Teatime in Old Kyoto before the Yozakura (Evening Sakura)
A glint of starlight,
A blossom flutters,
Haiku to a floating world.
Veritable tomes of tales have been written about cherry blossom season in Japan. Of the wonderment one feels when the clear blue spring sky is seemingly blanketed by dense feather brushes of blush tones, when the air caresses sighs of soft fragrance from the emerging blooms, of that strange melancholy when one follows the slow ballet of a petal as it descends to a waterway carpeted with its pale pink or white family members. Less so have we heard or read of tales of “yozakura” – night sakura, the locals’ secret. When the tourist hoards dissipate, when the opalescent moon ascends above the brown-yellow haze of the Kyoto metropolis, the sakura take on an altogether other-worldly character. Whether by way of the high vantage points of temples such as the UNESCO-protected heritage site, Kiyomizudera, through the mirrored reflections of a shimmering lake, attending a hanami party in the bustling Maruyama Park with nose sniffling out sizzling yakitori, ears throbbing to the loud pumps of music, and eyes on the magnificent boughs of a megalithic tree, or a stroll through the hushed Shirakawa-dori and Shimbashi District that borders Gion (the so-called “geisha” area), sakura by night makes for a truly multi-faceted, multi-sensory experience.
Between daytime sightseeing and evening nightlife, there is a momentary space in the later afternoon. If you find yourself in Southern Higashiyama during this time, as these Dessert Correspondents did, there are two options. You could head back to your hotel to recuperate, likely never to emerge again the same day as the adrenaline dips and your tired body sinks into the plushness of the hotel bed. Or, you could seek out a hidden sanctuary of a tea-house, for a cast iron teapot of green tea matcha and the slightly sweet, slightly savoury delights of Japanese teatime snacks, such as gemstone-like azuki bean cakes and brown sugar rice mochi. It’s the quiet times such as these – between running from one must-see sight to the next – the times when you can hear just the trickle of tea as you pour it, that makes the journey to sakura into a memory.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Kasagiya Teahouse, 349 Masuya cho, Kodai-ji, Higashiyama-ku.
- ☑ Budget: $.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Afternoon Tea.
- ☑ Must-eat: Azuki-bean dessert with a hot pot of matcha green tea.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Teatime in Old Kyoto before the Yozakura (Evening Sakura).