Kyoto, Japan - Cherry Tree Blossoms (Sakura & Hanami)

Pat Dunlap Cherry Blossoms Kyoto Japan
Pat Thinks She is a Geisa

Kyoto, Japan - Cherry Tree Blossoms (Sakura & Hanami) (4/1-4/5/2014)

Visiting Kyoto during the annual cherry tree blossoms (sakura) bloom is AMAZING!! We believe this gorgeous display of nature should be declared one of the wonders of the world. We were very lucky to arrive during the first day of the full bloom.

Cherry Blossoms at Kawaramachidori Street Kyoto Japan
Cherry Blossoms at Kawaramachidori Street - Kyoto
As seen in our 4 others posts (see below), we think Kyoto is a wonderful place to visit in Japan with its best season being spring in late March or early April during the cherry tree blossom bloom. 

Beautiful Cherry tree Blossoms Philosophers walk path trees kyoto Japan sakura
Beautiful Cherry Tree Blossoms
All over Kyoto clouds of spectacular cherry tree blossoms bloom drawing thousands of visitors. In the evening, the trees are lit giving a truly enchanting experience.

Japan’s cherry tree blossom viewing celebration is called hanami when the harsh winter is almost over and spring is just around the corner. The timing changes every year and is watched closely because the blossoms last only a week or two – sometimes just days (see below for best time).

Hanami Party Cheery Blossoms Kyoto Japan
Hanami Party

Today, a hanami involves having outdoor parties beneath the cherry trees during daytime or at night. It is fun to see the hard working Japanese at play. It is wonderful when the delicate petals fall making a pink blanket everywhere.

A typical hanami normally is made up of an outdoor party under cherry tree blossoms during the day or night. Food, beer, and sake are brought to a picnic or purchased at many places. These parties often last well into the night.

Hanami Party cherry blossoms kyoto
Locals Dress Up
Some of the top places to enjoy the cherry tree blossom blooms...

Philosopher’s Path (connecting Ginkaku-ji (Silver Temple) and the Nanzen-ji neighborhood, free)

The Philosopher’s Path is one of our favorite places to visit in Kyoto. It is especially wonderful during the cherry tree blossom bloom. The path follows a beautiful canal lined on both sides by cherry trees, which are reflected in the canal water. 

Quaint Bridges Cherry Blossoms Philosopher's Walk  Kyoto Japan sakura
Quaint Bridges on Philosopher's Walk - Kyoto
Quaint bridges, shops, and restaurants make for great stops along the way of the Philosopher's Path. The cherry tree blossom petals floating on the water add to what is already a beautiful walk with a number of historic monuments. We stopped along the way for some tea and Japanese food.

Celebrating Hanami at Maruyama Park Kyoto Japan cherry blossom blossoms sakura
Celebrating Hanami at Maruyama Park - Kyoto
Maruyama Park (next to the Yasaka Shrine, free)

With about 850 cherry trees, the Maruyama Park is the oldest park in Kyoto and its most popular public park for cherry tree blossom viewing parties. 

Cherry Blossoms Lit at Night at Nijo Castle Kyoto japan
Cherry Blossoms Lit at Night at Nijo Castle - Kyoto
In the center of Maruyama Park is a large weeping cherry tree (shidarezakura), best viewed at night when it is lit up. Many food stands and temporarily constructed restaurants with tables under the trees are available.

Alden webber Wayne dunlap at Heian Shrine Gardens kyoto japan
Alden & Wayne at 
Heian Shrine Gardens - Kyoto
Heian Shrine (admission charge for garden visit)

There are about 300 weeping cherry trees in the beautiful Chinese-style garden of the famous Heian Shrine located behind the shrine's main buildings. It is one of the best places in Kyoto to see weeping cherry trees blossoms.  

Good to know: The full bloom at the Heian Shrine is a few days after the rest in the city making it a good place if you miss the main cherry tree blossom bloom by a few days.

