Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Yoshino – Where World Heritage Sites Meet Stunning Scenery

There are plenty of attractions in Yoshino District (吉野郡) that are sadly overshadowed by a classic sites like Tōdaiji Temple (東大寺) in Nara Prefecture. It is time to shed light on the very best Yoshino has to offer. If you are fond of cherry blossoms and/or fall foliage, read on!

The district has one of the most famous destinations in Japan for cherry blossom scenery. Many national leaders have come to adore its beauty. On top of that, various temples and shrines in Yoshino have been registered as World Heritage Sites.

Although Yoshino District is not near a beach, you can still enjoy water-based activities like SUP boarding, canoeing, and even canyoning through the beautiful valleys between the magnificent mountains in Nara.

Can’t wait to find out what the district has to offer? Here is a list of fascinating attractions in the Yoshino District!

Mt. Yoshino (吉野山)

Hanayagura-Observatory-Mt.-Yoshino-Nara-Japan
© photo-ac.com

Mt. Yoshino or Yoshinoyama (吉野山) has been one of the most famous destinations in Japan for a long time. Japanese poets from the Heian period (794 – 1185) could not resist writing about the beauty of this mountain.

What you might not be aware of is that Mt. Yoshino is also a great place for hydrangeas, autumn foliages, and snow scenery hunting!

For more information on this gorgeous mountain, please read our article on Mt. Yoshino (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Lake Tsuburo (津風呂湖)

Lake Tsuburo is the dam lake of the Tsuburo Dam (津風呂ダム) that was completed for irrigation in 1963. The lake boasts an area of 150 hectares, which is great for trekking and cycling.

Sightseeing boats run from April to November for those who fancy a 30-minute boat ride across the lake.

For those who love trekking and/or cycling, there are a couple of lookouts and observatories with a panorama view of the stunning lake.

© (一社)吉野ビジターズビューロー

The Cherry Blossom and Fall Foliage Season at Lake Tsuburo

From early to mid-April, the 500 cherry trees will bloom. Currently, there is a cherry trees planting project along the 38 km promenade around the lake. So we can expect to have some sensational cherry blossom scenery soon!

Autumn foliage season at Lake Tsuburo is usually from mid-November to early December.

How to Get to Lake Tsuburo

From Kintetsu’s (近鉄) Yamato-Kamiichi Station (大和上市駅), take Nara Kōtsū’s bus (奈良交通) bound for Yumori Onsen Suginoyu (湯盛温泉杉の湯) and get off at Tsuburoko-guchi (津風呂湖口). From there, it is around a 40-minute walk.

For the service’s weekday timetable, please search on Nara Kōtsū’s website HERE.

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Yoshino District.

Canyoning in Yoshino

Yoshino District boasts the best natural resources in the region.

One of the best ways to enjoy what the district has to offer is to join one of the canyoning tours held by Aozora Fun Outdoor Activity Specialist (青空ファン アウトドアガイド専門店)!

Guided by one of the many experienced outdoor activity specialists, you will be traveling through canyons in a completely different way compared to normal tourists.

© 青空ファン アウトドアガイド専門店
© 青空ファン アウトドアガイド専門店

Enjoy the cool water by going through the slider made by large rock surfaces and jumping into the natural pool in the primary forest (≧▽≦).

In winter, when the mountain stream is too cold for water sports, Aozora Fun will guide you into the deep mountains to discover the amazing scenery of frozen waterfall and rime on trees.

The company also has other canyoning courses in different parts of the Kansai area that you can choose from. Check out their rafting courses!

For more information and to book, please go to their official website HERE. You can translate the website to English by using Google Chrome’s translation function to the right of the address bar.

If you have issues reading the website and/or booking the course, you can contact us HERE, and we will get back to you.

Tip: We have confirmed with them that the course can be conducted in English. So please let them know your preference. Also, if you don’t plan to drive, free pick-up and drop-off services can be arranged from and to Kintetsu Yamato-Kamiichi Station (大和上市駅) if you inform them in advance.

Click HERE for a list of attractions in Yoshino District.

Biwano Falls (琵琶の滝)

Biwano Falls in Yoshino District is a unique waterfall with two waterfall basins. The magnificent waterfall stands at a height of 50 meters and is particularly stunning in autumn.

From the trailhead, it is a 40-minute hike through the less-maintained earthen road and rocky areas. The slope gets steep after crossing the suspension bridge, but a rope is set up for assistance.

On the way to Biwano Falls, there are numerous smaller waterfalls. Once you get to the observation deck, trek further to the bottom. Just be careful, as the road can get slippery.

On a side note, you can also hike all the way to Mt. Yorigatake (百合が岳) from Biwano Falls. It will take around 6 to 7 hours for a return trip, though.

