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Visiting Kyoto During Cherry Blossom Season: Complete Guide & Viewing Tips

Visiting Kyoto During Cherry Blossom Season: Complete Guide & Viewing Tips

Date published: 5 March 2023

Kyoto is one of the best places to experience the cherry blossom season in Japan, where the city's rich history and culture provide a backdrop for the beautiful and fleeting flowers. For centuries, cherry blossoms have been a symbol of Japan, appearing in everything from ancient paintings to modern anime series.

This transient beauty is celebrated in Japanese poetry, emphasizing the importance of enjoying life in the moment. With their breathtaking display, it's no wonder that viewing the cherry blossoms in Kyoto is a popular item on many travelers' bucket lists. The old capital is steeped in history and culture, which makes it a perfect place to hunt down a quiet temple to enjoy nature or have a lively party under the cherry blossoms.

To make the most of your trip, here’s all about when, where, and how you can enjoy cherry blossom season in Kyoto

Table of Contents
  1. When is cherry blossom season in Kyoto?
  2. What is the weather like in Kyoto during cherry blossom season?
  3. Six recommended places to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto
  4. Best spots to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto without the crowds
  5. Kyoto cherry blossom viewing tips
  6. Tips on booking accommodation during cherry blossom season
  7. Festivals and events celebrating cherry blossoms
  8. Recommended activities during cherry blossom season in Kyoto
  9. Other recommended tours of Kyoto

When is cherry blossom season in Kyoto?

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

The cherry blossom season in Kyoto usually lasts from the end of March to the beginning of April. According to Japanese forecasters, the specific dates for the best time to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto in 2023 are March 23 to April 2. Of course, these can change depending on the weather, but they are usually pretty accurate.

When the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, it is called mankai (満開) in Japanese, and many tourists and travelers look out for these dates to visit popular sightseeing spots.

But don’t worry if you can only get to Kyoto before or after “mankai,” as different species of trees flower at different rates, so there will always be somewhere you can see them bloom a few weeks before or after.

If you are a little early, you are in luck because Kyoto is surrounded by mountains, and taking a quick trip up a mountainside will allow you to see trees blossoming earlier than their counterparts in the city.

What is the weather like in Kyoto during cherry blossom season?

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

Kyoto weather in the spring usually averages around 8°C, but it's not uncommon for the temperature to fluctuate from lows of 2°C to highs of 13°C during the cherry blossom season.

Your best bet for clothing during spring in Kyoto is to wear plenty of warm layers that you can remove or pile on as needed. Kyoto can be quite humid, as the entire city is located in a valley, so being prepared for extra humidity is always a plus.

Check out our guide on what to wear during cherry blossom time in Kyoto, with in-depth information about the weather in different locations, and temperatures for the season.

If you get too cold, try looking out for one of Japan's numerous vending machines with hot drinks like teas, coffees, and juices.

Six recommended places to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto

1. Philosopher's Path

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

The Philosopher's Path is named after ​​Nishida Kitaro, one of Japan’s most famous philosophers. This is the path he is said to have walked every day on his way to and from Kyoto University. The path is about two kilometers long and goes from the Ginkakuji Pavillion to Nanzenji Temple. It is popular during cherry blossom season because it is lined with over 400 cherry trees, and their branches sway down near the waterway below the path. There are plenty of little areas with benches to sit and relax while enjoying the floating petals, and even a shopping street along the south side of the path with tons of touristy art shops and food stalls.

2. Keage Incline

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

Keage Incline is a 500-meter track of old railway lines enclosed by cherry trees. The incline railway was once used to connect the Kamo River to the Biwa Canal, but was decommissioned in 1948. The abandoned railway is now a famous spot to see the cherry blossoms, as the pink and white petals spread out over the rail lines to create a carpet of bright colors. Keage Incline can be accessed from Nanzenji Temple behind the aqueduct, and it is a great place to walk and get some fresh air in the spring.

