think that’s the spot I’ll pick. It’s in a small clearing barely big enough for 2 tents next to a gate on a little unmarked side trail. The perfect spot to go unnoticed I hope.
The Hanayagura lookout was a bit of a let down so we headed back down towards the tourist information centre. Between there and the Naka Senbon bus stop you’ll find plenty of restaurants with a view.
We walked down through the graveyard and back around a path to the main road. We stopped at probably the 2nd restaurant, the one immediately after a break in the buildings where there is a good view. It was all in Japanese and was a bit fancy but it was great food. Or maybe it was just that it was 3pm and we were starving.
From then onwards the walk down was full of places to eat and souvenir shops. Again, halve the estimated walking time back to the station if you don’t intend to stop.
We got back to Yoshino station at 3.30pm. Trains were still running every 30 minutes, but the JR connection is once an hour and poorly lined up. I’d recommend you try your luck with Kintetsu Railways if you’re in a hurry.
In total we caught 13 trains that day. I suppose we made good use of our JR pass and for the record they were:
1. Hiroshima to Shin-Osaka
2. Shin-Osaka to Osaka
3. Osaka loop line to Tennoji
4. Tennoji to Oji
5. Oji to Takada
6. Takada to Yoshinoguchi
7. Yoshinoguchi backwards
8. Forwards to Yoshino again
9. Yoshino to Yoshinoguchi – 30 min wait on next JR connection
10. Yoshinoguchi to Takada
11. Takada to Nara
12. Nara to Kyoto
13. Kyoto finally to Kanazawa
We got in to Kanazawa at 9.30pm. After an epic day of trains we took a cab to our hostel instead of walking. We felt we deserved it.