Welcome to the enchanting world of cherry blossoms in Kyoto, a city that transforms into a storybook of pink and white hues each spring.
Kyoto, known for its rich history and cultural heritage, becomes even more magical during sakura season, when its temples, gardens, and streets are adorned with blooming cherry blossoms.
This blog post is your ultimate guide to the best cherry blossom locations in the city, where ancient traditions meet the fleeting beauty of nature.
From the iconic blooms at Kiyomizu-dera Temple to the picturesque Philosopher’s Path, each spot has its own unique way of celebrating the sakura.
Whether you’re a photographer looking to capture this stunning spectacle, a nature lover seeking serene beauty, or a traveler on a quest to experience Japanese culture at its peak, Kyoto’s cherry blossom spots will leave you spellbound.
So, join us as we embark on a journey through the most breathtaking cherry blossom locations in Kyoto, where each petal tells a story of ephemeral beauty and timeless allure. 🌸🏯🌸
The best time to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto
The best time to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto in 2024, as with every year, is typically around late March to early April, but this can vary slightly depending on the weather conditions leading up to the spring.
The sakura (cherry blossoms) usually reach full bloom about a week after the first buds open, and this peak bloom period often lasts for around 7 to 10 days.
To catch the cherry blossoms at their peak, it’s advisable to keep an eye on the cherry blossom forecasts. These forecasts are updated regularly and provide the expected dates for when the cherry trees will start to bloom and reach full bloom.
Remember, the sakura season is celebrated and cherished for its fleeting nature, symbolizing the beauty and transience of life. So, planning your visit around the forecast peak bloom can help ensure that you experience the stunning beauty of the cherry blossoms in Kyoto in all their glory.
💡 TIP – In Kyoto, the first blossoms are expected on March 23, three days sooner than usual, with peak bloom around April 1. The next update from the JMC is scheduled for February 25, when we should be getting a clearer picture of what spring will bring.
This is an app where you can find out information on the forecast of the flowering and full bloom dates of the cherry blossoms and their progress towards flowering (Flowering Meter) all over Japan.
How to reach Kyoto
Reaching Kyoto from nearby cities in Japan is convenient and efficient, thanks to the country’s extensive and reliable transportation network. Here are some common transportation options along with the distances from major nearby cities:
- From Tokyo:
- By Train: The Shinkansen (bullet train) is the fastest way, taking about 2-2.5 hours to reach Kyoto. Tokyo and Kyoto are approximately 460 kilometers (286 miles) apart.
- By Bus: Overnight buses are available, taking about 8 hours, suitable for travelers on a budget.
- From Osaka:
- By Train: The JR rapid trains take about 30 minutes, while the Shinkansen takes about 15 minutes. Osaka is roughly 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Kyoto.
- By Bus: Regular buses connect the two cities, taking about 1 hour.
- From Nagoya:
- By Train: The Shinkansen from Nagoya to Kyoto takes about 35-50 minutes. The distance between Nagoya and Kyoto is around 130 kilometers (81 miles).
- By Bus: Regular buses are also available, offering a more economical option, with travel times around 2-3 hours.
Each mode of transportation offers a balance of speed, cost, and convenience, allowing you to choose based on your travel preferences and schedule. The Shinkansen, while more expensive, provides a fast and comfortable journey, making it a popular choice for travelers.
Buses, on the other hand, are a more affordable alternative, though they take longer.
Additionally, for those driving, the well-maintained expressways offer a scenic route, but it’s important to consider toll fees and potential traffic. Whether you’re coming from Tokyo, Osaka, or Nagoya, reaching Kyoto is straightforward.
💡 TIP – If you plan on taking the train in Japan make sure to get the Japan Rail Pass
Japan Rail Pass Info
The Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is an incredibly valuable tool for travelers exploring Japan, offering cost-effective and convenient access to a vast network of train travel throughout the country.
This pass is exclusively available for foreign tourists and is essentially a flat-rate ticket that allows unlimited travel on most services operated by the Japan Railways Group, including the famous Shinkansen (bullet trains), for a specific period ranging from 7 to 21 days.
The JR Pass is particularly advantageous for those planning to visit multiple regions, as purchasing individual train tickets can quickly become expensive.
With the JR Pass, you can hop on and off trains as you wish, making it perfect for an extensive itinerary covering cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, and more.
Additionally, it simplifies the travel process, eliminating the need to buy separate tickets for each journey and navigate complex fare structures.
For long-distance travels and frequent inter-city commutes, the JR Pass not only helps in significant savings but also enhances the overall travel experience by offering the flexibility and freedom to explore Japan’s diverse landscapes and cultural offerings at your own pace.
