For one thing, they had a sign posted indicating that today was the last day the Imperial Palace would be open to the general public this spring. (Usually, if you want to visit Kyoto's Imperial Palace, you have to make special reservations days in advance. For one week in April, however, they open it to the public.) For another thing, the subway was offering a $6 "all you can ride" pass, so I decided to buy that and travel entirely by subway rather than bothering with buses.
I arrived at the Imperial Palace at 9:30am, just a half hour after the gates opened, and there were already crowds. The positive aspect of this is that I could follow the crowd and not get lost. We had our bags "searched" before entering...it was more like "have your purse patted lightly by an Imperial Guard."
At 10am they had a performance of a traditional Heian Era game called temari, which is essentially like hacky sack played with a ball that I believe is made of string. The first part was apparently blessing or purifying the playing area and was done by two men alternately carrying the ball around in the fork of a branch (picture at left).
After all the players bow to the ball, the game gets underway. The players in this case are members of the Temari Preservation Society. They kick the ball around inside a square playing area, and they manage to get it pretty high up in the air sometimes.
After I finished viewing the Imperial Palace grounds (and taking tons of pictures), I wandered around the garden right next to it and took even more pictures. One thing that's interesting to see is that the sakura blossoms from different kinds of trees can look quite different.
Next I went to the Gion area. By this time it was nearly noon, so I stopped at the Lawson convenience store on the corner. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea. There wasn't a single lunch-type item left on the shelves. I resorted to having a lunch of pickles and yoghurt. >_< I probably should have stuck with my usual Pringles standby, but I figured with all the walking (and sweating--it was HOT) I was doing, I should probably have something with at least a touch of nutrition in it.
I went through Yasaka Shrine to Maruyama Park, which is where everyone was hanging out (with their Lawson goodies) and
After leaving the temple, the road took me in the direction of the Heian Shrine. I considered turning east to try the Philosopher's Path, but I decided I was too tired. Instead, I went to the Heian Shrine to take pictures of it so my parents could see how it looks with the flowers actually blooming.
Update: The Heian Shrine has special sakura season "do not enter" signs that are painted pink with flowers on them. (Only in Japan...)