Sakura Kyoto – When the cherry blossom season hits, Japan goes into a frenzy. Parties are organised well in advance, picnic spots are agreed upon way before the blooming season, and all guests play a role in making the day a special one. That’s how the Japanese celebrate the hanami season.
For visitors heading to Japan during the cherry blossom season, expect to see thousands of locals take time off to celebrate with friends and families. The season has always held a significant meaning: when the cherry blossoms bloom, it’s the time for change, for new starts and fresh beginnings, and new chapters in their lives, thus the quality time spent with loved ones.
However, as a visitor to the country, you may not have the luxury of dedicating an entire day to picnicking under the trees, simply taking in the beauty of the scenery around you and basking in the warmth of the sun who’s slowly emerging after the cold snowy Japanese winter (this is an activity that we highly recommend you building into your itinerary if you can, though!). And with that, we will now provide you with a list of the top 10 cherry blossom spots in Kyoto, some of which you can combine with others, and others of which you will already have on your itinerary as an attraction to visit.
Whichever way you choose to capture the cherry blossoms during your visit, we guarantee you the visions you’ll see will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
The 10 Best Cherry Blossom (Sakura) Spots in Kyoto
Here is our selection of the 10 spots you need to visit during spring in Kyoto:
- Maruyama Koen
- Daigo-ji Temple
- Keage Incline
- Philosopher’s Path
- Hirano Shrine
- Okazaki Canal
- Takenaka Inari Shrine
- Kiyomizudera Temple
- Kyoto Botanical Garden
- Yodogawa Riverside Park
1. Maruyama Koen
This list must begin with Maruyama Koen (or Maruyama Park), of course. This is the most popular green spot in all of Kyoto city throughout the year, let alone during the spring season. However, with over 680 cherry blossom trees spread across the expansive space, including a very famous weeping cherry blossom tree, it is no wonder that this draws thousands of people during the peak of the season.
The trees are quite a sight to behold during the day, turning the sky pink as you look upwards, however, at night the entire park will be lit up, and with plenty of food and drink stalls running business until late at night, you’ll be sure to have a memorable time here.
- Address:463 Maruyamacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0071, Japan
- Access: Take the train to Gionshijo Station, and it is a 10-minute walk from there.
2. Daigo-ji Temple
Daigo-ji Temple is a popular tourist attraction on its own, as it is currently a designated world heritage site due to its importance to Japanese Buddhism. Its ground holds plenty of religious and historical structures that bring you back in history, however, during the cherry blossom season there is definitely an air of mystique and magic in the air. One of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see is a cherry blossom tree bursting with pink petals, with a backdrop with a multi-storey Japanese pagoda – trust us.
The temple grounds will take some time to explore, with over 1000 cherry blossom trees, a pagoda, a traditional Japanese garden, and even a museum for your enjoyment. A must-do whilst you’re here is capturing the weeping cherry blossom tree which stands nearby to the Reihokan Museum.
- Address: 22 Daigohigashiojicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 601-1325, Japan
- Access: Take the train to Daigo-ji Station, and it is a 15-minute walk from there.
- Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
- Price: 1,500 yen to visit all areas of the temple grounds, or 600 yen for each area (3 in total)
3. Keage Incline
The Keage Incline wasn’t always a picturesque walking path like it is today; back during its peak, it was used as a railway to transport ships and boats from Lake Biwa Canal down to Okazaki Canal and vice versa. However, it’s since been transformed into a popular place to go for a quiet and atmospheric stroll whilst in Kyoto throughout the year, however during the spring season, more than 100 cherry blossom trees blossom and flourish along this path, making for quite a romantic scenery.
Given its unique landscape, you would expect this place to be swarming with crowds but it’s definitely one of the lesser-populated cherry blossom viewing spots in Kyoto, so if you’re looking for a quieter option, we recommend this spot.
- Address: 339 Higashikomonozacho, Kyoto, 605-0044, Japan
- Access: Take the train to Keage Station, and it is a 3-minute walk from there.
4. Philosopher’s Path
Philosopher’s Path has been tipped as one of the best walking paths in all of Kyoto. It is a wide path situated right alongside a canal, and it got its name from a famous Japanese philosopher named Kitaro Nishida who used this path as a meditation spot. When you arrive and feel the nostalgic atmosphere in the air, you will know why he did.
During the peak of the cherry blossom season, hundreds of sakura trees flourish over the canal, with pink petals blanketing the water in the canal. The pink sky combined with the pink petals in the water reflecting the scenery around it is simply wonderful. Rather than a crowd frenzy, you’ll feel relatively free and relaxed exploring this spot. The walk is only 2-kilometres, so it is a great spot to drop by and leisurely stroll through between other attractions.
- Address: Shishigatani Honenin Nishimachi, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8427, Japan
- Access: From Kyoto Station, take bus #100 towards Ginkakuji-mae
5. Hirano Shrine
What is a trip to Kyoto during the cherry blossom season without visiting a revered shrine? Kyoto has traditionally been known as the ancient capital of Japan and thus is full of historic Japanese landmarks, structures and culture to explore, and this combined with the beautiful sakura blossoms is simply magical.
Hirano Shrine is actually considered one of the most popular cherry blossom spots in Kyoto. The grounds itself is expansive and hosts massive crowds. There are more than 400 trees spread across the shrine, towering over structures and footpaths, providing the most optimum photo opportunities. During the day, simply experiencing such a historic structure whilst feeling cherry blossom petals gently falling on you is indescribable, but when the shrine becomes illuminated at night, it’s a whole other level of amazing.