3. Arashiyama Area

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

The Arashiyama area has plenty to see during springtime in Kyoto. From the famous bamboo forest to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. But the best way to see the cherry blossoms in Arashiyama is to walk over the famous Togetsukyo Bridge and spot the pink and white puffs of cherry trees dotting the mountains on the side of the river. On both sides of the Katsura River, there is plenty of space to find a cherry tree to sit and relax under, while getting a cold beer or hot snacks from close-by food stalls. If you have extra time, you can also take a boat ride out onto the river to see more cherry blossoms up close along the mountainsides.

  • Togetsu-kyo Bridge
    • Address Sagatenryuji Suenobaba Town, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, 616-8385
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Arashiyama Station (Keifuku Dentetsu-arashiyama Line)
      3 minutes on foot
    • Phone Number 075-411-9990

4. Maruyama Park

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

Maruyama Park is located behind Yasaka Jinja Shrine and is one of the most famous places to enjoy cherry blossoms in Kyoto. Instead of just a line of cherry blossoms along one route, the trees in Maruyama Park are spread out all over the place, making it a great space to take your tarp and set up a picnic under the falling petals. If you head to the park through the shrine, you will pass by dozens of food stalls where you can stock up on sweet and savory snacks for your picnic. You could also rent a small outdoor table at one of the restaurants to get food delivered in a sea of people and cherry blossoms.

5. Nijo Castle

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

Not only is Nijo Castle one of the most interesting sites to see in Kyoto, as the indoor castle route is steeped in rich history, but the gardens of the castle are also one of the best places to see cherry trees in the spring. The selling point for Nijo Castle is the fact that it has nighttime light-ups during the spring, where the flowers are lit up and the castle walls have elaborate light shows depicting springtime art and abstract nature scenes. Nijo Castle also has a huge variety of cherry trees that bloom at different times, so if you are a little early or a little late to visit the cherry blossom season in Kyoto, there will be some trees blooming on the castle grounds.

6. Toji Temple

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

If you like the idea of a nighttime cherry blossom illumination, Toji temple also offers night viewings in the spring. The famous seven-story pagoda is lit up at night, along with dozens of cherry trees for a magical nighttime experience. You can also see cherry blossoms at Toji temple during the day, as some of the most famous species of cherry trees, like Yoshida cherry trees and the weeping cherry tree called “shidarezakura,” are part of the park that surrounds the temple.

  • To-ji Temple
    • Address 1, Kujocho, Minami-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, 601-8473
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Toji Station (Kintetsu-kyoto Line)
      10 minutes on foot
    • Phone Number 075-691-3325

Best spots to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto without the crowds

1. Daikakuji Temple

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

One of Kyoto’s best-hidden secrets is Daikakuji Temple, north of the famous bamboo grove in the Arashiyama area to the west of the city. Daikakuji boasts massive temple grounds with Osawa Pond next door. The entire complex is a little further out of the way than most tourists go, but it is a great spot to have a more private viewing of the cherry trees in Kyoto. With fewer crowds, you will easily be able to find a peaceful spot to take plenty of scenic photos of cherry blossoms and enjoy the calm atmosphere next to the water.

2. Matsuo Taisha Bridge and Park

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

One of the best places to get away from the crowd and still see huge cherry trees starts at Matsuo Taisha Bridge. Far into the west side of Kyoto, but still accessible by bus, the bridge goes over the Katsura River, and this area is lined with ancient cherry trees. The areas of green lawn by the river are the perfect spot to pack a picnic lunch and lay down your tarp to relax under the blossoms.

  • Matsuo Park
    • Address 21-7 Arashiyama Asatsukicho, Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-0022

3. North side of Kamogawa River

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

The Kamogawa River is a Y-shaped river that runs through central Kyoto from north to south. The delta of the river is a hugely popular spot to picnic and meet people, as well as a great spot to see cherry blossoms in the spring. But if you want a more intimate experience and a picnic by the water without the crowds, try taking a walk up the river to the north. As you go, the parks will get larger and the people get sparser. There are still plenty of cherry trees along the north end of the delta, and as you walk, you can easily find a quiet place to enjoy the falling petals and have a relaxing picnic.

