It’s that time again. Spring is here and the air is filled with the scent of ume blossom, the pretty pink petals reminding us that sakura season is just around the corner. This year (2019), because winter was warmer than average, the cherry blossoms are expected to open earlier than average, with predictions for first blooms to arrive in Kyoto around March 24.
Here’s where you can catch a glimpse of these beauties in Kyoto, expected to peak in the first week of April.
Between Ginkakuji and Nanzenji Temples, admission free
The Philosopher’s Path is a lovely canalside path that links Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) with Nanzenji. It’s lined by hundreds of cherry trees and is a great place to stroll under the pastel petals.
Next to Yasaka Shrine, admission free
Illumination: during blooming season until midnight
Maruyama Park, next to Yasaka Shrine, is the most popular public park for cherry blossom parties, known as hanami. The star of the show is a large weeping cherry tree that is lit up in the evenings. Food stands and pop-up restaurants with tables under the trees are full of people laughing, drinking and getting into the spring spirit.
In Gion District, admission free
Beautiful canal street lined with preserved machiya, many of which have been converted into restaurants and cafés offering the perfect spot for some sakura appreciation.
Adjacent to Okazaki Canal near Nanzenji Temple, admission free
Part of a canal system that provides Kyoto with water from Lake Biwa on the other side of the mountains. The Keage Incline was used until the 1950s to transport boats between Okazaki Canal and other areas. Today, the gentle slope is lined by around one hundred cherry trees.
Outside Heian Shrine, admission free
Cruises 2019: March 23 to May 6 – 9:30 to 16:30 (March 28 to April 7 – 8:00 to 20:30 with nighttime illumination)
Set just outside of the Heian Shrine, Okazaki Canal connects Lake Biwa Canal with Kyoto’s famous Kamo River. It’s lined by beautiful cherry trees, and quaint riverboat tours are the perfect way to take in the view during the hanami season. Boats run every 15-30 minutes for 1200 yen per person.
Behind the main building, 600 yen, 8:30 to 17:30
Large numbers of late-bloom weeping cherry trees decorate the garden of the Heian Shrine. The trees reach full bloom a short time after the city’s other cherry trees, making it the perfect place for visitors who miss the main season by a few days.
Other spots in the city include:
Nijo Castle, which has nighttime illuminations from March 21 to April 14 – 18:00 to 21:30
Kyoto Botanical Gardens, which has nighttime illuminations from March 25 to April 8, until 21:00
Kiyomizu-Dera, which has nighttime illuminations from March 29 to April 7 – 18:00 to 21:00
I also just love to wander the streets of the city and the banks of the Kamo River to see what treasures I stumble upon, a tactic I strongly advise all my guests to adopt.