Translated by Sandy Lau
Kyoto's Cherry Blossoms 2021 - 15 Recommended Spots And Viewing Tips
Written by MATCHA
Kyoto in spring is synonymous with cherry blossom viewing. The blossoms against a traditional background are unique to Kyoto. Learn the 15 top spots to see sakura in Kyoto in 2021, along with information on weather, activities, and where to stay.
Kyoto's Cherry Blossoms in 2021 - The Best Time for Viewing
Cherry blossom viewing in the former capital of Kyoto is an experience you can’t leave out when visiting Japan during the spring.
The cherry blossom viewing season in Kyoto typically takes place every year from early to mid-April depending on the weather and the area. The announcement of the first bloom is released during the second half of March and the flowers will be at their prettiest from earl to mid-April when they reach their full bloom.
The cherry blossoms at Kamigamo Shrine (Picture courtesy of Kamigamo Shrine)
However, some cherry blossom varieties bloom starting in early March, while others bloom during April. The blossoms may also fall when it rains, so be sure to check the status of the cherry blossoms on official websites before visiting each spot.
The cherry blossom dates for previous years are as written below (the forecast for 2021 will be updated as soon as information is available).
*Please note that in 2021, many cherry blossom festivals may be canceled in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 outbreaks. If you are interested in a particular event, please make sure to check their official website for the latest information.
|Year||First Day of Blossoms||Peak Bloom|
|2019||March 28||April 6|
|2020||March 23||April 6|
|2021||March 24||to be determined|
Cherry Blossom Viewing in Kyoto - 15 Recommended Spots
There are famous cherry blossom spots throughout Kyoto where you can enjoy the different scenery. You can find flowers along the river, blossoms near shrines and temples, and cherry blossoms at World Heritage Sites in Kyoto. Choose a spot that suits your style of travel and what you want to do on your trip.
In this article, we introduce fifteen top-recommended cherry blossom spots in Kyoto.
Famous Sakura Spots in Kyoto
- 1. Hirano Shrine: The Start of the Hanami Season
- 2. Kyoto Botanical Gardens: Great for Plant Lovers
- 3. Nijo Castle: Admire Flowers with Historical Structures
- 4. Toji Temple: Cherry Blossoms and the Five-Storied Pagoda
- 5. Maruyama Park: Lively with People and Food
- 6. Heian Jingu Shrine: Glowing Blossoms Against a Red Shrine
- 7. Arashiyama: Beautiful Sakura Blooming in Nature
- 8. Keage Incline: View Cherry Blossoms on the Train Tracks
- 9. Kodaiji Temple: Amazing Night Blossoms and Projection Mapping
- 10. Kyoto Gyoen National Garden: A Work of Art
- 11. Daigoji Temple: Famous Since the Heian Period
- 12. Takase River: Enjoy Food with Flowers
- 13. Kamigamo Shrine: Two Impressive Weeping Cherry Trees
- 14. Philosopher’s Walk: Stroll Down an Avenue of Cherry Trees
- 15. Kamo River Area: Enjoy Both Shops and Nature
- What to Wear for the Kyoto Hanami Season
- Hanami Manners
- Hotels During Hanami Season
1. Hirano Shrine: The Start of the Hanami Season
Picture courtesy of Hirano Shrine
Hirano Shrine has been renowned for its cherry blossoms since long ago. It was believed that the blooming of the sakigake-zakura, a cherry blossom variety that originated at the shrine, indicated the beginning of the hanami season in Kyoto.
The approximately 60 cherry blossom varieties planted on the grounds bloom at different times. As a result, the blossoms can be enjoyed for about a month and a half, with the first bloom usually occurring in early March. Visitors can also enjoy a sakura illumination between late March and mid-April.
Picture courtesy of Hirano Shrine
Additionally, an event called the Okasai Festival takes place annually on April 10. The historical procession at this event starting at 13:00 is a must-see. About 200 people carrying mikoshi and Orihime outfits will walk in procession around the shrine.
