In the end, there’s no substitute for personal experience.
We got a break in the weather for a few hours yesterday, so I headed over to the Kyoto Gosho – the Imperial Palace, which is holding one of its two brief public openings this week. Normally you need to book a tour well in advance, but for a few days each spring and winter the palace is opened to anyone who wishes to visit.
There were huge crowds of course, just as with the sakura viewing, but somehow this was different. This was more festive, with a crowd of mostly Japanese thronging to see an important part of their history that many of them have never seen up-close. The normal take on the Imperial Palace in English guidebooks and websites amounts to “overrated” but I have to say, I found it to be spectacular – unquestionably one of my top ten destinations in Japan. Many of the buildings are newer reproductions (16th-20th Century) but they’re beautiful just the same. And the gardens are spectacular. As a bonus, there’s a grove of fantastic weeping cherry trees that was in full-bloom.
After the Gosho, I made a quick return to the Keage Incline. I was here just a week ago but the difference is remarkable – I can only imagine what it was like to ride the Keihan Line through this “sakura tunnel”, all those years ago.