See the Eternal City tinted in the delicate pink of Spring and sigh at the fleeting beauty of the sakura. Here are the top spots to for ohanami (cherry blossom viewing).
1. Tenryu-ji Temple Sakura: Japanese Culture and Peaceful Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto
This is Kyoto’s most famous temple, with the Arashiyama mountains as a backdrop and a Zen garden – Sogenchi-teien – that has been recognized by the Japanese government as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty. The weeping sakura tree at the Tahoden Sanctuary is a must-see.
2. Ouro Sakura at Ninna-ji Temple in Kyoto
This World Heritage Site is famous for its locally-cultivated sakura trees, called the Omuro sakura, which are shorter in height and bloom one week later than the mainstream Somei Yoshino variety. See the timeless beauty of these 200 sakura trees, which have been enjoyed here for over 400 years.
3.Hirano Shrine Sakura: Kyoto’s Oldest Cherry Blossom Festival
See over 60 varieties of sakura trees here, particularly the early blossoming of the Sakigake sakura which is said to herald the start of the ohanami season. The shrine’s annual cherry blossom festival is the oldest in Kyoto, dating back to 985 AD.
4. Rare Sakura at Nijo Castle in Kyoto
50 varieties of sakura – including Satozakura and many rare types – are scattered throughout this World Heritage Site, built as the Kyoto residence for Japan’s first shogun. Evening entertainment such as taiko drumming, koto performances and tea ceremonies accompany the evening “light up” hours.
5. Flowing Cherry Blossoms at Maruyama Park, Kyoto
The 12m tall “Gion no Yozakura (Night Sakura of Gion)” weeping cherry tree here is a Kyoto sakura icon. The night illumination of this and some other 680 cherry trees in four varieties make Kyoto’s oldest park (since 1886) a favourite night spot.
6. A Kyoto Sakura Fantasy at Keage Incline’s Old Tracks
Once used as a ship-transporting railway between canals until the 1940s – the longest incline rail in the world – this 582m track is famous for its nearly 100 Yamazakura and Somei Yoshino cherry trees. The eastside of Niomon Dori is the best viewing spot!
7. Philosopher’s Walk: A Pensive Stroll under Kyoto’s Ethereal Cherry Blossoms
Named after famous philosopher Kitaro Nishida who meditated daily along this path, the cherry blossoms here form a pink canopy over this 1.5km canal route, gently sprinkling petals along its waters. Cited as one of Japan’s Top 100 Walking Paths, there’s no better place to ponder!
8. Follow Kamo River to a Sea of Cherry Blossoms in Tokyo
Stroll along the river bank or have a picnic under the cascade of beni (red) weeping sakura that forms during full bloom, before following the path to the Kyoto Botanical Gardens’500 cherry trees consisting of 70 varieties, which are illuminated at night.
How to ohanami:
-Ohanami involves sitting under a sakura tree end enjoying its natural beauty with a picnic. So bring a mat or sheet to sit on for your ohanami session and a small blanket as it can get cold sitting in the open.
-Check the dates of the local ohanami festival, where plenty of food stalls and some public events or performances will be set up
-Go early if you want to get a good ohanami viewing spot!
-The start of the cherry blossom season varies from year to year, but is generally from late March to mid-April in Kyoto (depending on the region).