Time: 6:00 – 17:00. Illuminations are from March 25 – April 20 from sunset until 21:00
Address: Kyoto, Kyoto, Kita, Hirano Miyamotocho 1 Google Map
Access: Take Routes 50 or Route 205 on the city bus from the Kyoto Ekimae bus stop for 40 minutes, exit at Kinugasako-mae (230 yen), then walk for 3 minutes
Official Website: http://www.hiranojinja.com/ (Japanese)
2. Kyoto Botanical Gardens: Great for Plant Lovers
Picture courtesy of Kyoto Botanical Gardens
Approximately 450 cherry blossom trees of 130 varieties are planted at the Kyoto Botanical Gardens. Visitors can enjoy them from mid-March until the end of April. A highlight of the garden is its forest of cherry blossom trees extending north of the conservatory.
Plant enthusiasts should definitely enter the conservatory. It is Japan’s largest conservatory, housing 4,500 plant species.
The illuminations of the night cherry blossoms are held until 21:00 from the end of March to the beginning of April, allowing visitors to be able to admire the flowers at a later time than usual.
Kyoto Botanical Gardens
Time: 9:00 – 17:00 (Entry until 16:00). Illuminations are until 21:00 (Entry until 20:00)
Admission Fee: Adults 200 yen, high school students 150 yen (entry for the gardens). Entry for the conservatory costs 200 yen for adults and 150 yen for high school students.
Address: Kyoto, Kyoto, Sakyo, Shimogamo, Hangi Google Map
Access: Immediately outside Exit 3 of Kitayama Station (Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line)
Official Website: http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/en/02-02-10.html
3. Nijo Castle: Admire Flowers with Historical Structures
Picture courtesy of Nijo Castle Office
Nijo Castle, a World Heritage Site, was constructed by Tokugawa Ieyasu, a shogun (military general) during the Edo period. It is a popular spot for history buffs.
Approximately 300 cherry blossom trees in 50 varieties bloom in succession on the castle grounds between early March and late April. Here, you can enjoy cherry blossoms together with various sights including a tree-lined avenue, Japanese gardens, and historical structures.
Picture courtesy of Nijo Castle Office
The Nijo Castle Cherry Blossom Festival is held between late March to mid-April . During the festival, night cherry blossom illuminations take place from 18:00 to 21:30. The combination of traditional buildings and night blossoms is magical!
Time: 8:45 – 16:00. Illuminations are from 18:00 – 21:30
Admission Fee: Adults 620 yen, junior and high school students 350 yen, elementary school students 200 yen. Visiting during the daytime and at night requires a separate fee.
Address: Kyoto, Nakagyo, Nijo, Horikawa Nishiiru, Nijojo 541 Google Map
Access: Take the Nijo Castle-Kinkaku-ji Temple Express or Routes 9, 50, and 101 on the city bus from the Kyoto Ekimae bus stop for 20 minutes, exit at Nijojo-mae (230 yen), then walk for 2 minutes
Official Website: https://www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp/bunshi/nijojo/english/index.html
4. Toji Temple: Cherry Blossoms and the Five-Storied Pagoda
Toji Temple is home to Japan’s tallest five-storied pagoda for a wooden structure. The temple’s official name is Kyo-o-gokokuji Temple. It is a registered World Heritage Site.
Around 200 beautiful cherry blossom trees bloom here. Be sure to take a photo with the five-storied pagoda in the background to capture a traditional Japanese essence.
The Fuji Zakura, the cherry tree Toji Temple is most known for, is a shidare-zakura (weeping cherry) tree that is over 130 years old. It towers 13 meters tall and has an artistic beauty that is especially wonderful during the illuminations from late March to early April.
Time: Visiting hours for Kondo Hall and Kodo Hall are 8:00 – 17:00. Illuminations are 18:30 – 21:30 (mid-March to mid-April)
Admission: Admission for Kondo Hall and Kodo Hall is 500 yen for adults, 400 yen for high school students, and 300 yen for junior high school students and younger. During the illuminations, admission is 500 yen for high school students and older while it is 300 yen for junior high school students and younger
Address: Tokyo, Minami, Kujo 1 Google Map
Access: 15-minute walk from JR Kyoto Station (Hachijo Entrance)
Official Website: http://www.toji.or.jp/ (Japanese)
5. Maruyama Park: Lively with People and Food
Picture courtesy of GRAPHIC Corporation
Maruyama Park is used by many Kyoto locals for outings. About 680 cherry blossom trees in the park are illuminated from mid-March to mid-April from sunset until 24:00. Food stalls are also set up in the park, making it into a spot bustling with crowds of people regardless of the time.