How to Get to Biwano Falls

  • From Kintetsu Yamato-Kamiichi Station (大和上市駅), take Nara Kōtsū’s (奈良交通) bus bound for Higashiyoshino Murayakuba (東吉野村役場), and get off at Shimotako (下多古). From there, it is around a 30-minute walk to the trailhead
    • You can search for Nara Kōtsū’s timetable HERE
  • If you are driving, there is a car park at the trailhead

Click HERE for a list of attractions in Yoshino District.

Takami no Sato (高見の郷)

© Takami no Sato

If you find the cherry blossoms at Mt. Yoshino too touristy, check out the flowers at Takami no Sato in Higashiyoshino Village instead.

Although the spot doesn’t have 30,000 cherry trees, the 1,000 weeping cherry blossoms at an altitude of 650 meters will still enchant you!

Surprisingly, the spot beats Mt. Yoshino in terms of popularity amongst Japanese for cherry blossoms but remains unknown to most international visitors.

Like Mt. Yoshino, the cherry blossom forest here is artificial. Aiming for the effective use of mountains from the decline of forestry, many cherry saplings around the country were collected, planted, and raised here for more than 10 years before the forest was opened to the public in 2004.

How to Enjoy Takami no Sato

Whether you are taking the temporary shuttle bus from Kintetsu’s (近鉄) Kaibara Station (榛原駅) or are driving, you will be getting off at the car park at the bottom of the heel.

Firstly, purchase your tickets from the reception (受付) at the back of the car park. You can then start hiking up 600 meters, which is around 20 minutes to Tenkū no Niwa (天空の庭), the garden in the sky. While the hike might sound daunting, you will be accompanied by cherry trees covered with gorgeous tiny flowers (*´ω`).

© Takami no Sato

Rest at Tenkū no Niwa area. Enjoy the magnificent scenery and food (utilize phrases in our Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Vegetarians and Vegans article to order vegetarian dishes).

Once you are ready, hike further up Sennen no Oka (千年の丘) at an altitude of 700 meters. This will give you a complete view of Takami no Sato!

There are free shuttle buses at the reception to Tenkū no Niwa for those who aren’t confident with hiking.

HERE is the map of Takami no Sato. Despite being in Japanese, it will give you a good idea of what to expect on the day.

Cherry Blossom Season at Takami no Sato

  • The cherry blossom season is usually from early to late April
  • The weeping cherry trees can usually be enjoyed from around the 10th of April, reaching full bloom around the 20th
  • But note in 2021, the trees reached full bloom around the 6th of April and began to scatter around the 11th

The Best Time to Visit Takami no Sato

As Nara Prefecture’s best cherry blossom spot, it is a no-brainer that it is going to be packed on weekends. If you can only visit on weekends, get there by 9 am. Even if you come on a weekday, the 5th car park (the 2nd furthest from Takami no Sato) might be full after lunchtime.

Takami no Sato’s Opening Hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information

  • Takami no Sato is open from 9 am to 5 pm in April when the cherry blossom is blooming. The last admission is at 4:30 pm
  • The admission fee is
    • 1,000 yen for adults
    • 500 yen for elementary school students and younger
  • To get to Takami no Sato by public transport, please get off at Kintetsu’s (近鉄) Kaibara Station (榛原駅). From there, take the shuttle buses connecting you to Takami no Sato
    • Note in 2022, the shuttle bus requires a reservation with Nara Kōtsū (奈良交通)
    • A reservation can be done by calling +81-742-22-5110
    • From Kaibara Station (榛原駅), it is around a 40-minute drive, which will cost around 7,000 yen if you are taking a taxi. So consider renting a car if possible

If you could only park in the car parks further away from reception, there will be free shuttle buses taking you to and from Takami no Sato. Also, if you aren’t experienced in driving, we would advise you not to drive there as the road leading to Tamani no Sato is narrow and has steep slopes.

Click HERE for a list of attractions in Yoshino District.

Hōzōji Temple (宝蔵寺)

Driving to Takami no Sato? On the way back, drop by Hōzōji Temple for the big cherry tree over 420 years old! It is currently Nara Prefecture’s biggest weeping cherry tree (=゚ω゚)ノ.

The 10-meter tall tree has branches stretching 10 meters, creating a small cherry blossom tunnel over the stairs leading to the temple’s main worship hall.

