“In the cherry blossom’s shade there’s no such thing as a stranger”, said Kobayashi Issa.
Each of us can interpret this quote as we wish. For me – I feel like it doesn’t matter who the observer is – it could be a local, tourist, Japanese, Israeli, green or a Martian – we can all appreciate the fact that nature is doing its job phenomenally.
In Japan, spring is mostly associated with the Sakura, the cherry blossom, which is very noticeable wherever you go. The days one can see Sakura are so precious since the full blossom only lasts for about one week. It’s so temporary. Therefore, you really must appreciate it the minute you see it because there’s not much time left after.
There are countless songs and poems written about Sakura. They are all appreciative of its beauty and temporality, and there are probably many more songs and poems yet to be written.
This post is dedicated to your song – you don’t need to write it, just hear its melody in your heart when seeing the beautiful sakura in Kyoto in this lovely season. So although this year it will be challenging to come here, I still collected a few gems where you can see the beauty of the Sakura whenever it will be possible to come to Japan. Although I already wrote you a full guide to two days in Kyoto, this time I will concentrate on places to see the cherry blossom 🌸
The Best Places to See Sakura in Kyoto!
This beautiful place is 582 meters of railroad tracks located on a slope in Higashiyama – the eastern part of Kyoto City. It was built in the 19th century to move equipment and boats that were in use at that time. Another historical monument is a boat from the Edo Period, called sanjikkoku-bune. Actually, it was recognized as a National Historic site since 1996.
Today there is no ship transportation in Kyoto, and therefore the rails are out of use. But who needs ships when you have sakura? Every year on the sides of the railroad, there are 90 cherry trees blooming in late March and early April. The locals really love it for its magical atmosphere and the combination of nature and history.
The Philosophers’ Path
Indeed, the most obvious place to go during Sakura time, and not a hidden spot by any means. Still, you owe it to yourself to see this canal in the cherry blossom at least once in your lifetime.
This two kilometer path starts in Ginkaku-ji in the north and ends in Nanzen-ji in the south. It is named after a Kyoto University philosopher, Nishida Kitaro, who used this path to commute daily from his home to the university.
Walk through this narrow canal, pass by small bridges, and visit the temples and shrines along it. It is so magical that you won’t regret visiting, although you most definitely won’t be alone there. Well, this place did not become a popular spot for no reason!
Built on the occasion of the 1,100th anniversary of Kyoto’s foundation (then called Heian) in 1895. It is dedicated to the spirits of the first emperor who reigned in Kyoto, Emperor Kammu (737-806), and the last emperor who reigned it, Emperor Komei (1831-1867). The building of the shrine is a small-scale replica of the Heian Period Imperial Palace.
One of the most beautiful gardens in Kyoto is hiding behind the Shrine walls, and in spring it shows its full beauty. There are several kinds of Sakura, so you can enjoy a colorful array of pinks, as well as other trees and at least two ponds with stunning reflections. Although Kyoto is well-known for its gardens, this is a particularly wide and special one.
This is definitely not a hidden spot, but a well-known temple, especially for its illumination during the autumn leaves and cherry blossom period. Although it gets pretty crowded during spring, I’d still recommend going there.
It’s one of the places where early Sakura is blooming, and when I visited last year in early April, there were indeed many visitors but it wasn’t crowded like other places. The garden is extremely beautiful in the day time. During the night illumination, the atmosphere of this place becomes even more magical.
Kodai-ji is surely worth a visit!
By the way – you can also sit in the temple’s teahouse and enjoy a cup of Matcha.
Ninna – ji
This World Heritage Site was first built in the 9th century. It is the head temple of Omuro School of Shingon Buddhism. Many members of the Imperial Family used to serve as Ninnaji’s head priest, and the oldest buildings still standing are from the Edo period (including the five-storied pagoda).
Although beautiful throughout the year, it is at its most beautiful in the cherry blossom. You can see the pagoda on top of an ocean of Sakura flowers, a truly amazing view. The temple offers a combined ticket for all of the temple’s grounds, but if you’re there just for the cherry blossom – the ticket to the garden will do.
The most unspoken place!
The Kamo River (Kamogawa) is the living heart of Kyoto, dividing the East and West of the city. Here you can go for a run, sit and read a book, take the children to play, or just walk with no special purpose. It has countless spots to sit and enjoy on sunny days throughout the year, and dozens, if not hundreds of Sakura trees on its banks.
Take your lunch, beers, a tarp or a sheet to sit on, and of course – your friends – and enjoy the view of cherry blossom trees by the river in the best season of the year.