The shidare-zakura, famous as the park’s symbol, is over 80 years old. It has the nickname "Night Cherry Blossoms of Gion." Shidare-zakura bloom annually in late March. Other cherry blossom varieties in the park can be enjoyed until mid-April.
Address: Kyoto, Higashiyama, Maruyama Google Map
Access: Take Routes 100 or 206 on the city bus from the Kyoto Ekimae bus stop for 20 minutes, exit at Gion (230 yen), then walk for 1 minute
Official Website: https://kyoto.travel/en/thingstodo/entertainment/110
6. Heian Jingu Shrine: Glowing Blossoms Against a Red Shrine
Picture courtesy of Heian Jingu Shrine
Approximately 300 cherry blossom trees are planted at Heian Jingu Shrine, which was established in 1895. The shrine is very impressive with its vermillion pillars and green roof. It appears even more gorgeous when combined with the pink of the cherry blossoms.
Picture courtesy of Heian Jingu Shrine
There is also a Japanese-style garden in Heian Jingu Shrine. Here, you can admire the cherry blossoms in a setting different from their appearance against the vivid main shrine.
Heian Jingu Shrine
Time: 6:00 – 18:00
Address: Kyoto, Kyoto, Sakyo, Okazaki, Nishi-Tenno Google Map
Access: Take Routes 5, 100, or 110 on the city bus from the Kyoto Ekimae bus stop for 30 minutes, exit at the Okazaki Park/Art Museum/Heian Jingu Shrine bus stop (230 yen), then walk for 5 minutes
Official Website: http://www.heianjingu.or.jp/ (Japanese)
7. Arashiyama: Beautiful Sakura Blooming in Nature
Picture courtesy of GRAPHIC Corporation
Arashiyama is a scenic spot where you can appreciate nature. Known as a cherry blossom spot since ancient times, the entire mountain is dyed in a light pink color when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
Being able to have a hanami experience slightly different from the norm from trolley trains or from a boat while going down the river is special to Arashiyama. At least 1,500 cherry blossom trees are planted near Togetsu-kyo Bridge along Katsuragawa River, which is illuminated at night.
Please enjoy an evening walk while gazing at the cherry blossoms.
Arashiyama Togetsu-kyo Bridge
Address: Kyoto, Kyoto, Ukyo, Saganakanoshima Google Map
Access: 13-minute walk from Saga-Arashiyama Station (JR Sagano Line/San’in Main Line)
Official Website: http://www.kyoto-kankou.or.jp/info_search/?id=289&r=1549515705.7615 (Japanese)
8. Keage Incline: View Cherry Blossoms on the Train Tracks
Picture from The Weeping Cherry Trees In Okazaki, Kyoto
Keage Incline is a place where you can admire the cherry blossoms while walking on top of abandoned railway tracks. About 90 cherry blossom trees are planted along the entire 582-meter length of the tracks.
Keage Incline had been used to transport ships from Otsu, Shiga to Kyoto up until 1948. The railway tracks are located on a sloping plane and, even now, the railway track used for transportation still remains at the final stop.
Address: Kyoto, Kyoto, Higashiyama, Higashi-Komonoza 339 Google Map
Access: Take Route 5 on the city bus from the Kyoto Ekimae bus stop for 35 minutes, exit at Okazaki Hoshojicho (230 yen), then walk for 5 minutes
Official Website: http://www.kyoto-kankou.or.jp/info_search/?id=170&r=1549515790.9106 (Japanese)
9. Kodaiji Temple: Amazing Night Blossoms and Projection Mapping
Kodaiji Temple is a Zen temple of the Rinzai School Kennin-ji Sect. The temple was opened in 1606 by Nene, the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (*1), a military commander during the Sengoku period, to mourn his death.
The cherry blossoms are particularly stunning at Hashintei, a Japanese garden in the temple expressing Zen ideology. The pink shidare-zakura blooming in the karesansui garden, an expression of nature through the use of pebbles and rocks, is like a work of art.
*1 Toyotomi Hideyoshi: a historical figure from the Sengoku period, which took place from the late fifteenth to late sixteenth centuries, that unified the entire nation. He erected Osaka Castle, one of the top 100 castles of Japan.
Illuminations and projection mappings are held starting from 17:00, enveloping Hashintei in a magical atmosphere.
Time: 9:00 – 22:00 (Held from March 8 – May 6 in 2019; Reception is until 21:30.)
