Part 4, and the final part of this series, take us to Yoshino town, an area most famous for its eponymous mountain, Mt. Yoshino, home to some 30,000 plus sakura trees.
The mountain is well known throughout the nation and much poetry has been written about it throughout the ages. The sakura trees have been planted in various groves throughout the mountain so that they bloom at different stages during the spring allowing for a longer period of time to enjoy the spectacle.
Yoshino is almost famous for its high-quality timber. Most of the forest within the Yoshino area is artificial, consisting of red cedar and cypress trees that are planted and harvested in cycles of 500 years.
Yoshino also has a long association with the production of traditional Japanese washi paper. A local legend claims that Prince Oama, who would eventually become Emperor Tenmu, instructed the people of Kuzu in the art of creating washi paper in the 7th century.
Yoshino Chuo Mokuzai Co., Ltd.
When talking of Yoshino, one would be remiss to neglect the amazing lumber industry that exists here. The cultivation of high-quality timber in Yoshino stretches back centuries.
Yoshino and the surrounding areas are known to be some of the rainiest parts of the country, receiving about 2,000mm of rainfall annually. The area is also lucky enough to be relatively unaffected by typhoons; perfect conditions for growing some of the best timber known to man.
The Yoshino forestry region is located in the Kii Peninsula, dense with mineral-rich limestone rock which gives its cedar its trademark shade of salmon pink.
All timber sold in Yoshino comes with a specific mark that shows which forest, and in turn, which owner it came from. This system has helped maintain the high standards of quality that Yoshino is famous for throughout the country.
There are 3 key factors that help distinguish Yoshino's timer:
The annual rings are uniform in width and highly dense (and therefore stronger than those of other regions).
Limited distortion in shape - close to a perfect circle.
Curation; pruning the tree while young helps to avoid knots and blemishes
During our trip, we stopped by Yoshino Chuo Mokuzai and they graciously showed us around their facilities and how they treat some of their lumbar. The scent of Japanese cypress that filled a large part of their indoor processing plant was intoxicating. As you would imagine, the adjacent Yoshino river served as a means of transportation for the lumber harvested in the region in times past.
Address: 57 Hashiya, Yoshino, Yoshino District, Nara 639-3118
Closed: Sunday, public holidays, the 2nd and 4th Saturday, Golden Week, Obon & New years holidays
Kiyomihara Jinja Shrine
There are an estimated 100,000 shrines in Japan and it is probably fair to say that most overseas visitors are familiar with the major types of shrine. Places like Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto will immediately spring to mind when referring to a Shinto shrine. There are however quite a few small shrines dotted around the country that are quite difficult to get to, blend elegantly into their natural environment and for all intents and purposes seem to exist in complete secret.
Kiyomihara-jinja Shrine is one such shrine. It is an ancient shrine dedicated to Emperor Tenmu and is known for the traditional dance dedication "Kuzu-so." Every year, on the 14th day of the Lunar New Year, 12 elderly gentlemen are tasked with performing the ancient dance as a dedication to Emperor Tenmu. The dance has been designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Nara Prefecture.
The small shrine is located on a mountainside which runs along the Yoshino river. There are all but 2 tiny sign posts pointing you towards the shrine and without our GPS, I doubt we would have found it. We parked the car and made the short trek along the narrow mountain road to the shrine. The trek is not very far, or particularly dangerous, but walking so close the cliff side with the gorgeous azure blue of the Yoshino river right beside you makes it a rather thrilling adventure in itself.
Address: 1 Minamikuzu, Yoshino Town, Yoshino District, Nara
As you may be aware, many countryside municipalities in Japan offer economic incentive packages to entice the youth to move to their areas. Many include attractive housing deals or assistance in starting up a new business. One man that took advantage of this system to move to Yoshino was Yoichi Kasuya.
Kasuya took over this 100 year old home of a former pharmacist and with the help of several locals renovated it into this stunning countryside cafe It was something of a community effort, even most of the furniture here was donated by locals which Kasuya then painstakingly restored.
The cafe has been designed to allow visitors to take their time, unwind and relax in their surroundings. It's a great place to pass the time over a delicious coffee and a good book without the worry of feeling you have outstayed your welcome.
During our visit, we only had enough time for coffee and dessert, but left regretting that we didn't have more time to spend there. Kunisu Shokudo maybe a new addition to the Yoshino landscape, but it's one that adds much to local community. It's a place that we are sure will grow in stature and popularity over time.
