The sakura cherry blossom season in Japan is on the bucket list of travelers the world over. For a few short weeks each spring, Japan’s cities and countryside are adorned with the cloudlike white and pink flowers. Residents often hold hanami, parties or picnics for the purpose of observing the blossoms. You may even find yourself in the midst of a cherry blossom festival!
If you’re planning a trip to Kyoto during this remarkable time of year, you will find cherry blossoms in abundance. There are, however, a number of places that provide a truly stunning cherry blossom experience in Kyoto.
Don’t worry, we won’t keep the secret to ourselves. Read on to discover the best spots for viewing cherry blossoms in Kyoto, complete with how to get there, admission prices, and opening hours. Most areas or the buses that take you there are just a short walk from the train station, conveniently accessed using your Japan Rail Pass.
Generally, the first cherry blossoms in Kyoto open around mid-March, reaching a climax during the first half of the month of April. In 2020, for example, the first bloom was forecast for March 27, full bloom being reached by April 9. Please find the most up-to-date forecast of cherry blossom dates for 2021 below.
Read more: Best Cherry Blossoms viewing spots in Japan
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Also called the Path of Philosophy or Tetsugaku-no-Michi, this path between the Ginkaku-Ji and Nanzenji Temples is completely lined with hundreds of cherry trees. It is often crowded during the day, but an evening walk affords more solitude and a viewing of the nighttime illumination.
Cherry blossoms along the Philosopher’s Path peak in early April and admission is free.
How to get there: You can reach the Path by taking city bus route 100 to Ginkaku-Ji Temple.
Arashiyama is a district on the outskirts of Kyoto. There, you can enjoy cherry trees set against a backdrop of mountains, bridges, and ponds.
Arashiyama’s cherry trees peak in early April, and admission is free. The trees are illuminated until 10 pm nightly.
How to get there: The Arashiyama Togetsu-Kyo Bridge is a 13-minute walk from Saga-Arashiyama Station on the JR Sagano Line.
Read more: Arashiyama bamboo forest and district
Nijo Castle’s trees peak earlier and remain in bloom longer than many other areas, with a display from late March to mid-April. The historic structures of this UNESCO World Heritage Site provide a unique vista. This is due to many different varieties of cherry trees, which have different bloom times, having been planted on the grounds.
Admission is 600 yen, and the grounds are open from 8:45 am to 5 pm daily. Illumination takes place during the peak season from 6 pm to 8:30 pm.
Read more: Visiting Nijo Castle
The temple grounds are filled with cherry trees and illuminated nightly during the cherry blossom season. The largest concentration of trees is at the pond near the ground’s exit. Kiyomizu-Dera’s trees reach a peak in early April.
Admission is 400 yen and the grounds are open from 6 am to 6 pm. Illumination takes place from 6 pm to 9 pm.
How to get there: To get to Kiyomizu-dera temple yo can take the number 100 or 206 Bus at Kyoto Ekimae Bus Stop to Goyo-zaka Bus Stop.
Read more: Discovering Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Maruyama-Koen Park may be the most popular spot in Kyoto for viewing cherry blossoms. The best viewing is in early April, and admission is free. Illumination takes place from dusk until midnight daily.
How to get there: You can reach the park by taking city bus routes 100 or 206 to Gion.
At Toji Temple, you can envisage the classic scene of cherry trees before a five-storied pagoda. The grounds are also known for a 130-year-old shidare-zakura weeping cherry.
Admission is 500 yen for adults, 300 to 400 yen for children. The halls are open from 8 am to 5 pm, and illumination takes place from 5:30 to 9:30 pm.
How to get there: The temple is a 15-minute walk from JR Kyoto Station’s Hachijo entrance.
This Gion street takes on a magical air during cherry blossom season. The east end near Shirakawa river is illuminated at night, forming a glowing tunnel of cherry blossoms.
How to get there: From Kyoto Station you can take JR Nara line to Tofukuji Station, and then take the Keihan Line to Gion-Shijo Station, Shimbashi-dori is 3 minutes walk from there. Keep in mind Keihan line is not covered by JR Pass.
Read more: Gion district travel guide
This top hanami spot is known for the 60 different varieties of cherry trees it hosts. The season often begins at Hirano with the blooming of the sakigake-zakura, a variety that originated there. The trees peak in early April and admission is free. Illumination takes place nightly until 9 pm. The Okasai Festival takes place on April 10.
How to get there: You can reach Hirano Shrine by taking the city bus route 50 or 205 to the Kyoto Ekimae bus stop.
Originally used to transport boats between the Okazaki and higher elevation canals, the Keage Incline is now a gently sloping walkway lined by approximately 100 cherry trees. Its trees peak in early April and admission is free.
How to get there: You can reach the Incline by taking city bus route 5 to Okazaki Hoshojicho.
Kyoto Botanical Gardens
Also called Kyoto Shokubutsu-en, the cherry trees in this garden are of a late-blooming variety, peaking in early April. Around 450 specimens of 130 different varieties are present. This is a great place to visit if you’ve arrived after most of the trees in the city have stopped blooming – or if you just want to extend the season a bit longer.
Admission is 200 yen and the gardens are open from 9 am to 5 pm. Illumination takes place until 9 pm.
How to get there: The Kyoto Botanical Gardens are located outside of Exit 3 of the Kitayama Station.
Read more: Best gardens in Japan