Admission: Adults 600 yen, junior high and high school students 250 yen
Address: Kyoto, Kyoto, Higashiyama, Shimokawara 526 Google Map
Access: Take Route 206 on the city bus from the Kyoto Ekimae bus stop for 20 minutes, exit at Higashiyama Yasui (230 yen), then walk for 5 minutes
Official Website: https://www.kodaiji.com/e_index.html
10. Kyoto Gyoen National Garden: A Work of Art
Picture courtesy of Ministry of the Environment, Kyoto Gyoen Management Office
Kyoto Gyoen National Garden is known as the "Central Park of Kyoto." It was once where the homes of the imperial family and nobility stood during the Edo period, but has since been developed into a garden and opened to the public following the Meiji period.
Kyoto Gyoen is very large, with a maximum circumference of four kilometers. Here you can leisurely admire 1,000 beautiful cherry blossom trees. The photo above was taken near Demizu Stream in the southwest area of the garden. The pink and white of the cherry blossoms together with the stream makes a great picture, doesn’t it?
The cherry blossoms can be seen from early to mid-April. The best time to see the blossoms will differ depending on the weather but is usually around mid-April.
Kyoto Gyoen National Garden
Time: All day
Address: Kyoto, Kyoto, Kamigyo, Kyoto Gyoen 3 Google Map
Access: 5-minute walk from Exit 1 at Marutamachi Station (Municipal Subway Karasuma Line)
Official Website: http://www.env.go.jp/garden/kyotogyoen/english/index.html
11. Daigoji Temple: Famous Since the Heian Period
Picture courtesy of Daigoji Temple
Daigoji Temple was registered as a World Cultural Heritage in 1994. This has been a famous cherry blossom spot since the Heian period. It is also known to be where Toyotomi Hideyoshi hosted a splendid hanami celebration half a year before his passing.
In 1598, Hideyoshi hosted the Daigo Hanami while accompanied by over 1,000 retainers. He is said to have planted 700 cherry blossom trees around Kyoto. Even now, over 400 years later, the cherry blossoms of Daigoji Temple continue to mesmerize countless visitors each year.
We suggest taking a walk under the cherry blossom trees while enjoying the variety of scenery. You will find the five-storied pagoda, a National Treasure towering over the grounds, the red Bentendo Hall beautifully reflected in the pond, and the garden of Sanbo-in Temple, where the monk managing Daigoji Temple resided.
Time: 9:00 – 17:00 (Reception ends at 16:00) *Changes may occur depending on the season.
Admission: Adults 1,500 yen, junior and high school students 1,000 yen (combined ticket for Sanbo-in Temple, Garan, and Reihokan) *Changes may occur depending on the season.
Address: Kyoto, Kyoto, Fushimi, Daigo, Higashioji 22 Google Map
Access: Take the Keihan Bus Yamashina Express Line from Platform H4 at the Kyoto Station Hachijo Entrance bound for Daigoji Temple for 30 minutes and exit at Daigoji Temple (300 yen). The entrance will be immediately outside upon arrival.
Official Website: http://www.daigoji.or.jp/index_e.html
12. Takase River: Enjoy Food with Flowers
Along the Takase River, which flows through the entire 2.8 kilometers of Kiyamachi Street, you can enjoy the atmospheric Kyoto townscape with beautiful cherry blossoms. 200 cherry blossom trees are planted over a stretch of one kilometer.
The surrounding area is a restaurant district, so how about admiring the cherry blossoms while enjoying a meal and drinks? The Kiyamachi Street Night Cherry Blossom illuminations will take place from 18:00 – 23:00 between late March to early April. We also recommend taking a walk at night.
Address: Kyoto, Kyoto, Nakagyo, Ichinofunairi, Ichinofunairicho-Kawaramachidori Oike Agaru Google Map
Access: Take Routes 4, 5, or 205 on the city bus from the Kyoto Ekimae bus stop for 15 minutes, exit at Shijo Kawaramachi (230 yen), then walk for 8 minutes
Official Website: https://kanko.city.kyoto.lg.jp/detail.php?InforKindCode=4&ManageCode=7000044 (Japanese)
13. Kamigamo Shrine: Two Impressive Weeping Cherry Trees
The Saio Zakura (Picture courtesy of Kamigamo Shrine)
The Gosho Zakura (Picture courtesy of Kamigamo Shrine)
Kamigamo Shrine is known as the oldest shrine in Kyoto. Its officially name is Kamo Wake-Ikazuchi Shrine and it is a registered World Heritage Site.
