10 Must-Visit Spots For Cherry Blossom Viewing In Kyoto

Kyoto is one of the most iconic cities in Japan full of plenty of places with authentic Japanese beauty. In spring, cherry blossom trees called sakura bloom on every street corner of this beautiful old town. Each and every sakura tree is worth taking the time to see, but that would take a lifetime! Read on for our picks of the ten best places for cherry blossom viewing in Kyoto to really make the most of this magical time of year.

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1. Kiyomizu Temple, Higashiyama-ku

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Listed as a world heritage site, Kiyomizu Temple is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Japan. In the vast shrine complex, which lies across Mt. Otowa, there are about 1,000 sakura trees which bloom every year. You can see the beautiful combination of Japanese architecture and sakura throughout the grounds.

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The nighttime sakura at the famous "Kiyomizu Temple stage" is breathtaking. The sight of the stage atop the cliff is absolutely gorgeous! You can see the whole city of Kyoto from the stage, and the view gets even more beautiful when sakura is blooming. During the special night opening period, the view is simply magical. The blue light emitted from the temple represents the mercy of Kannon, the deity of compassion. It will surely be a purifying moment.

The Higashiyama area around Kiyomizu Temple is one of Kyoto's best sightseeing areas. If you're planning a trip, don't miss our list of 20 Top Places to Visit in Higashiyama to get a sense of just what treats are waiting for you here!

Peak cherry blossom season: Late March - Early April 

2. Okazaki Canal, Sakyo-ku

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Okazaki Canal is drained from Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. It is listed as a national historic landmark, and known as a popular spot for sakura viewing with beautiful Yoshino, a variety of sakura, blooming on the both sides of the canal. Fairly close to Heian Jingu, another site known as a spot for seeing Yoshino cherry trees, this area for a sakura viewing stroll.

The evening illuminations during Okazaki Sakura Illumination event is also a must-see. Taking a ride on the cruising boats called jikkokubune that operate only in spring is another great thing to do during this time. A 25-min-boat trip that covers 1.5 km down on the canal will surely entertain you.

Peak cherry blossom season: Late March - Early April

3. Philosopher's Path, Sakyo-ku

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Philosopher's Walk is a pedestrian path close to Ginkaku-ji and Mt. Daimonji that goes along the canal. The path got its name because Kitaro Nishida, an influential Japanese philosopher of Meiji period, was said to often walk around the path.

About 500 sakura trees bloom every year along this calm and quiet canal. The path is about 2km-long, and when the sakura comes to full bloom, the trees form a tunnel of sakura over the water. With the reflections on the river colored by the pink of sakura, the overwhelming beauty of this path is certainly worth seeing.

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There are a couple of cafes in the path between Ginkaku-ji road and Wakaoji, so you can have a little break if you get a bit tired along the way. Walking on this path in a warm spring weather is a quintessential Kyoto experience.

Peak cherry blossom season: Late March - Early April 

4. Daigo-ji Temple, Fushimi-ku

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The world heritage site, Daigo-ji Temple is a popular cherry blossom viewing spot in Kyoto. It is also known as the temple where Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the first person to unite Japan, hosted the famous sakura viewing extravaganza, Hanami of Daigo. The entirety of Mt. Daigo is a part of Daigo-ji's precinct, and the place will be so beautiful in spring with all the sakura trees planted in the mountain. Entering through the main gate, you will be greeted by a tunnel of sakura.

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Above is a sakura tree called the Yae-beni weeping cherry. One of the things that make this place stand out from the rest is that you can see a lot of sakura trees with historical interest such as the Taikochiyo shidare, which is the oldest weeping cherry tree in Kyoto.

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The red-colored Benten-do temple call is also worth a visit. There is a also famous garden listed as a national historic site called Sanbo-in garden. It is a great place with authentic Japanese beauty, but keep in mind that photos are prohibited in the garden.

Peak cherry blossom season: Mid March - Early April 

5. Gion Shirakawa, Higashiyama-ku

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Gion Shirakawa is a famous promenade where you can take a causal walk while listening to the sound of a running river. Although, there are not too many sakura trees compared to the other spots, when the blooming season comes, you can still enjoy viewing sakura in a very Kyoto-like atmosphere.

Another thing to keep an eye on along with sakura is the traditional architecture of old Kyoto such as stone paving and bridges and historical buildings in the area. These things are unique to Kyoto and give a sense of the history of this ancient city.

When it gets dark, the whole place turns into something very special, bathed by the subtle light coming from the traditional Japanese restaurants lighting up the sakura an driver. It will make you feel as if you have gone back in time. This area is easily accessible from Gion Shijo Station, and is highly recommended for anyone who wants to enjoy sakura in an old Japanese atmosphere.

Peak cherry blossom season: Late March - Early April 

6. Maruyama Park, Higashiyama-ku

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Maruyama Park is the first urban park in Kyoto city and one of the most famous spots for sakura viewing. Around 700 sakura trees including as weeping cherry, Yoshino cherry, and mountain cherry bloom each year in this spacious park.

