Once known as Heian-kyō (平安京, Capital of Peace), Kyoto is a destination rich in culture and history.
The region is home to roughly 20% of Japan’s National Treasures and 14% of the nation’s Important Cultural Properties. During spring, the city becomes tinted in delicate pink and many visit to marvel at the fleeting beauty of the sakura.
Here are some of our top picks for ohanami (お花見, cherry blossom viewing) in Kyoto City:
#1 – Tenryū-ji Temple 天龍寺
This is Kyoto’s most famous temple with the Arashiyama mountains as backdrop. Their Zen garden — Sogenchi-teien (池泉庭園) — has been recognised by the Japanese government as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty. Around 200 sakura trees are planted on the grounds, but the temple is especially famous for its shidare zakura (枝垂桜, weeping cherry tree).
68 Susukinobabachō, Saga-Tenryūji Ukyō-ku, Kyōto, Japan 616-8385 | tenryuji.com/en
#2 – Ninna-ji Temple 仁和寺
This World Heritage Site is famous for its locally-cultivated sakura which are called Omuro-zakura (御室桜, dwarf cherry tree). These unique trees are shorter in height and bloom later than the mainstream Somei Yoshino variety.
33 Omuroouchi, Ukyo Ward, Kyōto, Japan 616-8092 | ninnaji.or.jp
#3 – Nijo Castle 二条城
50 varieties of sakura, including rare types such as Satozakura, are scattered throughout this World Heritage Site. Taiko drumming, koto performances and tea ceremonies accompany the evening’s light-up. This majestic castle was also built as the Kyoto residence of Japan’s first shogun.
541 Nijōjōchō, Nakagyō-ku, Kyōto, Japan 604-8301 | http://www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp/bunshi/nijojo/
#4 – Maruyama Park 円山公園
The 12-metre-tall Gion no Yozakura (祇園の夜桜, Night Sakura of Gion) weeping cherry found here is a Kyoto sakura icon. The night illumination of this and some 680 other cherry trees in four varieties make this a favourite night spot for many.
Maruyamacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Japan 605-0071
#5 – Keage Incline 蹴上インクライン
Once used as a ship-transporting railway between canals until 1940s, this 582m track is famous for its nearly 100 Yamazakura and Somei Yoshino cherry trees. The east side of Niomon Dori is the best spot for viewing!
339 Higashikomonozachō, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto, Japan 605-0044
#6 – Hirano Shrine 平野神社
See over 60 varieties of cherry blossom here, particularly the early-blooming Sakigake sakura (魁桜). The blossoming of this species is said to herald the start of ohanami season. The shrine’s annual cherry blossom festival is the oldest in Kyoto, dating back to 985 AD.
1 Hirano Miyamotochō, Kita-ku, Kyōto, Japan 603-8322 | hiranojinja.com
#7 – Philosopher’s Walk 哲学の道
This place is named after the famous philosopher Kitaro Nishida, who meditated daily along this path. The cherry blossoms form a pink canopy over this 1.5 kilometre canal route, sprinkling petals over its waters. Cited as one of Japan’s Top 100 Walking Paths, there’s no better place to ponder!
#8 – Kamo River 鴨川
Stroll along the riverbank or have a picnic under the cascade of beni (紅, red) weeping sakura which forms during full bloom. After that, follow the path to the Kyoto Botanical Garden to see over 500 cherry trees of 70 varieties, which are illuminated at night.