【2018 Edition】 Must-See in Kyoto! Top 10 Photogenic Cherry Blossom Spots

Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, is home to many popular sites where lovely pink flowers of sakura (cherry blossom) trees paint gorgeous spring landscapes. Below are the 10 most recommended spots in Kyoto for viewing cherry blossoms, centering on spots included in the Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan and those that been designated as places of scenic beauty.


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1. Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera is truly one of the most popular sights here. Over 15 of its temple buildings are designated as World Cultural Heritage sites. Around 1,000 cherry blossom trees will bloom during spring in the precinct of Otowa-san, where Kiyomizu-dera is situated. The three-storied pagoda is a great building to get a background shot of and the "kiyomizu no butai", or wooden stage, has a spectacular view. The temple and the trees are also lit up at night during the special nighttime viewing period in spring.

Admission fee: Adult: 400 JPY, Elementary/junior high school student: 200 JPY
Best time to see: From late March to early April

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2. Arashiyama

Centered on the Togetsu-kyo Bridge over the Katsuragawa River, Arashiyama is an area that is filled with attractions, such as flowers that change every season, bamboo groves, and scattered temples and shrines. It has also long been known as a famous spot for cherry blossoms, a scenic spot that was loved by royalty and nobility from the past. Cherry trees bloom everywhere in this area during spring, but if you look at Togetsu-kyo Bridge across the cherry blossoms from the tree-lined street along Katsuragawa River, you will get to enjoy a beautiful scenery that is every bit Kyoto in vibe. The best time to view the cherry blossoms would be in early April at the banks of the Hirosawa Pond and Osawa Pond, mid-April at Giou-ji Temple, and late April at Nison-in temple.

Recommended Viewing Time: From mid-March to late April

3. Heian-jingu Shrine

Heian-jingu Shrine is a shrine that was built in 1895. Its shrine gardens are made up of four gardens – one each on the east, middle, west and south, and these gardens are laid out in such a way that they surround the brightly colored vermilion shrine. They create a beautiful landscape with about 300 cherry trees in bloom. If you pass through the gate of the South Garden, you will be welcomed by weeping cherry blossoms that cover the sky. If you go to the East Garden, you will get to marvel at the wonderful sight created by the Shobi-kan (guest house) built on the side of Seiho Pond, the Taiheikaku Bridge and the cherry blossoms.

Garden admission fee: Adult: 600 JPY, Child: 300 JPY
Recommended Viewing Time: From ealry April to mid-April

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4. Ninna-ji

Built in 888, Ninna-ji is a prestigious temple that once flourished as a “monzeki” (a temple where the imperial family members resided on their way to being a priest). It is famous for the “Omuro-zakura” trees that are shorter than the typical cherry trees and bloom about 10 days later. About 200 of these cherry trees that have been designated as a place of scenic beauty in Japan are planted on the left side (west) of the temple, right after the entrance of the middle gate of the temple. Aside from Omuro-zakura trees, you can also appreciate various kinds of cherry trees here, such as the Someiyoshino and weeping cherry blossom trees. When taking pictures, it is recommended that you capture the trees at an angle that has the five-storied pagoda in the background. This spot has been listed in the Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan.

Temple admission fee during cherry blossom season: Adult: 500 JPY, Elementary/Junior high school student: 200 JPY
※ A separate admission fee is required for visiting the palace and the Reihokan Museum
Recommended Viewing Time: From early April to mid-April

5. Uji bashi Bridge

Spanning the Ujigawa River, the Uji bashi Bridge is the oldest bridge in Japan. It is also a spot that boasts about 2,000 gorgeous cherry trees on both banks in the upstream segment of the river. One of the recommended ways to enjoy looking at the cherry blossoms here would be to ride on the Ujigawa Pleasure Boat (fare: 500 JPY, required time: 15-20 minutes). You can see the rows of cherry blossom trees along the river, as well as the reflection of the pretty flowers on the surface of the water, all while relaxing on the boat. This spot that has been named one of the Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan.

