Most of the people are visiting only Nara city in Nara, which is also the ancient capital of Japan. But I strongly suggest you visit in Yoshino, about 2 hours by the train from Nara city.
The most famous thing in Yoshino is cherry blossom.
In Mt. Yoshino, approximately 30,000 cherry trees, mainly Shiroyamazakura, are densely packed in four locations.
It is called ‘ichimesenbon’ in the sense of ‘the splendour that can see a thousand eyes,’ and it is called Shimo-senbon (downarea), Naka-senbon (in the middle area), Kami-senbon (upper area), and Oku-senbon (deep-wood area), respectively. The highlight is a long view from Hanayakura, and one thousand eyes from Yoshimizu-jinja Shrine to Nyoirin-ji Temple.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been for Yoshino’s magnificent cherry blossom season yet!! I am dying to go there one day, yes, I am going!!
The first time I visited Mt. Yoshino was the autumn of 2012. It was only two days and traditional Japanese night.
I was studying Japanese religious beliefs and traditional Japanese colours from Bachelor’s Degree (Bachelor of Arts) and Honors. Japanese traditional colours have many names that express the grace of nature, so I decided to visit Kyoto, Nara and Mt. Yoshino to research for my art project of the Master’s Degree.
When I arrived, my first impression of Yoshino was just like visiting a little small local town somewhere in Japan. Then stroll down the area, you just impressed the Yoshino’s nature, and you will find full of magnificent ancient religious sites which are not dedicated to tourists, but well-preserved their ritual origins.
It was the autumn season, it’s such gorgeous colours, and it takes your breath away!
Ok, let me show you four reasons to visit Yoshino in this article.
1. One of the Oldest Religious Perspectives
Kyoto and Nara are famous ancient cities in Japan, and it’s well-preserved in their characteristics. But Yoshino is a place that has a long history, as seen from the era of Emperor Jinmu. It’s also famous for its cherry blossom viewing spots.
And Yoshino is also a place for mountain worship, ascetic practices of Shugendo. Mt. Yoshino is a sacred mountain place that runs from Mt. Omine to Kumano Sanzan, and lies on the north side of the ascetic practice path, Omine Okugake-michi.
I have found a useful explanation about Yoshino area from Yoshino local council website and translated in English to refer. I also have already written about Yoshino’s religious history in Kimpusan-ji article here ↓Yoshino Kimpusan-ji : Must Visit one of the Oldest Temples in Japan, Yoshino Nara
Yoshino, a flower, is colored by its rich history and traditions. The place name Yoshino appears in the “Kojiki” and “Nihonshoki” (Chronicles of Japan) during the Jinmu Tenno Gotosei (The Eastern Expedition of Emperor Jinmu).
In Miyataki and other places, Jomon and earthenware from the Yayoi period were excavated, and since the Emperor Ojin, there have been many entries of imperial visits to Yoshino no miya; therefore, Yoshino has been a well known place since ancient times when culture developed.
In ancient times, it is well known that Prince Oama (later Emperor Tenmu) was marched to Yoshino and raised an army in the Jinshin War. In later years, MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune escaped from the search and capture of his older brother Yoritomo and went to Yoshino with his beloved concubine Shizuka and Benkei. There is a story of Yoshitsune and Shizuka’s tragic love that Yoshitsune and Shizuka had to part with when they escaped from Yoshino for a while.
In more recent years, Otonomiya Imperial Prince Morinaga (Morinaga OTONOMIYA) was besieged in Yoshino in concert with Masashige KUSUNOKI of Kawachi Province in order to overthrow the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and raised an army.
Moreover, the Taiheiki describes in detail that Emperor Godaigo, who was driven by the Kenmu Restoration, established the Imperial Court in Yoshino. The four Southern Court Emperors asked for the land of Yoshino, and they issued decrees across the country from there to recapture Kyoto. This wish never came true at last, but the people of Yoshino at that time, including the loyal priest Soshin Hoin, did everything for the Southern Court without regard for themselves.
