If you go: Kyoto, Japan

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Kyoto, in the heart of Japan, is easily accessed from Tokyo. By the fastest bullet train, it's a 2-hour, 15-minute ride. By plane it's a 70-minute flight and by bus, up to eight hours. If you want to avoid Tokyo, you can fly directly into Osaka's Kansai International Airport and get to Kyoto via several train lines taking up to 45 minutes depending on the route.

Helpful sources and websites

■ www.kyoto.travel/shrines_temples

■ www.yukoeguchi.com

■ Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh Travel Program; 412-578-2470 or www.carnegiemuseums.org

Japan in Pittsburgh

If you can't make it to Japan or Washington, D.C., you can find a cluster of more than 30 ornamental cherry trees at the Pearce Pavilion in North Park. They were planted with the help of the Japanese Association of Greater Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Sukura Project is now an independent nonprofit and hopes to plant 250 ornamental cherry trees around the greater Pittsburgh region over a 10-year period, in honor of the 250th anniversary of the founding of Pittsburgh in 1758 (which was celebrated in 2008). They have 62 more to plant to reach their goal.

The project recently held its own "Cherry Blossom Hanami" under the buds there. The Pittsburgh Sakura Project has planted a total of 311 trees -- 123 are native species," said Barbara Litt, a project board member.

Allegheny County's TreeVitalize program provided 201 of the trees, and the other 110 were purchased with funds raised from private donors. A young ornamental cherry tree costs approximately $800 with professional planting.

"We try to place trees with the ideals of Paul B. Riis, the initial designer of North Park, in mind," said Ron Block of the landscape team. "The cherry trees are planted in large informally spaced groves to integrate with the existing landscape and leave 'view lanes' to the scenic aspects of the park," he added. Mr. Block works with Rick Mercer and Kary Arimoto-Mercer.

Peak blossom times

With last weekend's warm temperatures, many of the buds in North Park started to open.

"As you know, all it takes is a strong wind or some rain to scatter the blossoms, and since we've had strange cold and hot weather this spring, some trees are not behaving according to plan," Ms. Litt said. "By intention, different groves peak at different times, to prolong enjoyment."

For the most up to date information on blooming go to the organization's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PghSakuraProject.

For more information on the project go to www.pghsakuraproject.org.

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