Just as important as the Japanese weather forecast these days – or even slightly more – are the sakura or cherry blossoms forecast which is all over the media. The forecast about where and when the cherry trees will bloom is a science for itself, predictions being as accurate as of analyzing the exact day of the blossom’s fullest bloom!
For this occasion, we summarized our recommended top 10 spots for hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in Kyoto.
According to the latest predictions, Kyoto’s cherry blossoms will reach full bloom on March 30th this year. Get ready for your perfect hanami experience between March 29th and April 5th and don’t forget your lunch boxes and camera!
1. To-ji Temple
Just a 25min stroll by foot or 6min bus ride from Guest House hachi you’ll find To-ji that is famous for its five-storied pagoda. You’ve probably seen it before on a postcard, since it’s the tallest pagoda in Japan and a symbol for Kyoto.
The highlight at To-ji around sakura season is the massive over 120-year-old and 13 meters tall cherry tree. You can visit the temple after dark as well for a illuminated hanami experience.
2. Heian-jingu Shrine
A 10min walk from Higashiyama Station will get you to the famous Heian-jingu built in 1895. The entrance starts from 8:30am where you can start enjoying 300 cherry trees around the complex. From 6:15pm to 9:00pm the trees are illuminated for late-blossom-viewers!
3. Philosopher’s Path
The Philosoper’s Path is not exactly a shrine or temple, but along the 1,5km path you can visit various different temples and shrines, such as the Kumanoyakouhi, Anraku-ji, Honen-in and the popular Ginkaku-ji.
Being a popular spot even without the cherry blossoms with artists and beautiful coffee shops along the canal, this path turns to a pink wonderland for the sakura season.
4. Daigo-ji Temple
Every second Sunday in April (April 8th this year) the Ho-Taiko Hanami Gyoretsu or Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s cherry blossom viewing parade is held at Daigo-ji – a huge re-enactment of a party from 400 years ago, where Hideyoshi had planted 700 cherry blossom trees and 1300 people celebrated the occasion with him. The parade is a great way to enjoy the sakura and experience Japanese history at the same time!
5. Hirano Shrine
Popular with bibulous students Hirano shrine is the place to be to enjoy the many beautiful cherry trees while sipping some sakura themed beverages with the locals. Get off at the terminal Kitano Hakubai-Cho on the Keifuku-Randen Kitano Line and walk for 3min north for a wonderful hanami experience.
And here are our favorite spots for a relaxing picnic hanami type: lying on the ground watching pretty trees and maybe having a beer or two while doing so. This hanami type is also a great way to chat with local people or mingle with other foreigners, since its almost like a big outdoor party.
A must-see for hanami is without a doubt Arashiyama. This is the only time of the year where the beautiful bamboo forest is overshadowed by the bright pink blossoms along the banks of the Katsura River. Only 12min by train from Guest House hachi and a short walk from Saga-Arashiyama Station will bring you to sakura heaven. Expect about 1500 cherry trees, people sitting, eating and drinking on blue sheets and welcoming spring!
7. Maruyama Park
The 680 trees of Maruyama Park will give you plenty space for your hanami picnic experience. This park is popular with families and other locals, so you can sit and chat until midnight when the illumination of the trees end. Located just between Yasaka-jinja and Chion-in this park is a great spot for sightseeing as well.
8. Umekoji Park
Umekoji Park is usually famous for its plum (ume) blossoms that bloom a few weeks earlier than their more famous cherry blossoms, but this park is nevertheless a wonderful spot for hanami, too. You can reach the park in 5min on foot from Guest House hachi and also visit the Kyoto Aquarium and Kyoto Railway Museum.
Kamogawa is Kyoto’s famous river for a stroll and people watching and its banks are lined with beautiful cherry trees which makes them a popular spot for hanami. Head north to the Kamogawa Delta where Kamogawa and Takanogawa meet Along the banks you will find perfect spots for your hanami.
Sometimes the sakura trees are lined up so close to each other that they form a sakura tunnel. With the Keifuku-Randen Kitano Line between Narutaki Station and Utano Station the train will drive through a 200m long sakura tunnel. Don’t miss this experience!
By Onur & Stef