Since ancient times when the capital was located in the Yamato Basin, Yoshino has been regarded as a place of worship. Yoshino Mikumari-no-mine Mountain (Aonegamine) was worshiped as Mt. Kannabi because it originates from the river in all directions. It is also said that many emperors from ancient times went to Yoshino to pray at this mountain. The original Japanese religion, “Shugendo,” was created by combining the idea of ancient Japanese nature worship with the idea of foreign Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. Shugendo is thought to have been organized in the Heian period, but EN no Gyoja (EN no Ozunu), a person from the Hakuho period, is the founder of Shugendo. EN no Gyoja (En no Gyoja) is said to have been trained severely on Mt. Kinpusen (Mt. Sanjogatake) before he senses the principal image of Zao Gongen, and has engraved it with a Yamazakura tree to worship it.
Mount Kinpusen is said to have been worshiped at the Zao-do Hall of Kinpusen-ji Temple in Mt. Yoshino, the foot of Mt. Kinpusen-ji Temple, because it is too harsh for elderly people and children to visit.
Translated by me from Yoshino public website
Nyonin kinsei (prohibition of women) area?!
If you walk down Mt. Yoshino and go deep into the mountains, you will find the area called “nyonin kinsei” (nyonin kinsei).
This is a no-entry zone for women into the sacred mountain area for ritual reasons. This is not uncommon in the Shugendo area of Mt. Omine, and some people think this is a male chauvinistic concept. Still, in Shugendo, it is also a Shinto way of thinking, and it also means that women who have their own “bloodstains” during menstruation or puerperal period will not approach the sacred place.
There is also a theory that the mountain has been a goddess since ancient times, and women have been banned to avoid the jealousy of her goddess, and that it sometimes hinders the ascetic practices of Shugendo.
I’ve been to the Women’s Barrier at Dorogawa Hot Spring and Mt. Omine Mountain instead of Yoshino, but it’s a massive gate with kind of heavy air, and from here on it, I felt like, ‘I’m absolutely not good!’
I couldn’t even feel like ‘going down on ONE STEP for a moment’, but I was so impressed by the sacred atmosphere. There should be a picture somewhere. There it is!
Above the photo, it’s said :
“No Woman Admitted” : Regulation of this holly mountain Ominesan prohibits any woman from climbing farher through this gate according to the religious traditon – Ominesanji Temple
I think that this can be a very adverse reaction from the feminism group. Still, I am myself a feminist and not particularly concerned with the ongoing religious discipline of the present day.
However, I’ve heard that since I’ve recently taken up this issue as a problem, I have heard that women also come in once a year, but I don’t think it’s necessary to force them to go.
Syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism Remains
Also, if you take a walk around Mt. Yoshino, you will see temples and shrines that don’t know if they are temples or shrines.
After the Meiji period, shrines and temples were distinguished from each other by the Shinto and Buddhist law, but before that, both gods and Buddha were worshipped by people on the same grounds.
So, actually, if you go in, you are not sure that place would be like;
“What? This place? A shrine? Temple?”
There were many places like this.
I particularly felt it was the power spot where there was a great blessing from a God for upper neck and brain; Notendaijin. Well, it was a very strange place. But It’s an extraordinary place, and it’s really hard to tell that it’s a temple or shrine. I guess it doesn’t matter exactly is, it’s both temple and shrine. The terms of a specific noun are not that important that what I thought after I visited this place. At least the God seemed not to care anyway.
If you are interested in this place please refer to the page ↓Nara Yoshino, Notendaijin: Tremendous Power Spot of God Above the Neck!
2. Experience Powerful Buddhist Sutra of Shugendo
I will introduce this temple, Kinpusanji-temple in another article for more information. But this temple has a three huge buddha statue inside, and they are prohibited for public views except for only special occasions and during spring and autumn festivals.
All my visits, I attend Shugendo scriptures sessions for three-times, twice was night service then the last one was morning service with my friend. It was a magnificent experience, especially in night service with only candles. Shugendo sutra was a bit different from other Buddhist ones. I must say, I can feel the mountain practice sutra, it was so powerful, and you would never forget. It’s really hard to explain but it is kind of moving your soul….