The best cherry blossom locations in Kyoto
Are you ready to explore the best of the best cherry blossom locations in Kyoto with me?
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!
1. Chion-in Temple
Let’s start off with one of my personal favorites and a not very known cherry blossom location in Kyoto!
Located in the picturesque Higashiyama district, Chion-in is the head temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism and holds great historical significance. The temple’s massive Sanmon gate, one of the largest in Japan, is an architectural marvel and a grand entrance to the sacred grounds.
As you explore the temple, you’ll find beautifully landscaped gardens, serene ponds, and various halls, each telling a story of the temple’s rich history.
The Miedo Hall, dedicated to the founder of Jodo Buddhism, is particularly noteworthy. Visitors are also often captivated by the temple’s immense bell, one of the largest in Japan, used in New Year celebrations.
2. Yasaka Shrine
Located at the end of the bustling Shijo-dori and in the Gion district, Yasaka Shrine is one of Kyoto’s most famous and accessible shrines.
The shrine, also known as Gion Shrine, is renowned for its association with the Gion Matsuri, one of Japan’s most famous festivals. As you enter through its towering vermilion gates, you’re greeted by a vibrant and lively atmosphere, reflecting its central role in Kyoto’s community.
The shrine complex consists of several buildings, including the main hall and a stage for dance performances.
The surrounding park, Maruyama Park, is a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing in spring, adding to the shrine’s scenic beauty.
Yasaka Shrine is particularly enchanting in the evening when the lanterns are lit, creating a magical and ethereal environment. The shrine is also a great place to witness traditional Japanese customs and may even offer a chance to see geiko and maiko (geishas) as they frequent this area.
3. Maruyama Park
As Kyoto’s oldest and most popular public park for cherry blossom viewing, Maruyama Park transforms into a wonderland of pink and white hues during the spring.
The centerpiece of the park is a large, weeping cherry tree (shidarezakura), spectacularly lit up at night, creating a breathtakingly picturesque scene that draws both locals and tourists alike.
The park’s pathways are lined with a variety of cherry trees, offering a mesmerizing display of blossoms. During the cherry blossom season, the park becomes a lively venue for hanami (flower viewing) parties, where people gather under the blooming trees with picnic mats, food, and drinks, celebrating the arrival of spring in a festive atmosphere. The park’s proximity to other famous sites, such as Yasaka Shrine and the Gion district, makes it an ideal stop in a day of sightseeing.
As the cherry blossoms bloom, Gion’s traditional streets and wooden machiya houses are adorned with a soft, pink canopy, creating a picturesque atmosphere.
Strolling through the narrow lanes, you might catch glimpses of geiko and maiko (geishas) in their exquisite kimonos, adding a touch of elegance and cultural richness to the already stunning scenery.
The Shirakawa area, with its canal lined by weeping cherry trees, is particularly captivating and offers a perfect backdrop for photos. During this season, the Hanami-koji Street, leading to the iconic Yasaka Shrine, becomes even more vibrant, bustling with visitors and locals soaking in the beauty of the sakura.
Many teahouses and restaurants in Gion offer special seasonal experiences, allowing you to enjoy traditional Japanese cuisine or a tea ceremony under the blossoming trees.
This 46-meter tall, five-storied pagoda is a striking symbol of the Higashiyama district and one of Kyoto’s most recognizable landmarks.
Dating back to the 6th century, Hokanji Temple has stood the test of time, embodying the elegance and resilience of traditional Japanese architecture. As you wander through the narrow, stone-paved streets leading to the temple, you’ll be transported back to old Kyoto, with the pagoda rising majestically at the end of the path.
The area around Hokanji Temple, particularly the streets of Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka, is lined with traditional shops and tea houses, offering an exploration of Kyoto’s crafts, snacks, and souvenirs.
While the interior of the pagoda is not always open to the public, its exterior and the surrounding area offer plenty of photographic opportunities. The temple is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season and autumn, when the changing leaves create a colorful backdrop.
6. Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Perched on the hills of Eastern Kyoto, this UNESCO World Heritage site offers breathtaking views of the city and is famed for its wooden stage that juts out from the main hall, 13 meters above the hillside below.
The temple, dating back to 780 AD, is a testament to classical Japanese architecture, built without the use of a single nail! The walk up to the temple, through the charming, narrow lanes of the Higashiyama district, is lined with quaint shops selling traditional crafts and snacks.
The temple complex includes several other shrines and halls, each with its own significance, including the Jishu Shrine dedicated to the deity of love and matchmaking.
One of the most memorable experiences is drinking from the Otowa Waterfall, where visitors use cups attached to long poles to catch and drink the water, believed to have wish-granting powers.