- Address: 1 Hirano Miyamotocho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8322, Japan
- Access: Take the train to Kitanohakubaicho Station, and it is a 7-minute walk from there.
6. Okazaki Canal
Another cherry blossom spot with a water feature, the Okazaki Canal presents a gorgeous site to take in the beauty of sakura flowers amongst the unique Kyoto landscape of water canals, distant mountains, and red bridges. It’s located nearby to Heian Shrine (hint hint), and used to serve as a connecting route from Lake Biwa Canal to Kamo River. It now serves as a relaxed area for people to take a stroll along the water.
During the peak cherry blossom season, boat tours are opened up to the public. Each ride will take you down the length of the Okazaki Canal so that you can capture the beauty from a different perspective. These boat rides usually last under 30-minutes and cost around 1,200 yen per person.
- Address: Okazaki Saishojicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8342, Japan
- Access: Take the train to Higashiyama Station, and it is a 5-minute walk from there.
7. Takenaka Inari Shrine
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There is no limit to how many shrines there are across Kyoto to visit, however, Takenaka Inari Shrine earns a shoutout not only for actually being one of the most picturesque shrines that you will come across during the cherry blossom season, but also being off-the-beaten-path enough to not draw such a big, loud crowd, so you’re left with your own devices to spend as much time as you want capturing the beauty here.
There are a number of vermillion-red torii gates here which are situated right alongside the cherry blossom trees, which tower over the footpaths, so you can get as creative as you want.
- Address: 3-64 Yoshidakaguraokacho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8311, Japan
- Access: Take the train to Demachiyanagi Station, and it is a 23-minute walk from there.
8. Kiyomizudera Temple
Kiyomizudera Temple is a popular site to visit whilst in Kyoto during any time of the year. However, the views during the cherry blossom season are just as, if not more, incredible. There are more than 1500 cherry blossom trees which grow along the slope of Mount Otowa, which is where the temple is situated, so you can imagine the vast beauty of the scenery when all of the trees are in bloom.
The place to be to capture all this would obviously be the wooden platform projected from the main hall over the mountainside, as it is from here that you’ll be able to see all along the top of the trees as well as the rest of the mountainside as well as the city below. During the peak of the season, the temple and cherry blossom trees also become lit up, creating a truly breathtaking sight. Be warned though, the crowds here become quite large.
- Address: 294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan
- Access: From Kyoto Station, take bus #100 or #206 and alight at Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi bus stop. It is a 10-minute walk from there.
- Hours: 6:00am – 6:00pm
- Price: 400 yen
9. Kyoto Botanical Garden
Kyoto Botanical Garden is a great photo opportunity for everyone throughout the year. It boasts a whopping 120,000 plants from 12,000 species – you’ll never be able to get through them all! The park is also so large that it’s been sectioned off, making it easier for visitors to pick and choose which areas they’d like to explore whilst there. There is the Bamboo Garden, Bonsai Exhibit, Cherry Trees, Lotus Pond, Greenhouse, and more. Throughout the year, the scenery changes vastly; the flora which bloom in winter are so very different from those in summer, but we reckon that springtime is when the garden gets to really shows off its beauty.
There are about 400 cherry blossom trees here made up of around 140 different species, and all of them flourish during spring. The night event held here is said to be spectacular, with about 250 trees illuminating around 7000 square metres of the park after sunset. It’s probably the best time to visit. There will be crowds, but with that amount of space, everyone will be able to find their own corner to take it all in.
- Address: Shimogamo Hangicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-0823, Japan
- Access: Take the train to Kitayama Station, and it is a very short walk from there.
- Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm (during the cherry blossom season, the light-up event goes from sunset to 9:00pm)
- Price: 200 yen
10. Yodogawa Riverside Park
This sight is bordering Osaka and Kyoto but is still a fantastic addition to this list- after all, it was listed as the number one place to spot cherry blossoms in the entire Kansai region.
The Yodogawa Riverside Park is a large area that is the middle ground between Katsura River, Uji River, and Kizu River, thus forming Yodogawa River. Because of its location, it draws tourists from both Kyoto and Osaka outside of the city centre to enjoy the beauty of cherry blossoms in a natural setting.
During the peak season, there is a famous 1.4-kilometre tunnel that is formed of towering cherry blossom trees which people can stroll under – this is an absolute must if you’re checking out this area! People will generally pack picnics and picnic mats and relax under the trees along the riverside. The Sawaritei Sakura Matsuri is the annual cherry blossom festival held there during the season, and you can expect a number of food stalls and drinks to be set up alongside the riverbank.
- Address: 7-6 Sotojimacho, Moriguchi, Osaka 570-0096, Japan
- Access: Take the train to Yawatashi Station, and it is a 10-minute walk from there.
- Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
With so many different types of sceneries to choose from to enjoy your cherry blossom season, however will you make a decision? Our pro tip: go to at least 2-4 different locations. The cherry blossoms may be one type of flower, but witnessing them against a sunset is different to seeing them from atop a mountain, which is different to walking underneath a tunnel of them, which is again vastly different from capturing them from a riverboat cruise. All, obviously, are worth the time and effort!
If you want to see more Sakura flowers, you can also check out our top 10 cherry blossom spots in Tokyo or our Sakura spots in Osaka. And if you are visiting Kyoto during Autumn, make sure you read this blog post: Best Autumn Leaves Spots in Kyoto!