But unfortunately, you have to attend this special occasion which is held only during the springtime (cherry blossom festival time), and autumn leaves time then also you need to book ahead. But I am sure that it will be impossible to experience it elsewhere.
Here is this Kimpusan-ji article ↓Yoshino Kimpusan-ji : Must Visit one of the Oldest Temples in Japan, Yoshino Nara
3. Friendly local shops and restaurants
Yoshino’s main street is a cut-off top of the mountain, with restaurants and souvenir shops lining its sides and it is a quite interesting place to stroll. I found a few friendly shops and sort of Japanese cafes.
There is a cafe that you can have an excellent coffee with at the bottom of the hill where the main street starts.
Near the Mikumari shrine, you can try hand-made soba noodle too, and I have once then it was so good. I recommend that soba restaurant for lunch.
On both sides of Yoshino’s main street, there are many sweets shops, and they have yummy sweet rice cakes and yokan are also sold. Yoshino is also famous for its Kudzu (arrowroot starch), so I want people to appreciate Kuduz michi or any other Kudzu food in Yoshino.Nakai Shunpu-do Review: Must finish Yoshino kudzu within 10 minutes
4. Enjoy local Japanese cuisine at traditional Ryokans (inn)
Once I like the place, I just only go there and not really try elsewhere. But there are a lot of different types of ryokan in Yoshino.
For example, I’m staying at a hotel where Yukawaya’s food is so delicious that breakfast is truly a surprise. I had many ryokans that I wanted to stay in even when I was doing a lot of research.
Also, as I mentioned about Yoshino Kudzu, it’s arrowroot starch, and Yoshino is very famous for its production area.
So, there are so many ryokans can serve food made of arrowroot too. And Yoshino is in mountainside so you can also try Japanese local mountain cuisine.Yoshino-so Yukawaya: where you like to go back to just like your home
The Reasons you must visit Yoshino
Mt. Yoshino is one of Japan’s most famous cherry blossom area. Whenever I go to Japan, I always want to visit there, but unfortunately, I haven’t experienced the cherry blossom season yet.
My husband and I are planning to visit the cherry blossom season, but the time has not come yet. Oh well, one day!!
However, it’s fascinating to visit Mt. Yoshino, though.
My husband prefers to revisit Yoshino rather than Kyoto. Kyoto is a beautiful city, and there are tons of places to visit, but it’s sometimes we feel very touristy, like artificial.
Well, yes, Kyoto is the most touristy city anyway, but if you like and want to experience REAL Japanese spirituality or religious aspects, I highly recommend Yoshino to you.
If you have a chance to go there, it’s better to research its historical and religious background before you go.
Then you may enjoy the spiritual meaning in that area too. I just posted a tip from Yoshino, and I would be happy if you could use this as a reference for your next Yoshino trip!
How to Get to Yoshino: travel duration and transport fees
You can get Yoshino from Nara, Osaka or Kyoto and any other major cities in the Kansai area. However, only ‘Kintetsu railways’ provides wide-area access from various places.
There is no direct bus service available from Keihanshin or Nara to Mt. Yoshino unless you can book the bus tour by travel agencies.
It’s kind of a bit complicated that you need to change trains depends on the departure station, and I recommend using useful app calls NAVITIME ↓ in Japan.
The No.1 multi-modal door-to-door travel app for navigation is available for iPhone and Android.
From Nara Station to Yoshino
There are a few ways to go from Kintetsu Nara Station to Yoshino station. You should check the train schedule.
However, you have to get to Kashiharajingumae station (My god, it’s such a long name!!) to change Yoshino line and there are the express trains.
Kintetsunara station ～（Kintetsu-nara line）～ Yamato-nishidaiji station ～（Kintetsu-kashiwara line Limited express/express ）～ Kashiharajingumae station ～（Kintetsu Yoshino line express/express ）～ Yoshino station
Cost：¥850（Express fees: ¥510）
Duration：app. 1hr 30 min’ ～1hr 45 min’
From Kyoto Station to Yoshino
From Kyoto station, you should use Kintetsu line too. There are also express trains available, check the train schedule.
