Kyoto is full of beauty, and the Top 10 Cherry Blossom Spots in Traditional Kyoto also prove that. It is the old capital and traditional city of Japan, full of historical and religious beauty which are centuries old. This historical architecture, when combined with the beauty of the pink sakura, produces some breathtaking sights. So much so, they need to be witnessed with the naked eye to be truly appreciated. Sakura or 桜 is Japanese for Cherry Blossoms.
Every year the Japan Meteorological Corporation provide a forecast for the Cherry Blossom or Sakura. They provide this with an estimated date for each prefecture, which you can find below. Kyoto is estimated to start blooming from around March 29, with full bloom occurring in early April.
1. Philosopher’s Path
If you have ever been to Ginkakuji or Nanzenji, you may know the scenic path that connects the two. A beautiful sight in the spring sakura season, it is also particularly picturesque in the fall for the autumn leaves. The path itself is lined by many Cherry Blossom beauties along the way, so there are picture opps aplenty. Especially along the stream that follows the length of the path, is an amazing sight.
2. Maruyama Park
This is probably one of the most popular parks in Kyoto for the Cherry Blossom season. Here many will enjoy their hanami, either on picnic mats or at one of the many temporary tables set up under a draping sakura. You can also find a flood of food stalls and stands around the park serving a variety of food and drinks. Particularly, the highlight of the park comes from the main weeping tree which is lit up at night.
On the limits of Kyoto is the popular sightseeing spot, renowned for its beautiful bamboo grounds. Arashiyama is also home to some great views and picnic spots along the Katsura River and Togetsukyo bridge. Many trees lie at the foot of the Arashiyama Mountain ranges, and along the river by the bridge. Also, Daikakuji Temple is a nice spot for enjoying the Cherry Blossom views. Especially, around the back of the temple area.
The main river that runs through Kyoto city is the Kamogawa river. The river which runs along many parts of the city, it is common to observe couples sitting by the river edge or girls dressed in Kimono’s walking by the side of the flowing stream. Along the riverside, there are many sakura trees that can be viewed against the backdrop of the flowing water. In addition, you can find many seating and picnic spots around the northern area of Kyoto. Where Kitaoji Street crosses the river is one of the most sought after spots.
5. Kiyomizu Dera (Temple)
Over 1,200 years old this is one of the most visited and revered of the temples in Kyoto. So naturally, many people come to visit it during the hanami season. At the top of the temple around the observatory deck, there are many sakura trees. You can view the greater Kyoto city limits with the foreground of Cherry Blossom pinks and whites.
However, the most favoured spot is at the bottom of the temple grounds near the exit. Here there is an abundance of trees to admire. You should also try the area at night to appreciate the beauty of the pink blossoms lit up in the evening. Admission is 400 yen, and the grounds stay open till 21:00 during the full bloom period.
6. Heian Shrine
The Heian Shrine (Heian Jingu) and its grounds are quite young when compared to many of Kyoto’s historical architecture. The front of the shrine is quite wide and spacious, but behind the shrine hides the beauty of spring. Here are the weeping cherry trees, and against the reflection of the water provide a stunning capture for your eyes and cameras. They sakura here usually bloom a few days later than the general population of trees in Kyoto, so they are ideal if you missed the main event. Entrance is 600 yen, and the gardens are open from 8:30 am to 17:30.
7. Kyoto Botanical Gardens
The Kyoto Botanical Gardens is situated close to Kitayama station via the Karasuma subway line. They are well known for their lush and colourful layout of gardens, and well-manicured trees throughout the space. They are also home to a small area of Cherry Blossoming flowers, with plenty of space perfect for picnics under the pink petals. One of the key features is the weeping cherry tree in the middle of the garden. It is one of the most popular sights within the garden limits. Some of the trees also bloomer later than usual, so it is another option if you missed the main spectacle. You can also appreciate illuminations during the bloom, with last entrance until 20:00 and close at 21:00. Entrance is 200 yen, and the gardens open from 9:00 am.
8. Gion (Shimbashi)
This is one of the best sights in the Gion area, along the Shimbashi street it aligns with the Shirakawa canal. The trees line the street and are also illuminated in a bright pink, which resonates from the water. You can catch a quick view inside the bars and other establishments that line the river too during this time. Towards the western limits, you can reach Karasuma street (dori) where the sakuras form a gorgeous pink tunnel.
9. Ninna-ji Temple
This UNESCO World Heritage site dates back to the late 800s, but as the result of many disasters and wars very little remains. These days it is enjoyed because of its original imperial palace-style architecture and variety of immaculate ponds and gardens. It hosts a large number of Omuro Cherry blossoms, which bloom later in the spring season. Usually around a week after the regular blooming season. Entrance to the grounds is 600 yen, and the area is open from 9:00 to 17:00.
10. Daigo-ji Temple
This temple exists around the Fushimi area of Kyoto, it is a well know are full of over 1,000 cherry blossom trees. The variety of sakura that exist within the grounds help to provide a broad spectrum of pink colour. As a result of the many types of trees, the blooming spans over some three weeks. So, even if you miss the main event, you can still capture much of the beauty in mid to late April too. The weeping cherry blossoms are considered the key attractions during the blooming period. The temple is about a decent 15-minute walk from Daigoji Station, and the entrance is a slightly high 1,500 yen. The temple is open from 9:00 to 17:00.
Some other spots that didn’t make the top 10, but are still worth your time are included in this list.
Outside the Heian Shrine, you will find the Okazaki Canal, linking Lake Biwa and the Kamo River. The canal itself is line with beautiful rows of cherry blossom trees which can be appreciated by boat. Tours are conducted around every 30 minutes or so, and admission is 1,200 yen each person.
The Keage Incline is an old transport track which was historically used to move boats between canals. The old railway tracks have been restored as a national historical site. Towering over the tracks are beautifully curved branches and flowering sakuras. They provide a full blanket of pink petals the whole course of the incline.
Nijo Castle is also a vast ground of cherry blossom goodness, with plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the scenic view. However, due to the expansive space, some trees bloom later than others, which means the overall blooming period last several weeks. However, this also means that some spaces me seem less appealing than others, depending on your timing.
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