Kiyomizu-dera is particularly stunning during the cherry blossom season and autumn, when the surrounding foliage creates a spectacular display of colors.
7. Philosopher’s Path
This charming and tranquil walkway, named after the famous Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro who once strolled here for daily meditation, is transformed into a picturesque paradise in spring.
The path, which runs along a canal lined with hundreds of cherry trees, becomes a canopy of soft pink blooms, creating an enchanting tunnel of sakura. Stretching for about two kilometers in the northern part of Kyoto’s Higashiyama district, the path winds through quaint neighborhoods, past small cafes, craft shops, and a series of temples and shrines.
It’s a perfect spot for leisurely walks, photography, and experiencing the Japanese tradition of hanami (cherry blossom viewing).
8. Hirano Shrine
Renowned for its stunning sakura (cherry blossoms), Hirano Shrine becomes a focal point of celebration and beauty in spring. The shrine, which dates back to 794 AD, features over 60 varieties of cherry trees, creating a diverse tapestry of colors and blossoms.
The meticulously landscaped gardens and pathways within the shrine are lined with these flowering trees, providing a serene and picturesque setting for visitors.
During cherry blossom season, the shrine hosts the annual Hirano Cherry Blossom Festival, known for its nighttime illuminations, where the trees are lit up, creating a magical and ethereal ambiance. Stalls selling traditional food and goods pop up, adding to the festive atmosphere.
8. Okazaki Canal
During spring, the canal’s banks are lined with cherry trees in full bloom, creating a spectacular display of soft pink and white blossoms.
A boat ride along the canal provides a different perspective, allowing you to glide gently under the canopy of sakura.
The canal, located in the cultural district of Okazaki, is also near several of Kyoto’s major museums and the Heian Shrine, making it a convenient stop amidst a day of sightseeing.
9. Daigoji Temple
Located in the city of Fukuchiyama, north of Kyoto, this temple is known for its beautiful cherry trees that bloom splendidly in spring, creating a tranquil and colorful atmosphere. During cherry blossom season, the temple and its surroundings become a canvas of pink and white hues, perfect for leisurely strolls and photography.
Traveling from Kyoto to Daigoji Temple in Fukuchiyama takes about 1 to 1.5 hours, making it a feasible day trip. The journey typically involves taking a train from Kyoto Station to Fukuchiyama Station, followed by a short bus or taxi ride to the temple.
This trip not only allows you to witness the spectacular cherry blossoms but also to explore the scenic countryside and the charming city of Fukuchiyama.
10. Ninnaji Temple
Ninnaji is renowned for its late-blooming Omuro cherry trees, which typically flower a little after the majority of sakura in Kyoto, providing a splendid display for those who miss the earlier blooms.
The temple grounds, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, become a breathtaking sea of pink, creating a tranquil and picturesque setting. Ninnaji’s serene atmosphere, away from the more crowded spots, offers a more peaceful cherry blossom viewing experience.
Located in the north-western part of Kyoto, Ninnaji Temple is easily accessible by public transport. It’s approximately a 30-minute ride from Kyoto Station, with options including the JR train to Hanazono Station followed by a short walk, or a direct bus that drops you close to the temple.
Where to stay in Kyoto during cherry blossom season
There are many, many options when it comes to accommodation in Kyoto. You can choose for one of the more luxurious hotelsor go the more traditional route with a ryokan.
Below you’ll find my personal favorites in both 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.
- Nazuna Kyoto Gosho – One of the most beautiful ryokans in Kyoto!
- Yuzuya Ryokan – Stay in the heart of Gion in this luxurious ryokan.
Map of the best cherry blossom locations in Kyoto
🗺️ How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Japan so famous for cherry blossoms?
apan is famous for cherry blossoms, or sakura, due to their significant cultural symbolism, historical importance, and stunning beauty. These blossoms represent the transient nature of life, a concept rooted in Buddhist teachings.
The tradition of enjoying cherry blossoms has ancient historical roots in Japanese literature and art. Sakura trees are found nationwide, allowing widespread participation in hanami, the traditional cherry blossom viewing festivals.
These events involve social gatherings under blooming cherry trees and are marked by cultural celebrations.
Is it illegal to pick cherry blossoms in Japan?
Yes, it is generally considered illegal and certainly frowned upon to pick cherry blossoms in Japan. The cherry blossom trees, especially those in public parks, temples, and along streets, are protected. Picking their blossoms or branches is seen as damaging public property and is against local laws in many places.
More articles on visiting Japan 📚
- The Most Instagrammable Places in Japan
- How to take photos at teamLab Borderless in Japan.
- The Best Cherry Blossom Locations in Tokyo
- The Best Cherry Blossom Locations In Kyoto (2024 – MAP Included)
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Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.