Kintetsu Kyoto Station ～（Kintetsu-kashiwara line Limited express/express）～ Kashiharajingumae station ～（Kintetsu Yoshino line express/express）～ Yoshino station
Cost：¥1230（Express fees: ¥1320）
Duration：app. 1 hr 45 min’ ～2 hr 15 min’
From Osaka (Umeda) Station
A bit long way to get there from Osaka, however, you have to get to the Kintetsu line to get Yoshino line express too. There are limited express trains, please check the train schedule.
JR Osaka station ～JR Tennoji station・Kintetsu-osaka-abenohashi station ～（Kintetsu-minami-osaka・Yoshino line express/express）～Yoshino station
Cost：¥1190（Express fees: ¥510）
Duration：app. 2 hrs
From Kansai Airport
You have to check the duration that if you can’t make it dinner time at the ryokan, you may be better to stay one night in Osaka or Nara, otherwise, there is no point to stay in a ryokan.
However, they may be discounted your stay without a meal, so worth to try to ask how much would be the cost without dinner.
JR Kansai-airport station ～（Kanku express Haruka / Kanku limited express）～JR Tennoji station・Kintetsu-osaka-abenohashi station ～（Kintetsu-minami-osaka・Yoshino line express/express）～Yoshino station
Cost：¥2030（Express Haruka free seat ¥650・designated seat ¥970)
Duration：app. 2 hr 10 min’ ～2 hr 30 min’
The access from Yoshino Station to Mt. Yoshino?
When you get to the Yoshino station, you have to get to the Yoshino mountainside such as temples, and if you stay in ryokans, you need to get a cable car or bus from Yoshino station.
However, Mt. Yoshino is usually quite quiet in winter and summer, but in spring it is one of the most popular sightseeing spots in Japan, so it’s very crowded.
Also, the autumn leaves season, which is not as busy as spring, is another high season.
Yoshino Ropeway and Bus from Yoshino station
The most famous way to access the mountain area from Kintetsu Yoshino Station is the Yoshino Ropeway.
But some days of the off-season are not in service and the local bus service is available, please check the official Yoshino-Omine Cable Car Site.
There are special buses operated by Nara Kotsu Bus Lines during the cherry blossom season, and the autumn leaves season.
From Kintetsu Yoshino Station to Nakasenbon Park, the buses run without stopping on the way. Nakasenbon Park is at a high altitude at the southern end of Kinpusen-ji Temple and the central area of Mt. Yoshino where many souvenir shops are.
You can walk down to Yoshino Station to visit this sightseeing spot. You can also return to Nakasenbon Park by bus to the station.
Pick-up service by ryokan’s shuttle buses:
I personally went only the autumn season and low-season, we were picked up by the ryokan’s shuttle bus. However, most likely other ryokans might offer you this pick-up, you should check and ask them if it is available for you.
Guidelines for Cherry blossom season
The Ropeway runs from Senbonguchi Station, located close to Kintetsu Yoshino Station, to Yoshinoyama Station.
But Yoshinoyama Station is located on the northernmost side of the Mt. Yoshino area. During the cherry blossom season, they have traffic regulations established, especially for weekends.
Then if you go to Nakasenbon and Kamisenbon, you have to go up the hill again from the station. However, when there are no traffic regulations, there are route buses available.
If you go to Kinpusen-ji Temple, shops and the main street of Yoshino, the Ropeway is the most convenient transportation.
Still, if you go directly to Nakasenbon or Kamisenbon during the cherry blossom season, it’s sometimes more convenient to use the special buses from Nara Kotsu.
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READ MORE YOSHINO TRAVEL STORIES
I hope you enjoyed this introduction of Yoshino. Hopefully, you found it useful and make you got there too! Here are a few more interesting articles about Yoshino that I recommend you read next:Yoshino Kimpusan-ji : Must Visit one of the Oldest Temples in Japan, Yoshino Nara Nara Yoshino, Notendaijin: Tremendous Power Spot of God Above the Neck! Yoshino-so Yukawaya: where you like to go back to just like your home