Kyoto is a magnetic must-see destination that beckons travelers, especially during Japan's cherry blossom season. As one of the country's ancient capitals, there is endless beauty and history with shimmering shrines, bountiful bamboo groves, and timeless temples, all adorned with emblematic sakura. It's no surprise that visitors and locals alike want to know where to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto, and luckily, there's no shortage of stunning spots.
When is Cherry Blossom Season in Kyoto?
Usually, the blossoms begin to unfurl in late March and in the first half of April. In 2024, according to the latest Japan Meteorological Corporation forecast, Kyoto cherry blossoms are expected to reach full bloom (their fluffiest!) around March 23.
Where To See Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto
Dive in with some of the most famed and under-the-radar places to partake in one of Japan's most cherished springtime traditions.
- Philosopher's Path
- Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
- Maruyama Park
- Nijo Castle
- Gion (Shinbashi-dori)
- Ujigawa Haryu Canal
- Kyoto Prefectural Office (Former Main Building)
- Keage Incline
- Daigoji Temple or Toji Temple
- Kyoto Botanical Gardens
Be sure to save this post for when cherry blossom season comes around!
1. Philosopher's Path
Take a contemplative journey along Kyoto's Philosopher's Path, a stone-laden trail tracing a canal in Higashiyama. Named for philosopher Nishida Kitaro, this 2-kilometer route is a serene escape infused with the calming aura that inspired Kitaro's meditative walks. Lined with hundreds of cherry blossom trees, the path transforms into a blooming paradise during the sakura season. Stretching from the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji) to Nanzen-ji Temple, the path weaves through restaurants, cafes, and quaint shops alongside charming temples and shrines.
Arashiyama has plenty beyond its famed bamboo grove. On the western fringes of Kyoto, this district, bordered by the Katsura River and mountains, has over 700 years of history. The cherry trees, planted by Emperor Go-Saga, have helped turn Arashiyama into a perennial magnet for travelers. Wander along the Oi River, where the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge gracefully spans the waters, discover the pink panorama at Tenryu-ji Temple, see 200 cherry trees paint the landscape and indulge in the hanami spectacle at Daikakuji Temple.
3. Maruyama Park
Maruyama Park is Kyoto's crown jewel during the sakura season. Based at the foot of the Higashiyama mountains and adjacent to Yasaka-jinja Shrine, this is Kyoto's oldest park, and it knows how to show off in the spring. Its pièce de résistance? An ancient Shidarezakura, a weeping cherry tree, reigns supreme in the park's heart. Crowds flock here to admire the view, especially once it comes to life in lights at night.
4. Nijo Castle
Nijo Castle is a realm of timeless beauty where history meets a breathtaking display of cherry blossoms. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, steeped in Kyoto's legacy, transforms during sakura season. With over 400 cherry trees boasting 50 varieties scattered across the expansive grounds, Nijo Castle steals the spotlight with its early-peaking, long-lasting blooms. As dusk falls, the castle dons an ethereal glow with evening illuminations, creating a magical fusion of history and blossoms.
5. Gion (Shinbashi-dori)
The enchanting world of Gion is Kyoto's famed geisha district, where visitors can enjoy cherry blossoms along Shinbashi-dori. Gion exudes traditional charm with its array of shops, restaurants, and o-chaya, but when night falls, Shinbashi-dori summons. The humble cobbled street transforms with glowing lanterns, casting a warm glow on the cherry blossom trees that stand sentinel along the sidewalk and river. Traditional Japanese houses provide the perfect backdrop to this rendezvous with nature and culture.
6. Ujigawa Haryu Canal
Sail through Kyoto's castle and sake history on the Ujigawa Haryu, a canal born from the ambition to construct Fushimi Castle. Built to ferry materials, this waterway now weaves through a path of sake-rich cellars. Hop aboard the sightseeing cruise to glide along the sakura-fringed canal, soaking in the kaleidoscope of pink hues. Marvel at the juxtaposition of sake cellars and cherry trees, a picturesque panorama echoing tales of a bygone era.
7. Kyoto Prefectural Office (Former Main Building)
This unconventional locale invites you to redefine your cherry blossom experience beyond parks, shrines, and temples. The former main building of the Kyoto Prefectural Office is an architectural anomaly from 1904, one of Kyoto's best-kept secrets. Venture into the inner garden during the Sakura Viewing Festival to admire the cherry trees against the brick facade. You'll find diverse varieties of cherry blossoms here, including the historical Gion weeping sakura, a descendant of Maruyama's Park's iconic blooms. For the ultimate view, head to the building's 2nd-floor windows or point your camera from the 1st-floor arch and the garden entrance, offering a unique backdrop to savor Kyoto sakura season.
8. Keage Incline
The Keage Incline is a lesser-known spot where history and nature converge. Once a bustling pathway for transporting boats, this gently sloping walkway has around 100 cherry trees. Close to Maruyama Park, the Keage Incline offers a year-round scenic stroll, but during sakura season, it truly comes alive! As cherry trees form a pastel-hued tunnel, walking through feels like a whimsical dream. Located a bit off the city center, the Keage Incline adds a touch of serenity, making it an ideal escape for those seeking the beauty of blossoms without crowds.
9. Daigoji Temple
Daigoji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a cornerstone of Japanese Buddhism. The temple's grounds have hosted hanami parties for centuries, even drawing the legendary warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi to celebrate under its blossoms. With a magnificent array of around 1,000 trees, Daigoji is where picture-perfect scenes unfold. A cherry blossom tunnel welcomes visitors at the entrance, and a colossal tree graces the front of the Reihokan Museum, ensuring a memorable blossom-filled experience.
10. Kyoto Botanical Gardens
Within the Kyoto Botanical Garden, you'll find an oasis for cherry blossom enthusiasts. Among the flowers, bushes, and trees lies a small forest adorned with cherry blossom trees, a perfect spot for a picturesque picnic. The centerpiece? A majestic weeping tree graces the expansive lawn at the garden's center. These late-blooming cherry trees peak in early April, extending the blossom season for those who arrive fashionably late to the blooming festivities in the city.
Go on a Cherry Blossom Food Tour in Kyoto
For an experience that's off the beaten path, slow down and enjoy the Kyoto cherry blossoms in Demachiyanagi, a peaceful area with access to Mt. Hiei and Mt. Daimonji. Enjoy the views, where you'll see other families, friends, students, and couples line the river banks, enjoying the Kyoto cherry blossoms together. You'll taste some festive snacks, but finish the tour with a seasonal dinner.
No matter where you end up admiring cherry blossoms in Kyoto, marvel at a display like nowhere else on Earth. Check out any of these places for a sakura paradise, or find one of your own as you explore everything Kyoto offers.
Need we say more? Book a cherry blossom four tour in Kyoto.
This blog post was originally written by Sue Gan. It was updated by the byFood team in January 2024.