Beneath the cherry blossom
It’s been more than ten years since I last set foot in the Japanese islands, but they continue to occupy a special place in my mind as the setting for some of my fondest travel memories. I’ll never forget learning to ski in the soft powder of Hokkaido, making snow angels when we fell, laughing, into a deep white cushion. Christmas Eve in Sapporo meant a bowl of steaming, spicy ramen in a tiny restaurant down a back street as the snowflakes drifted silently outside.
Fortuitous timing on two Easter trips meant that we witnessed the fleeting beauty of the sakura, first on the island of Kyushu and then in Kansai several years later.
In Kyoto we strolled along the Philosopher’s Walk, beneath a multitude of delicate stars suspended in a sea of petals. We followed the cobbled, winding streets of Higashiyama to reach Kiyomizu-dera, the ‘Clear Water Temple’ perched on a forested slope high above the city. Here I savoured the cool sensation of pure mountain water as we ladled it over our hands from the ritual spring. From Osaka we took a day trip to Himeji to visit its famous ‘Castle of the White Egret’, one of Japan’s few medieval fortresses that still remain to this day. Standing in the castle grounds, in view of the majestic keep surrounded by the splendour of cherry blossom, I breathed in the crisp spring air and fulfilled a childhood wish.