The whims of nature threw a huge curve ball in the direction of my careful planning.
I had plotted our entire trip around Japan’s cherry blossom season. I had studied past years’ reports for the best time to see the sakura in full bloom. Flights were arranged so we would arrive here, in Kochi, exactly as the blossoms were at their peak. Plans were in place to take a train from here – the last place we could catch a train before the Henro-michi took us off into the wilderness – to cherry blossom hotspots like Tokushima and Matsayuma, or nearby Kagamino Park.
But it is a colder than usual spring and the full bloom forecast for Shikoku is, well, late. There are no full blossoms to be seen. There is no point in leaving the city.
Kochi is no slouch of a city. Our day is filled roaming its streets, starting with a required trek to Chikurinji, Temple 31 on our Henro route. It requires a lengthy trek to the edge of town but the route has its rewards, taking us down arcaded shopping streets, along pleasant canals and up the wooded slopes to the temple complex and adjacent Makino Botanical Gardens. Surprisingly, we encounter some rather magnificent sakura displays en route, maybe not at full blossom but dense enough to convey a sense of fullness.
True to the nature of walking, it is what you experience along the route, not the destination, that is important. That seems to apply to cherry blossom season as well.