Kamigamo Shrine is famous for its beautiful shidare-zakura (weeping cherry) trees called the Saio Zakura and Gosho Zakura.
The word “saio” refers to an unmarried daughter of the Emperor (imperial princess) sent from the kyuchu (*3) to serve the deities of the shrine. “Gosho” refers to the Emperor. Both magnificently shaped trees have a beauty that fascinates those that see them.
*3 Kyuchu: the imperial court located inside the residence of the Emperor.
Time: 5:00 – 17:00
Address: Kyoto, Kita, Kamigamo Motoyama 339 Google Map
Access: Take Route 4 on the city bus from the Kyoto Ekimae bus stop for one hour, exit at Kamigamo Shrine (230 yen), then walk for 5 minutes
Official Website: https://www.kamigamojinja.jp/english/index.html
14. Philosopher’s Walk: Stroll Down an Avenue of Cherry Trees
Picture courtesy of © Kyoto Media Support Center
The Philosopher’s Walk is listed as one of the Top 100 Paths of Japan. Its name originates from the fact that many literary scholars have walked down this path.
A canal runs along the road and continues for about two kilometers. The sight of its 500 Yoshino cherry trees is phenomenal. As cherry blossom trees are planted on both sides of the path, you can enjoy the beautiful cherry blossom tunnel come to their full bloom.
Nearby the path, you’ll also find Heian Jingu Shrine and, if you walk a little further, Keage Incline. How about including the Philosopher’s Walk into your cherry blossom spot tour?
Address: Kyoto, Kyoto, Sakyo, Jodoji Ishibashi Google Map
Access: Take Route 100 on the city bus from the Kyoto Ekimae bus stop for 40 minutes, exit at Ginkaku-ji Temple (230 yen), then walk for 2 minutes
Official Website: https://kyoto.travel/en/thingstodo/entertainment/111
15. Kamo River Area: Enjoy Both Shops and Nature
Photo courtesy of © Kyoto Media Support Center
Kamo River is a popular spot for walks in Kyoto. You’ll find many people strolling around or gazing at the river while seated, slowly passing the time. Once spring arrives, the river is bustling with people that come to enjoy walks along the row of 1,000 cherry blossom trees.
There are also several restaurants along the river, so we also recommend having something to eat while viewing the cherry blossoms.
Kamo River Area
Address: Kyoto, Kyoto, Nakagyo, Wakamatsu Google Map
Access: Take Routes 5 or 104 on the city bus from the Kyoto Ekimae bus stop for 20 minutes, exit at Sanjo Keihan (230 yen), and it will be immediately outside
Official Website: https://www.pref.kyoto.jp/kamogawa/1205475129577.html (Japanese)
What to Wear in Kyoto in Spring
The average temperature from late March to mid-April, the best time to see the cherry blossoms, ranges from ten to twelve degrees Celsius.
The temperature difference between day and night is substantial. You'll need a jacket or a light coat during the day, but the temperature can drop to around just five degrees once night falls.
If you’ll be going out to see the night cherry blossoms, it is best to properly protect yourself from the cold with a sweater or scarf. We also recommend purchasing hand warmers at a convenience store or supermarket to keep yourself warm.
Manners during Cherry Blossom Viewing
It is often fine to choose wherever you wish to sit in the park if it’s open to the public for free. However, there are also some parks that have set areas that you can or cannot enter, so you will need to check this information beforehand.
Please read Finding The Perfect Spot: Saving A Hanami Site to learn more.
It is also a rule for everyone to either bring their garbage home or to throw them away in predetermined areas after hanami. Refer to Cleaning Up The Right Way: Dealing With Trash After A Hanami for details and enjoy your hanami while following the set rules.
Kyoto Hotels during Cherry Blossom Season
Visitors from all over the world come to Kyoto during the hanami season to see the cherry blossoms. Hotels become full quickly with reservations during this time period.
If you plan to visit Kyoto at any time between late March to April, be sure to book a hotel as soon as possible.
We also suggest considering making reservations in neighboring cities such as Osaka, Kobe, or Nara, where it may be easier to find lodging. You can commute to Kyoto from these areas.
*This article is a revision updated for 2021 of an article originally published on November 1, 2016.
Main image by Pixta.