Mount Yoshino (Yoshino-yama), located in the Nara Prefecture in Japan, is a truly unique location. Every season gives the mountain and its surrounding town its own character. In the spring, Mount Yoshino is a vivid painting in shades of green and pink, unlike anywhere else you’ll ever see. Whether you enjoy hiking and nature tourism or want to enjoy traditional Japanese culture, you can find something wonderful here.

Mt. Yoshino sakura! Photo Credit: Reginald Pentinio at Flickr.

The mountain has a special place in Japanese culture. In 2004, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, named “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”. Mount Yoshino sits at an altitude of 350 meters, making it a more relaxing hike than many others.

There are around 30,000 cherry trees on the mountain’s slopes of a number of varieties. Early April is the best time to see cherry blossoms in the Mount Yoshino area.

Mount Yoshino is generally considered to be divided into four areas: lower (Shimo Senbon), middle (Naka Shinbon), upper (Kami Senbon) and top of the mountain (Oku Senbon). Each of them is distinct, with a distinctive face for every season.

In cherry blossom season, the cherry blossoms slowly bloom starting from the bottom of the mountain and working their way up, making for a long cherry blossom viewing season. Many of the parks and gardens at Mount Yoshino light up their cherry blossoms at night, making for some magical evenings.

Map of Mount Yoshino. Photo Credit: Mt. Yoshino Tourist Association.

Shimo Senbon

The lower area of Mount Yoshino in spring is more relaxing. It is a great place to view cherry blossoms. The road up the mountain is pretty steep, but fortunately, there are a number of ways to get up it. You can reach the outskirts of Yoshino Town here. Yoshino town is a lovely place to explore, full of many sights, shops, and souvenir stands.

Naka Senbon

The middle area of Mount Yoshino also includes much of the town. You’ll find most of the area’s restaurants, shops, accommodations, and temples here. Naka Senbon Park is one of the most popular places to have picnics under blooming cherry trees. Be sure to see the Kinpusen-ji Temple and Yoshimizu Shrine.

Photo Credit: Kimon Berlin at Flickr.

Kinpusenji Temple is a designated National Treasure and World Heritage Site. It is a symbol of Mount Yoshino and is the second largest wooden temple in the country. It is one of the most important temples in Shugendo, a religion that is based on the combined tenants of Shinto and Buddhism and focuses on mountain worship. Within the temple’s main hall, you can find three blue-skinned statues of the protector deity of the sacred mountains of the area, Zao Gongen. In spring, Kinpusenji temple hosts lovely and striking cherry blossoms among its traditional architecture.

Yoshimizu Shrine is a very old sacred site with a long history. It’s a very popular location to view cherry blossoms. Here you can look out unobstructed onto Mount Yoshino’s slopes, which is especially spectacular in cherry blossom season.

Yoshino Yama Sakura – a view from Kami-sembon! Photo Credit: Nankou Oronain at Wikimedia Commons.

Kami Senbon

The upper area of Mount Yoshino provides a spectacular panoramic view of the area. It’s a tamer wilderness area, with plenty of places to take a photo or have a picnic. The most famous of these is Hanayagura View Point. You can also enjoy a few walking trails that can be a tranquil trip through nature. This is a much less crowded area. Some of the town can still be found here, but civilization is much thinner here and there are more open areas.

Oku Senbon

If you are in this area, you may find a rare opportunity even further up the mountain in Oku Senbon. The cherry blossoms found here bloom a bit later than the rest in the area, making it a great place to see cherry blossoms in a calmer environment.

Autumn leaves and temple, Yoshino-yama. Photo Credit: Nankou Oronain at Wikimedia Commons.

Getting around Mount Yoshino and Yoshino town can be done by shuttle bus, though the most interesting way to enjoy the area is to walk. There are many small areas and unique vistas that simply traveling from point A to point B is a chance to sightsee. Cable cars travel from the base of Mount Yoshino to the top regularly.

Shuttle buses run from Yoshino Station up to Naka Senbon during cherry blossom season. From Naka Senbon to Oku Senbon, there are also mini buses in operation during the season. Most if Shimo Senbon and Naka Senbon are closed to cars between 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Kami Senbon is usually open to cars, but it will also close to car traffic as well on very busy days.

Yoshino Station. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Mount Yoshino is a very popular area, especially when cherry blossoms are in bloom. However, because it covers such a large area, you can easily find more tranquil areas to enjoy the sights. Luckily, there are a number of places to stay within the town, though be sure to plan in advance and make sure you have a room reserved.

The best way to reach Mount Yoshino is by train from Osaka to Yoshino Station. You can take a Kintetsu Railways direct express from Osaka Abenobashi Station. The direct limited express train is also available by reservation and is a bit faster.

During cherry blossom season, seats on the direct limited express fill up fast so be sure to make a reservation in advance. Via JR Railways, you reach Mount Yoshino from Tennoji Station in Osaka and travel to Yoshino-guchi Station, where you transfer to the Kintetsu Yoshino Line to Yoshino. Once at Yoshino Station, you can walk, take a shuttle bus, find a cable car, or take the ropeway to start exploring.

Mount Yoshino is a unique location. It is full of truly wondrous natural beauty as well as many centuries of Japanese history and culture. It is a true jewel of the Nara region and well worth the visit.