A GUIDE TO JAPAN’S CHERRY BLOSSOM BLOOMING SEASON:KYOTO

For anyone who has as much of a Japanese fetish as I do, you are mostly likely a fan of one of the most signature Japanese trade-marks: the cherry blossom, or Sakura.

As the country’s national flower, cherry blossoms are planted throughout the country in all forms, sizes and species. As spring rolls around the corner each year, the cherry blossoms begin blooming in the southern islands as early as February and slowly migrate all the way up to Hokkaido in early May.

Although the blooming season in each individual region usually only lasts for about a week (two at best if the weather holds), if you’re lucky enough to be there to witness the peak of the blooming season, it is one of the most magnificently stunning sights you will ever see!

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Every year around February, Japan’s Weather Association will release an official estimate blooming prediction for that year’s cherry blossom status for the whole country, giving people at least a few weeks to plan out their vacations and/or off days so that they can have at least a day for hanami (literal translation: flower viewing, generally meaning ume or cherry blossoms) with their families and friends.

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This blooming prediction is only for the common species of cherry blossom that is most commonly seen all over the country. Depending on the species of the tree, the flowers in the Tokyo area can bloom as early as February when the actual blooming season is still more than a month away!

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*These were taken in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, around the end of February. They had already begun to wither and fall at this point.

As I haven’t yet had the pleasure or privilege to see cherry blossoms in any place in Japan other than Kyoto, today I’ll be giving you a list of recommendations of must see cherry blossom sights in Kyoto city! Ready or not, here we go!

Gion

The Gion area is the old entertainment area of Kyoto back when it was still the capital of the country. It contains some beautifully preserved streets, buildings and old alley ways and was and still is famous for Geishas (or Geiko as the Geishas calls themselves). There are tons of cherry blossom trees planted in the area and walking through the area while the sakuras are in bloom will literally make you feel like you’ve slipped through time and wondered into the Edo period!

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Gion is also a popular spot for traditional Japanese wedding photos. No studio backdrop could ever compare to a real traditional Japanese alley with blooming cherry blossoms~ If you’re lucky, you might be able to see some couples out in traditional wedding outfits doing their photo-shoots there!

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Yasaka Shrine

The Yasaka Shrine is one of the oldest and most historical shrines in Kyoto and is also known for being a local cherry blossom viewing hot spot. Connected with the Maruyama Park, also a well known cherry blossom viewing point, the Yasaka shrines is home to almost 700 sakura trees. Both are completely free to enter and thus is a popular flowering viewing destination for the locals and visitors. One ancient weeping cherry tree stands out from the crowd as one of the oldest and most admired tree in the grounds.

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Each year during the blooming season there is also a nightly illumination of all the cherry blossom trees in the shrine and this presents the beauty of the cherry blossoms in a whole different light (no pun intended)!

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Kiyomizu Temple

This temple has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the uniqueness and the craftsmanship behind its design. It was founded in the 8th century and the main temple was built back in the early 1600s WITHOUT A SINGLE NAIL IN THE ENTIRE STRUCTURE!!! I mean, ok technically this was back before construction nails were even invented, but still, A-MA-ZING!!

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You’ve probably seen pictures of this somewhere during your researching of things to see in Japan, and in those pictures they probably showed the Kiyomizu Temple sitting in a bed of soft pink petals. Well unfortunately I’m here to officially declare that those pictures are absolutely misleading and probably photo shopped…however, even though there are hardly enough cherry blossoms there surround the structure in pink, it’s still more than enough to create a beautiful, spring montage that will have you gawking~

Philosopher’s Path or “Tetsugaku no michi”

This is absolutely one of the BEST cherry blossom viewing spots in Kyoto! With cherry blossoms lined up along both sides of a small river stream, this was definitely one of those anime-scenes-come-to-life moments for me! This path is 2.8 kms (or 1.7 miles) of pure, Japanese spring, cherry blossom bliss that I would be quite happily walk down forever~

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As no amount of photos will ever be able to do this place justice, I absolutely URGE anyone who will be in Japan during the end of March or the beginning of April to make even just a day trip down to Kyoto to take a walk down this unearthly path for themselves! I guarantee that you will thank me afterwards! 😉

Blog by: ANNIE ZHONG

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