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One tree that literally stands out is the one in the middle of the park. It is about 90 years old, 12 metres high, and known as "the weeping cherry of Gion". There used to be a great tree that was about 200 years old at this site. Though the original tree died in 1947, it left the seeds from which the tree we see today grew. During the cherry blossom period, trees will be illuminated from sunset to midnight each evening. 

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The park has some cafes and traditional Japanese restaurants in it, so it will be a good idea to take a break in one of those after a little walk. Food stalls are also set up during the blooming season, so you can enjoy drinks, food, and of course sakura viewing all at once.

Peak cherry blossom season: Late March - Early April 

7. Heian Jingu Shin-en, Sakyo-ku

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Heian Jingu was built to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the relocation of the capital from Heijo-kyo in what today is the city of Nara, to Heian-kyo, or Kyoto, which took place in 794. In this huge compound there are four stroll gardens surrounding the main shrine at all four directions. You can really enjoy Japan's unique beauty at this shrine.

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You need to pay an entrance fee, but the weeping cherry in the shrine is something worth paying to see. A very famous writer called Junichiro Tanizaki wrote about this sakura in one of his most celebrated works, Konayuki (Powder Snow). This is a place everyone should visit at least once.

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There will be quite a view when the gardens are illuminated in the evening (6:15 pm - 9:00 pm) during  the Heian Jingu Benishidare Concert event. One thing to keep in mind is that during cherry blossom season, you are not allowed to use tripods or monopods due to the crowds (at other times of the year, tripods are permitted provided you pay an extra fee to use them at the entrance). Photo shoots inside the fences and on the grass are also prohibited, so while you may get swept away by the beautiful views, be sure to follow the shrine's rules so everyone can enjoy their time here.

For more about Heian Jingu Shrine and the surrounding area, we have a Complete Guide to Okazaki, the Center of Kyoto's Major Tourist Attractions. Use the Okazaki Loop Bus line in this article to zip from sakura spot to sakura spot like a local!

Peak cherry blossom season: Early - Mid April

8. Chion-in, Higashiyama-ku

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Chion-in is a temple mostly known for its gigantic gate. Listed as a national treasure, the gate is 24 metres high and 50 meters wide. In the spring, blooming sakura trees decorate the gates at each side, making it a great spot for photo shoots. Chion-in Temple offers a lot to see, including a giant bell that weighs a massive 70 tonnes!

Above you can see a little glimpse of the sakura trees and a slope called Otokozaka (Men's Slope) through the main gate. There are about 250 sakura trees planted in the temple grounds. Chion-in also has a couple of gardens such as Yuzen-en and Hojo garden, both of which have sakura trees to enjoy. The place is relatively less crowded, so if you want to enjoy sakura in a nice and quiet atmosphere, this is the place to be.

Peak cherry blossom season: Late March - Mid April

9. Ryuan-ji Temple, Ukyo-ku

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The rock garden in Ryuan-ji Temple is a sophisticated traditional Japanese garden consists only of rocks and white sand. In spring, you can see the weeping cherry blooming over the wall. The harmony of the white of the garden and the dense pink colors of sakura makes a beautiful view.

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There is also a pond in the temple gardens. The view of sakura itself and its reflection on the pond is so beautiful that it makes you feel like your heart has been purified. It is not the most showy place, but it certainly is a place to feel the aesthetic art of Japan.

Peak cherry blossom season: Late March - Mid April 

10. Tenryu-ji Temple, Arashiyama

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Registered as a national treasure, Tenryu-ji Temple is one of Arashiyama's best sightseeing spots. This beautiful temple has a historic garden which is a popular place for sakura viewing. There are about 200 sakura trees of various kinds such as Yoshino cherry, weeping cherry, and double flowered cherry. The weeping cherry here is a must see. 

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In this garden you can enjoy the beauty of the nature in Japan throughout the year. In spring, many kinds of flowers such as Daphne odora, Chinese peony, and Thunberg spirea will bloom at together. These beautiful flowers perfectly complement sakura viewing. Make sure to also see the ink painting called Unryu-zu painted on the ceiling of the Hodo lecture hall. It is overwhelmingly beautiful.

Arashiyama is a little way from the city centre of Kyoto, but it's full of amazing things to see, including an iconic bamboo grove and Arashiyama Monkey Park. You could easily dedicate a day to exploring this stunning historic area. For more information about what there is to do here, check out our guide to 14 Sights You Can't Miss in Arashiyama!

Peak cherry blossom season: Late March - Mid April 

Springtime in Kyoto

The streets in Kyoto speak to the history of Japan itself. The unique combination of historic buildings and temples and the city's modern development makes for an interesting site. If you are going to Kyoto in spring, we hope you'll pay a visit to the places we've recommended in this article! The unique beauty of each place is waiting for you!

If you're visting Japan in cherry blossom season, we're here to help! Our 2020 Cherry Blossom Forecast covers all you need to know about the best places in Japan to see cherry blossoms, plus exactly when they're forecasted to be at their peak in 2020. Cherry blossom season is short, so visit our guide to really enjoy this beautiful time of year!


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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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