How to get to Hōzōji Temple by Public Transport

  • To get to Hōzōji Temple, please get to Kintetsu’s (近鉄) Haibara Station (榛原駅) first. Then, take Nara Kōtsū’s (奈良交通) bus bound for Higashiyoshino Murayakuba (東吉野村役場) and get off at Higashiyoshino Murayakuba
    • Search for the timetable on Nara Kōtsū’s services HERE. The webpage should automatically switch to English
    • For weekdays, you can also refer HERE for a complete timetable (in Japanese only)
  • From there, take the Higash-Yoshino Village Community Bus’s (東吉野村コミュニティバス) Ogawa Sugiya Line (小川杉谷線) and get off at Kitsu (木津)
    • The service is only operating on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday
    • Here is the timetable for the service. Please refer to pages 12 and 13

Click HERE for a list of attractions in Yoshino District.

Niukawakami Shrine (丹生川上神社)

When visiting a Japanese shrine, you must have seen those wooden plates with people’s wishes written on the back, hung on one side of the precinct. If you ever wonder where those wooden plates originated, then visit Niukawakami Shrine (丹生川上神社). Furthermore, you get to act like a Shinto priest swinging the stick with paper strips attached to purify yourself!

Niukawakami-Shrine-Haiden-Yoshino-Nara-Japan
Ⓒ 東吉野村役場

To find out more about this unique shrine, please refer to our article on Niukawakami Shrine (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Click HERE for a list of attractions in Yoshino District.

Mitarai Valley (みたらい渓谷)

One of the most scenic places in the Yoshino District is probably the Mitarai Valley in Tenkawa Village (天川村). The valley that boasts of being one of the top stunning valleys in the Kansai region is located where the Yamagami River (山上川) that flows from Mt. Ōmine (大峯山) joins the Amano River (天ノ川). It is a masterpiece of nature where large and small waterfalls flow down the large rock wall at the foot of the mountain.

Mitarai-Valley-Yoshino-Nara-Japan
© photo-ac.com

The 7.4 km promenade leading to Dorogawa Onsen (洞川温泉) is picturesque throughout the year that attracts many nature lovers every year.

The hot spring in Dorogawa Onsen Town at Yamagami River’s upstream has been known to be effective in healing one’s body since ancient times, perfect for you to indulge in after a 3-hour hike (the 3 hours here include resting time along the course)!

For more information, please refer to our article on Mitarai Valley (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Dorogawa Shinzen Kenkyū Road (洞川自然研究路)

So apart from the nice hot spring in Dorogawa Onsen, what else can you do?

As an onsen resort in the deep mountain with a deep connection with Shugendō, the Dorogawa Shinzen Kenkyū Road is a round course connecting the scenic and historical spots around Dorogawa Onsen.

For more information, please refer to our article on Dorogawa Onsen.

© photo-ac.com

Click HERE to get back to a list of attractions in Yoshino District.

Tanize Suspension Bridge (谷瀬の吊り橋)

© photo-ac.com

Do you know where the longest suspension bridge in Japan is? That’s right, in Yoshino District, Nara! The 297-meter-long bridge is a great spot to stop by on the way back to Kansai from Mt. Takano.

For more information, please read our Totsukawa Village article!

Sasano Falls (笹の滝)

Sasano Falls, upstream of Taki River (滝川), flowing through Totsukawa Village, is one of the Top 100 Waterfalls in Japan. Among the many waterfalls in the Totsukawa Village, this magnificent waterfall with a height of 32 meters can be easily accessed!

For more information on Sasano Falls, please read our Totsukawa Village article!

© 十津川村役場

Click HERE for a list of attractions in Yoshino District.

Yaen (野猿)

© 十津川村役場

Most people must have boarded a ropeway at some time in their life. But, what many have not experienced is a human-powered one! Because the ropeway travels between two banks like wild monkeys, this type of ropeway in Nara is called Yaen, which literally means wild monkey!

Find out how you can give this a try in our Totsukawa Village article (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Tamaki Shrine (玉置神社)

Tamaki Shrine situated near the summit of Mt. Tamaki (Tamakisan, 玉置山), is the oldest shrine in Japan.

The shrine is at an altitude of 1,076 meters and was founded in 37 BC by the imperial court for demon expulsion.

As one of the Shugendō (修験道) training sites, the shrine was also registered as a World Heritage Site as part of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (紀伊山地の霊場と参詣道) in 2004.

© photo-ac.com

For more information about Tamaki Shrine, including the Mt. Tamaki Observatory close by, please refer to our Totsukawa Village article.

Dorokyō Valley (瀞峡)

© photo-ac.com

In the south of Totsukawa Village (十津川村), which features numerous wondrous scenery, the Dorokyō Valley is one of the National Places of Scenery Beauty (特別名勝).

In addition to the sightseeing boat ride that is pretty common in valleys in Japan, you can rent out canoes and SUP boards to paddle your way down the 31 km valley!

For more information, read our Totsukawa Village article (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Click HERE for a list of attractions in Yoshino District.

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