As we step into spring, the cultural heart of Japan begins its sakura blooming season, revealing pink blossoms all around these historic Kyoto temples and shrines.
#1 Daikakuji Temple
The ancient Daikakuji Temple was built in the 800s, and is one of the most popular Shingon Buddhist temples in Japan. Located in the scenic region of Arashiyama, you can see cherry blossoms around the temple pond. This beautiful temple has been used as a filming site for many historic dramas, so make sure you leave enough time to stroll the courtyards. Another hanami spot is the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge, which is just nearby.
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#2 Maruyama Park (near Yasaka Shrine)
Okay, so the cherry blossoms are not directly at the shrine, but at the park next to it. The Maruyama Park is a must-visit as it is the most popular local park for hanami celebrations! During sakura season, food stalls are set up in the park, and the large sakura tree is illuminated at night.
#3 Philosopher’s Path (at Ginkakuji Temple)
Ginkakuji is a zen temple in the mountainous Higashiyama region. It was modeled after Kinkakuji, also known as the Gold Pavilion. You can find the sakura at the Philosopher’s Path, which is next to the canal beside the temple. Walking through the path during golden hour is a truly enchanting experience, there are hundreds of cherry trees lining the street!
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#4 Heian Shrine
Founded just little over a century ago, the Heian Shrine is a relatively young shrine that is dedicated to the first and last emperors of Japan. It gets its name from ‘Heian’, which is actually Kyoto’s former name. You will see the sakura at the garden behind the main shrine and buildings. The cherry trees here are of the weeping variety, adding a dramatic effect to the scenic garden.
Okazaki Canal, outside Heian Shrine
There are many weeping sakura trees lining this canal too. During spring, there are boat tours to appreciate the pink surroundings.
#5 Daigoji Temple
A UNESCO world heritage site, the Daigoji Temple is a Shingon Buddhism temple famous for its architecture and scenery. Located at the foot of a mountain, there are many hiking trails for nature enthusiasts. The cherry blossoms can be found at the Reihokan Museum and in front of the Sanboin.
Another UNESCO world heritage site, the Kiyomizudera is name after the beautiful waterfalls in the region. The most iconic feature of the site is the wooden stage, from which visitors can enjoy a stunning view of the blooming sakura. There are cherry blossoms on the temple balcony, but there are more cherry trees near the garden at exit.
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The Ninnaji Temple is the head temple of Shingon Buddhism, and was once even known as the Omuro Imperial Palace. Although founded in 888, none of the original buildings have withstood the test of time. Currently, the oldest structures left are from the Edo Period in the 1600s. The sakura are scattered across the temple grounds, and they are the Omuro Cherries. This variety is best known for blooming later than the typical Yoshino ones.
#8 Hirano Shrine
The Hirano Shrine is one of the top hanami spots in kyoto, and has had annual cherry blossom festivals since 985! The festival is not just a gathering under the pink trees. Instead, it involves a morning ceremony at the mausoleum of Emperor Kazan, followed by a procession around the shrine.
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