Few travel destinations in the world enchant like Kyoto. Walk among its graceful temples or stroll through its perfectly-manicured Japanese gardens. At any time of year, it’ll all become clear.
The best time to go to Kyoto, though, is in spring. Time your visit right and you’re in for a treat: Catching the Kyoto cherry blossoms at their peak. Seeing cherry blossoms in Kyoto isn’t just a must-do for a trip to Japan; it’s a memory every person on earth will forever cherish.
Watching the soft pink & white blossoms blanket Kyoto is among the world’s truest pleasures. Don’t believe me? Slide over with a matcha green tea and check out this complete guide for when & where to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto in 2021…
When is cherry blossom season in Kyoto in 2021?
The Kyoto cherry blossom forecast changes from year to year. Most years, cherry blossoms (sakura) start blooming towards the end of March. They often continue into mid-April.
The peak viewing time for cherry blossoms in full bloom in Kyoto during 2020 fell between March 22nd and March 30th.
To get a better idea of when to catch them in full bloom, the official Japan cherry blossoms forecast for 2021 will be available in mid-January.
Where to see Kyoto cherry blossoms
Visiting Kyoto in spring, you’ll enjoy plenty of cherry blossom viewing (hanami) opportunities. In the most popular sakura spots around Kyoto, it’s a festive and joyous affair. It’ll leave you spirited for the rest of your trip to Japan.
Any time of year, Maruyama Park is one of Kyoto’s top green spaces. In spring, though, the park’s at its finest. It’s one of the best places in the city to catch the cherry blossoms at full force.
During sakura season, onlookers love huddling around the park’s centrepiece massive cherry tree. It’s most enchanting in the evenings when it’s flooded with light.
Maruyama Park is a particularly festive viewing spot. In the evenings, impromptu food stands pop up to serve delicious Kyoto street eats to hanami-viewing party-goers.
When you’re at Maruyama Park, be sure to also check out Yasaka Shrine at the park’s western entrance.
North of the city centre, The Philosopher’s Walk promises a stunning visual treat for your sakura-viewing pleasure. If you carve out more than 24 hours in Kyoto, The Philosopher’s Walk is a must for your itinerary. Even more so, when your visit’s timed with cherry blossom season.
The Philosopher’s Walk runs alongside a canal winding between Nanzen-ji in the south and Ginkaku-ji in the north. The walking path is lined by hundreds of cherry trees. Their interplay creates a breathtaking scene when in full bloom.
As The Philosopher’s Walk is one of the top places for hanami in Kyoto, the crowds during daytime can get thick. Instead, plan your visit in the evening. At night, the cherry trees get lit up and the path is at its most memorable.
Arashiyama is most famous for its bamboo forest and its gang of cheeky monkeys. Let’s add another highlight to its resume. Arashiyama is also one of the best places in Kyoto to see the cherry blossoms in full force.
There are several top-notch spots around Arashiyama to catch the blossoms. Check out Togetsukyo Bridge and small island of Nakanoshima on the Katsura River in Arashiyama Park. At little further afoot, you can marvel the cherry trees on the grounds of Daikaku-ji Temple.
Travellers & locals alike label it as the “most beautiful street in Kyoto.” So, yes, Shirakawa Minami-dori begs for a look any time of year.
As if the canal-side street wasn’t lovely enough year-round, dozens of cherry trees adorn Shirakawa Minami-dori. A visit during sakura season is a must for your Kyoto itinerary.
During the cherry blossom season, visit Shirakawa Minami-dori after dark. In the evening, the street is at most lively and its most stunning as its cherry trees are lit up from below.
With its late-blooming weeping cherry trees, Heian Shrine is a prime Kyoto cherry blossom viewing spot. It’s a great place to visit for travellers who missed the season’s peak elsewhere.
At Heian Shrine, the cherry trees creep over the garden and the pond. It creates an engrossing scene that’s a boon for photographers and Instagrammers alike. Entrance to the shrine & garden costs ¥600.
Any time of year you visit, Kiyomizu-dera Temple is one of the must-see attractions in Kyoto. During cherry blossom season, it’s even more spectacular than normal.
There’s a handful of cherry trees planted around Kiyomizu-dera, one of the must-visit temples & shrines in Kyoto. From its famous balcony, you’ll catch a glimpse of a few. But it’s near the pond at the exit that you’ll see the bulk of the temple’s sakura goodness.
Like other top cherry blossom viewing spots in Kyoto, visit Kiyomizu-dera at night to see the cherry trees punctuated with a soft glow of light. It’s a unmissable & magical scene!
Where to stay in Kyoto during cherry blossom season
As one of Japan’s top destinations, choosing among the best hotels in Kyoto can be a challenge. And that’s especially true when visiting during cherry blossom season.
With beauty enveloping the city at every turn, Japanese tourists flood to the streets of Kyoto to check out the scenery. Book several months ahead of time if you want to snag a room at one of these top Kyoto hotels for cherry blossom season…
- Guest House Oumi is a lovely ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) set in the heart of Kyoto in Nakagyo. The garden terrace here is delightful.
- Royal Park Hotel The Kyoto is a modern 4-star hotel in the centre of Kyoto. It’s within a short walking distance of top hanami spots like Shirakawa Minami-dori and Maruyama Park.
- Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto is a 5-star hotel set in the centre of Higashiyama Ward. The hotel’s rooms fuse traditional Japanese design and modern comforts flawlessly. Splurge on one of the top-end rooms. You’ll enjoy unforgettable views onto the hotel’s well-manicured Shakusuien Japanese garden and pond.