Cherry Blossom Tress Lit at Night Nijo Castle Kyoto sakura
Cherry Tree Blossom Lit at Night - Nijo Castle, Kyoto
Nijo Castle (admission charge)

Cherry Plum Blossoms in Gion District  Kyoto japan trees sakura
Cherry & Plum Tree Blossoms in Gion District - Kyoto
We visited the Nijo Castle at night for the special illumination and were given a treat. The Nijo Castle has 430 cherry trees in the grounds of the magnificent historical setting. There is a range of cherry tree varieties that result in a longer blooming season during much of March and April.

Boat Ride Okazaki Canal Kyoto japan cherry blossom trees
Boat Ride on Okazaki Canal - Kyoto
Other good places:

Kodai-ju Temple

Both daytime and nighttime with illuminations, the Kodai-ji Temple is a great place to visit.

Okazaki Canal (outside Heian Shrine, free)

The Okazaki Canal is lined by many cherry trees that hang over its banks for a wonderful viewing experience. Boat tours are conducted during the hanami season about every 15-30 minutes for 1000 yen. The wait can be long.

Cherry Blossom Festival at Hirano Shrine Kyoto japan trees hanami party sakura
Cherry Tree Blossom Festival at Hirano Shrine - Kyoto
Hirano Shrine (between Kinkakuji and Kitano Hakubaicho, free)

The Hirono Shrine, known for the many varieties of its about 500 cherry trees on its grounds, is the site of one of Kyoto's most famous hanami places. In the evenings, the cherry tree blossoms are lit up and tables are set up with food vendors.

Wayne Dunlap Pat with Son Alden Webber Philosopher's Walk Philosophers Path kyoto japan sakura
Wayne & Pat with Son Alden on Philosopher's Path
Ninnaji (a few steps from Omuro Ninnaji Station - Keifuku Kitano Line, admission: 500 yen during the cherry tree blossom season)

Cherry tree Blossoms in Gion District Kyoto japan tree trees sakura
Cherry Tree Blossoms in Gion District - Kyoto
Ninnaji Temple is known for its variety of late blooming Omuro cherry trees. They tend to bloom about a week later than the rest. There are hundreds of cherry trees located on the temple grounds.

Cherry tree Blossoms in Gion District Kyoto japan tree trees sakura
Cherry Tree Blossoms in Gion District - Kyoto
Kiyomizudera (15 minute walk from Kiyomizu-michi bus stop, admission: 300 yen)

The largest concentration of cherry trees is located around the pond near the exit of the temple grounds.

Our Hanami Our Son Alden webber kyoto japan cherry blossoms
Our Hanami with our Son Alden
Timing the full cherry tree blossom bloom... 

Timing can be a bit tricky. In Kyoto over the past 10 years, the date for the full bloom has ranged from March 30th to April 9th so a good bet is the first week of April

Okazaki Canal Cherry tree Blossoms Kyoto japan tree trees sakura
Okazaki Canal Cherry Tree Blossoms - Kyoto
Throughout Japan, geographical location is the most important factor in determining the blooming time of cherry trees. Generally, the milder the climate, the earlier the cherry tree blossom bloom. Here is a website to help plan when to see cherry trees in full bloom... The Bloom of Cherry Tree Blossoms

Cherry tree Blossoms on Philosopher's Path Kyoto japan philosophers walk sakura
Cherry Tree Blossoms on Philosopher's Path - Kyoto
Some history... Reported to have started in the late 8th century, the annual event was to welcome the new year's harvest and the start of the rice-planting season. In the Heian Period, Emperor Saga would have parties under the Kyoto's Imperial Court’s cherry trees. The hanami celebration spread to everyone by the Edo Period in the early 1600's. Originally it was limited to the royalty and elite upper class. 

Hanami Party under Cherry Tree Blossoms Kyoto Japan sakura
Hanami Party under 
Cherry Tree Blossoms
Cherry tree Blossoms at Night Kyoto Japan sakura
Cherry Tree Blossoms at Night

For much more about wonderful Kyoto, please see our other 4 blog posts:

Japan Kyoto - Famous Temples Shrines Palaces Castles

Japan Kyoto - Gardens

Japan Kyoto - Japanese Food

Japan Kyoto - Living and Impressions

Please also see our 6 other blog posts for wonderful Japan:

Japan Hiroshima

Japan Uji Fushimi-Inari Taisha Torii Gates

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