Recommended Viewing Time: From late March to early April

6. Daigoji Temple

Daigoji is a temple that houses numerous national treasures and important cultural properties, including the “Goju-no-to” (five-storied pagoda) that is the oldest wooden structure in Kyoto. The vast precincts that have been designated as historic sites are divided into “Shimo-Daigo” (lower part of Daigo) and “Kami-Daigo” (upper part of Daigo), dotted by over 100 temple buildings. Here, you will get to witness a beautiful scenery in spring when the almost 1,000 cherry trees start to blossom. The highlights here are the weeping cherry trees at the Reihokan museum garden. The 100-year-old Someiyoshino tree is also a must-see. Other notable spots here are the weeping cherry blossoms at the Sanbo-in temple, and the tunnel of cherry blossoms at the approach leading to the temple. This spot is included in the Top 100 Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan.

Admission fee (Sanboin, Reihokan and Main Temple): Adult: 1,500 JPY, Junior/senior high school student: 1,000 JPY
Recommended Viewing Time: From mid-March to mid-April

7. Maruyama Park

The oldest park in the city, Maruyama Park was built using a natural hill to resemble a circuit-style Japanese garden. It has Higashiyama in the east, Yasaka Shrine in the west, Kodai-ji Temple in the south and Chion-in Temple in the north, and the flowering plants there paint the garden of this park in beautiful colors. The cherry blossoms that bloom here in spring are even said to be the most beautiful in all of Kyoto. With the entire garden covered in cherry blossoms, many people come to marvel at them. Of all the cherry trees there, however, the huge weeping cherry blossom tree that is almost right in the middle of the park is especially famous. It is also illuminated at night, and the fantastic scenery that is created is definitely a must-see.

Recommended Viewing Time: From late March to early April

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8. Kodai-ji Zen Temple

Kodai-ji Zen Temple is a temple that is famous for being built by the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a famous warrior during the Sengoku Period (15th – 16th centuries), to mourn his death. It has been loved as a famous spot for flowers since ancient times, and of all the trees planted at this temple, the most popular are the weeping cherry blossom trees at the dry pond garden that spreads in front of the Hojo (the monastery). You will enjoy the elegant appearance of the branches with pink flowers drooping to the white sand.

Admission fee: Adult: 600 JPY, Junior/senior high school student: 250 JPY
Recommended Viewing Time: From late March to mid-April

9. Tenryu-ji Temple

Tenryu-ji is a temple that was built in Arashiyama in 1339 in memory of Emperor Godaigo. It is registered as a World Heritage Site. This temple has a Chisen circuit-style Japanese garden (wherein there is a path going around a central pond) that has Kameyama in the background, where you can enjoy beautiful views that change every season. About 200 cherry trees are planted on the temple grounds, but especially gorgeous are the weeping cherry blossom trees found in front of Tahoden (Hall of Many Treasures). The view of the cherry blossoms from the Bokyo-no-oka hill is also superb.

Admission fees:
Gardens (Sogenchi, Hyakkaen): Adults: 500 JPY, Elementary/junior high school students: 300 JPY
Temples (Large Hojo (the monastery), Shoin, Tahoden): 300 JPY
Recommended Viewing Time: From late March to mid-April

10. Iwashimizu-Hachimangu

Perched on top of Mt. Otokoyama that has an elevation of 123m, Iwashimizu-Hachimangu is a shrine that is listed as one of the three greatest Hachimangu shrines in Japan. Its lacquer-coated Honden (main shrine), Maidono (dance hall), Romon (two-storied gate) and corridors that were built by Tokugawa Iemitsu, a shogun (general) during the Edo Period (17th – 19th centuries), have been designated as national treasures of Japan. During spring, around 2,000 cherry trees bloom on the mountain, treating visitors to an ethereal sight. At the shrine garden you can see beautiful weeping cherry blossom trees. The Otokoyama Sakura Matsuri (Mt. Otokoyama Cherry Blossom Festival) is held during the cherry blossom season.

Recommended Viewing Time: From late March to mid-April

If you visit Kyoto in the spring, it is recommended that you check out the famous cherry blossom spots in the region, especially the ones listed above. Enjoy the beautiful scenery that you can only see in spring.

Kansai Feature

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

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