Address: 246 Kubogaito, Yoshino Town, Yoshino District, Nara
Hours: 11:00am – 5:00pm on Friday, Saturday & Sunday
Closed: Monday – Thursday
The Blue Symphony Limited Express is a special Sightseeing Train that runs between Osaka Abenobashi and Yoshino. Made up of only 3 cars, with the middle one being a bar and lounge area, the Blue Symphony offers commuters between the 2 major travel destinations a little slice of luxury as they enjoy the countryside views from the large windows.
As you can see from the video and photographs, the train seems to be a homage to the Orient Express and the added wood paneling, plush seating and warm glow from the table lamps combine perfectly to create a relaxing atmosphere befitting of the fabled Express d'Orient.
For more on the Blue Symphony Express, including timetables and fares please refer to our featured article.
Tel: 050-3536-3957 (Kintetsu Telephone Center: 8:00am – 9:00pm)
Narayamaso is located at the end of a picturesque country road in Yoshino. Between the beautiful garden out front and the mountains that surround it, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this oasis has been specially created just for you.
Narayamaso is another place in Yoshino that you will definitely need GPS to find. It is literally located at the end of winding country road, and after worrying for a split second that we had infact made a wrong turning, we saw the restaurant's sign and thankfully, large carpark. When we visited, their country garden was awash with vibrant cosmos flowers. The water mill was also a nice touch and dividing your time between staring at the gentle flow of water and the amazing country scenes just outside the window is a relaxing compliment to the delicious food served fresh from the kitchen.
It’s a place you will definitely want to visit again.
Their menu is centered around confitures, Yamato pork and Yamato vegetables. The confitures play a central role in their recipies. They are made with seasonal fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers. The delicate yet zesty flavor of each one accents the food perfectly and becomes a presence that makes the plate shine.
Address: 881 Yanagi, Yoshino Town, Yoshino District, Nara
Hours: 11:00 – 17:00
Closed: Irregular holidays
Lake Tsuburoko Mikaeri Bridge
This beautiful suspension bridge in Yoshino town is 150m long and traverses Lake Tsuburo. At the front end there is a park with public toilets and playground equipment. It is a Kinki Nature Trail, and therefore bicycles are also allowed, but there is a sign that says only 10 people can cross at a time.
The bridge sways easily with just a little movement, so be prepared for that if you are a little queasy about these things. From the middle of the bridge, you are treated to some amazing views. The surface lake majestically reflects the greenery and the sky in all directions as Mt. Ryumon dominates the landscape at 900 meters above sea level. The peace and serenity do not go unnoticed either. Traversing Tsuburo Mikaeri Bridge is a calming and meditative walk that will provide you with a few for moments of self reflection and spiritual regeneration that are worth their weight in gold.
Address: Tsuburo Lake, Hirao, Yoshino Town, Nara
Tsuburoko Lake Pleasure Boat
The Lake Tsuburo Pleasure Boat is a popular sightseeing boat that tours Lake Tsuburo in Yoshino Town. In the past, the Nara Basin had no large rivers, making it extremely difficult to secure water, so in 1963 an artificial dam was built using the Tsuburo River and the resulting lake was named 'Tsuburo Lake.' It was also the first ever pleasure boat to operate in land-locked Nara Prefecture, and immediately became a big hit.
The Pleasure Boat ride lasts about 30 minutes and gently meanders around the lake allowing riders to take in the gorgeous natural surroundings. Lake Tsuburo has a circumference of 32 km and an area of 150 hectares. It is a large lake, and takes about 2 hours to drive around it.
On the dock, there is an area where you can hire a small boat to take out for some fishing or for a private tour of the lake. Depending on your preference, pedal boats are also available.
The lake is home to bass, Japanese pond smelt, white crucian carp, common carp, rainbow trout making fishing possible all year round.
Address: 849 Kaharaya, Yoshino Town, Yoshino District, Nara
Hours: 8:00am – 5:00pm
Fee: 30 minutes: [Adult] ¥800 [Children] ¥400
Hours: 11:00am and 2:00pm
Here's an overview map of the places we visited in Yoshino Town
Thank you for reading all the way to the end.
In part 1 of this series we visited Kawakami Village. That article can be accessed here.
Part 2 took us to Higashi-Yoshino. That article can be accessed here.
We visited Oyodo Town in part 3. That article can be accessed here.
Author: NARA Visitor Center & Inn