  • Kamogawa Delta
    • Address Shimogamo Miyakawacho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-0801

Kyoto cherry blossom viewing tips

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)
  • To avoid crowds during peak viewing times, choose cherry blossom spots with fewer English reviews on sites like Google or TripAdvisor.
  • Check for early opening times at temples for cherry blossom viewing to beat the crowds.
  • Also check peak times for spots in an app like Google Maps or use the official Kyoto Travel Congestion Forecast site.
  • Look for locations without bus parking or on narrow streets to avoid large crowds.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring snacks like onigiri (Japanese stuffed rice balls) to eat while waiting in long lines.
  • Stock up on snacks and drinks from a convenience store before heading out to your cherry blossom destination. Be sure to bring a plastic bag to carry away trash in, as garbage bins are scarce.
  • Toilets can get crowded during cherry blossom season, so plan ahead before nature calls.

Tips on booking accommodation during cherry blossom season

Kyoto is an incredibly popular place for cherry blossom viewing, so if you are set on a specific hotel, book early. At least 3-4 months ahead of time, most places will be getting full, so be sure to check out accommodations as soon as possible.

There are a few great articles about places to stay while you are in Kyoto that highlight the best areas for what you want to see, make sure to take a look at these to find the perfect hotel or ryokan for your trip.

Festivals and events celebrating cherry blossoms

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

Okasai at Hirano Shrine

Hirano Shrine celebrates the cherry blossoms with a festival called Okasai held on April 10th (2023). The temple is filled with cherry trees that are lit up at night, for day and night viewing. They also have a religious procession that shows leaders in Heian period costume making their way to the mausoleum for springtime prayers. The ceremonies start at 10 a.m., with the main procession taking place at 1 p.m. in the afternoon. The temple is a bit farther north than tourists usually go, but it’s well worth the trip for the Okasai event.

The Cherry Blossom Dances performed by Geiko and Maiko

During spring, Kyoto Geisha, known as Geiko, and their Maiko apprentices have shows performing dance routines in celebration of the cherry blossoms. These shows are a rich sensory experience, including music played with Japanese instruments, elaborate costumes, and stage decoration. If you have time, check out an official Kyoto Tourist Information Center to find a Geiko or Maiko dance performance in your area.

Nijo Castle cherry blossom illumination and tea ceremony

Nijo Castle has a fantastic cherry blossom illumination, as well as a light show featuring digital art that is displayed along the castle walls during spring. During the daytime, you can catch a Kan-o Chakai tea ceremony under the cherry blossoms on April 9th in Seiryu-en Garden, and get an in-depth look at tea ceremony culture. Another tea ceremony also takes place with various schools of tea performing the ceremony in the same garden on May 3rd through 5th.

Recommended activities during cherry blossom season in Kyoto

(Image: PIXTA)
(Image: PIXTA)

Enjoy tea or lunch with a cherry blossom view.
Some great restaurants in Kyoto have cherry blossom views in gardens or along the water. When you book lunch or dinner, you can enjoy the scenery while you eat.

Ride the Sagano Romantic Train.
The 25 min. train from Arashiyama to Kameoka is an open-air concept, allowing you to fully absorb the scenery while you ride along the river and over Hozugawa Gorge. The scenery is dotted with cherry trees along the water.

Ride trains around the Kansai Area.
The Kansai area includes Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. There are various train rides you can take to see the cherry blossoms along the route, like the one that goes by Osaka Castle.

Rent a kimono and stroll under the blossoms.
Kimono rental is a huge business in Kyoto, and the Japanese love it when they see foreigners embracing wearing their traditional garments. If you want to try renting one for the day, visit Miyabi, and pick out the perfect kimono for your stroll around the city.

Get a professional photo shoot under the blossoms.
After you dress up in your rental kimono, make sure to save the memories by having a professional photo shoot. Get photos by yourself or with your loved ones under the cherry blossoms for a perfect Japanese keepsake.

Enjoy a rickshaw ride through parts of the bamboo forest.
The rickshaw rides in Kyoto’s Arashiyama area are some of the most famous. These professionals will pull you in their carts through the bamboo forest, so you can get the full experience high up above the other tourists.

Other recommended tours of Kyoto

If you're looking for a more structured way to explore Kyoto, joining a small tour group can be a great option. These tours provide expert guides, insider knowledge, and a chance to experience the best of Kyoto.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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