Sasayama: a pleasant alternative sakura spot to the bustle of Kyoto
When it comes to cherry blossom, Kyoto gets all the attention. Countless tourists flock there, blocking up the narrow paths and bridges, jostling for that perfect shot. Queues form to see that "perfect" view down Philosopher's Walk, the most iconic of iconic sakura spotting locations in the former capital.
Yet I think there are better places to see the cherry blossom, and Sasayama is top of my list. A small town 50km or so outside Kobe, it's home to both a castle, an impressive hill top temple complex and a "merchant's quarter" that captures some of the architecture of the pre-modernisation era. Spread liberally around are parks and walks bristling with plum and cherry trees.
There are crowds, and it does get busy, though not too busy. It's still possible to enjoy the sights without being jostled, or finding a break in the crowd to capture a shot or three. It makes for a more relaxed experience, which I think makes it more enjoyable. If you time it right, you might even get to see the annual procession celebrating the arrival of the new season.
Sakura season may have passed, yet I think there's still a lot this town has to offer. Particularly if you want to get away from the regular tourist traps and enjoy a more relaxed small town vibe.
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