Let’s be honest, Kyoto isn’t just an example of amazing Japanese cultural inheritance. It’s also a photographers dream come true. Every year thousands of local and foreign photographers flock to Kyoto during cherry blossom season. I was one of these many photographers last year and until this day Kyoto and it’s beautiful cherry blossoms hold a special place in my heart. But planning a trip to Kyoto at the right time can be a hassle. That’s why I wanted to give you all of the information I collected over the past year and where exactly you’ll find the best cherry blossom locations in Kyoto!
If you’re heading to Japan for cherry blossom season you’ll probably also visit Tokyo. The blooming season here starts a little earlier than in Kyoto so make sure to have the perfect timing when visiting both cities.
Tokyo also has some stunning cherry blossom locations, so make sure not to skip this amazingly modern city.
Now, let’s get back to Kyoto!
Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, is known for it’s many shrines, temples and traditional Japanese culture. Did you know that Kyoto is only a short bullet train ride away from Tokyo? All you have to do is get a Japan Rail Pass and in the mere time span of just a few hours you go from the hustle and bustle in Tokyo to the serene temples of Kyoto.
You can stay in a traditional ryokan, unwind in a rejuvenating onsen and simply explore all the best cherry blossom locations that Kyoto has to offer!
When to visit Kyoto for cherry blossom season?
Planning a trip to Japan during cherry blossom season can be a little tricky. The main blooming time in Kyoto is usually around the end of March but there have been many occasions where during that time full bloom was already over or blooming hadn’t even started yet.
To make your planning go as smoothly as possible I follow up the exact cherry blossom forecast and will update this blog post whenever necessary.
For 2020 cherry blossom season in Kyoto is as follows: first bloom starts on 23/3 and full bloom will be on 01/04.
Where to find the best cherry blossom locations in Kyoto
When compared to Tokyo, Kyoto can be a little trickier to get around. There are a few subway lines but they mainly go around the city and aren’t the most practical. Make sure to pack some decent walking shoes with you cause you’ll be doing a lot of it when visiting Kyoto!
Now, are you ready to explore the best of the best cherry blossom locations in Kyoto with me?
Let’s start off with one of my personal favourites and a not very known cherry blossom location. The Chion-in temple is a beautiful temple complex situated on top of a hill in Kyoto. And while the main temple is pretty spectacular, my eye was immediately drawn to a smaller, more colourful temple with a beautiful cherry blossom tree perched right in front of it!
Another beautiful cherry blossom spot is the Yanaka shrine, which is really close by! This shrine is located in Maruyama park and can get a little crowded from 10 am. So make sure to be there on time to get a real feeling of this location.
If you walk a little further into the park you’re bound to bump into one of the most beautiful cherry blossom locations in Kyoto: the weeping willow tree.
Just a mere 10 minutes walking from Maruyama park, you’ll find the Gion district. Gion is kyoto’s geisha district and if you’re really lucky you might spot a real one! Important to know is that a real geisha will not pose for photos on the street. These are simply tourists that went for the full on geisha experience. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes but trust me, you’ll know when you see the real deal.
And if that isn’t enough already, just 2 minutes walking from the famous bridge in Gion you’ll find a cute street that is completely lined with cherry blossom trees.
Another favourite location of mine is close to the beautiful Hōkanji-Temple. Go up the road leading away from the temple (the one pictured in the left photo) and turn right. After a few minutes you’ll bump into a beautiful staircase and willow tree.
Other beautiful cherry blossom locations in Kyoto are:
- Philosopher’s Path
- Hirano Shrine
- Daigoji Temple
- Ninnaji Temple
- Okazaki Canal
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Where to stay in Kyoto
There are many, many options when it comes to accommodation in Kyoto. You can choose for one of the more luxurious hotels, go basic and minimalistic in a capsule hotel or go the more traditional route with a ryokan.
Below you’ll find my personal favourites in all 3 categories!
- The Thousand Kyoto – Experience the epitome of Kyoto hospitality with a warm welcome and personalized stay.
- Tomoya Residence Hotel Kyoto – The perfect balance between luxury and minimalism.
- First Cabin Kyoto Kawaramachi Sanjo – A luxury capsule hotel with more spacious “rooms” and a spa.
- Nine Hours Kyoto – Get ready to feel like you’ve entered a space ship!
- Nazuna Kyoto Gosho – One of the most beautiful ryokans in Kyoto!
- Yuzuya Ryokan – Stay in the heart of Gion in this luxurious ryokan.
Some extra tips for visiting Kyoto
Of course Kyoto has a lot more to offer than just cherry blossom sightings! Did you know that they filmed several scenes of Memoires of a Geisha here? The world renowned Inari shrine was used as one of the beautiful backdrops in this iconic movie. My biggest advice when visiting this shrine? Get there as early as possible! There is a subway station right at the entrance, however you might want to consider taking a taxi if you want to beat the crowds!
A little outside of the city you’ll find the Arashiyama bamboo forest. I didn’t visit this place myself but from what I have heard it gets very crowded, even before sunrise there will be a bunch of photographers lined up.
Speaking from personal experience I think 3 to 4 nights are the perfect amount to enjoy Kyoto to the fullest!