A complete guide to Kyoto cherry blossom season 2024 (+ sakura festival dates, night illuminations and a map of the best cherry blossom spots).
Kyoto, with its ancient temples, is one of the most popular destinations in Japan to experience the cherry blossom season. Also known as sakura, the cherry blossoms are not only a beautiful sight but hold deep cultural significance in Japan as well. They symbolize the transient nature of life and the beauty of impermanence.
Every spring, usually from late March to early April, cherry trees in Kyoto burst into beautiful pink and white blooms, creating a stunning landscape of delicate flowers. Thousands of tourists and locals flock to the city’s popular cherry blossom viewing spots, such as Maruyama Park and the Philosopher’s Walk, to witness this fleeting beauty. Some gardens and temples even illuminate the cherry blossoms in the evenings, creating a magical atmosphere.
Planning a trip to Kyoto for the cherry blossom season could be tricky. This is because of the fact that every year the trees bloom at different times and the delicate flowers last only two weeks. However, with careful planning, you can make it happen! That’s why I’ve put together this Kyoto cherry blossom guide. Here you’ll find all the information I’ve collected before and during my trip to Japan, including the exact sakura festival dates, night illuminations and the best cherry blossom spots.
Kyoto cherry blossom guide 2024
Spring is magical in Kyoto. Every year, between late March and early April, thousands of cherry trees decorate the city’s ancient temples and serene gardens in beautiful pink and white colours. It’s likely the most scenic time of year, but it’s fleeting, lasting just two weeks. Be sure to plan your visit carefully to catch it at its best.
Kyoto cherry blossom forecast 2024
Every year in January, the Japan Weather Association releases the cherry blossom forecast. This forecast provides information about when the flowers will begin to bloom and when they will reach full bloom across Japan.
However, keep in mind that these dates are not final, because they depend a lot on the weather. Typically, if the weather is mild during the weeks before the sakura season, the trees tend to bloom earlier. Conversely, colder weather delays the blossoms from opening. The dates may shift either earlier or later (even up to 10 days), depending on weather conditions.
In recent years, the first blooms in Kyoto have been observed between March 17 and March 26. The full bloom typically reaches its peak between March 26 and April 4.
This year, the first cherry blossoms in Kyoto will bloom on March 23, 2024, according to data from the Japan Weather Association, February 8, 2024.
Kyoto cherry blossom dates 2024
Forecasted flowering date – 23 March 2024
Forecasted full bloom date – 31 March 2024
In the table below you can find the cherry blossom season dates for the last year.
|Full bloom date
How long do cherry blossoms last in Kyoto?
Typically, the cherry blossom season lasts around two weeks. After the initial blossoms open up, it generally takes about a week to reach full bloom. A week later (depending on the weather), the blossoms start falling from the trees.
Tips on Kyoto sakura season
Accommodation – Kyoto is incredibly popular during cherry blossom season for both domestic and international travel. It’s highly recommended to book a hotel well in advance, ideally around 3-4 months ahead of your visit. My advice is to do it immediately after the release of the official cherry blossom forecast, which happens in January.
My favourite place to stay in Kyoto: The Gate Hotel
Why: perfect central location with many dining options nearby, spacious rooms
What I like: cosy lounge with bonfire and free drinks, great city views
Best time to enjoy sakura – In recent years, the cherry blossom season in Japan has started earlier than expected. Therefore, I recommend considering arriving a few days before the officially projected full bloom date (and staying a few days in Kyoto) to ensure you catch the blossoms at their best. In case the full bloom date is earlier, you’ll arrive exactly for it, if it is later – you’ll arrive just a few days before the opening (which is better than arriving after the full bloom when everything is gone).
Although I booked my trip after the official sakura forecast, the latter changed so much because of warm weather, that the full bloom was 10 days earlier! I was lucky that I planned to arrive 3-4 days before the initial full bloom date, so I was still able to enjoy the sakura season. In the end, I arrived in Kyoto three days following the full bloom, and at that point, some trees had already started losing their pink petals. Five days later, nearly all of the blossoms were gone.
Visiting Kyoto for the first time? Then have a look at my detailed Kyoto itinerary, which includes all must-see sights, the best temples to visit and my favourite places for soba noodles.
Map – find here a map of all popular cherry blossom viewing spots.
Best Kyoto cherry blossom spots
If you’re planning a trip to Kyoto during the sakura season, you’ll find cherry blossoms pretty much everywhere. The city boasts almost 50 cherry blossom viewing spots, including temples, gardens, paths, and canals (see all locations here). There are, however, some places that offer a truly breathtaking experience that you won’t want to miss. You’ll find all of the must-see sakura spots in my guide, including some hidden and less crowded places.
Certain locations, such as Maruyama Park and Hirano Shrine host cherry blossom festivals with special events and sakura-flavoured food. While, others like Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Nijō Castle, have stunning night illuminations of cherry flowers.
Best cherry blossom in Kyoto 2024
- Maruyama Park
- Philosopher’s Walk
- Nijō Castle
- Kiyomizu-dera Temple
- Daigo-ji Temple
- Kiyamachi Dori
- Ninna-ji Temple
- Heian Shrine
- Kyoto Botanical Garden
- Tōji Temple
- Hirano Shrine
Founded in 1886, Maruyama Park is the oldest park in Kyoto. It is located next to Yasaka Shrine and the historic Gion district, known for its traditional tea houses and geisha culture. With its 680 cherry trees, the park is one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots in Kyoto.
Maruyama Park is most famous for its massive weeping cherry tree (shidarezakura). Towering over 12m (39 feet) in height and over 80 years old, it has grown from a parent tree over 200 years old. The tree is illuminated in the evenings during the sakura season, creating a magical and romantic atmosphere.
You’ll also find food stalls and vendors selling souvenirs and food in the park. A great place to taste some local treats, such as matcha soft serve!
Address: Maruyamacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto 605-0071, Japan
Closest station: Gion-Shijo Station station (Keihan line)
Illumination: from sunset (around 6 PM) to 10 PM
Philosopher’s Walk (also known as Tetsugaku-no-michi in Japanese) is one of the most popular sakura spots in Kyoto. This picturesque canal-side path is lined with more than 400 cherry trees, creating a stunning tunnel of pink and white blossoms in the spring. It is named after the famous Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitarō. He used to walk this path daily on his way to Kyoto University, using it for meditation.
Philosopher’s Walk is approximately 2km (6562 feet) long, starting near Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavilion) and ending at the Kumano Nyakuōji Shrine. It takes around 30 minutes to walk.
Address: Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Japan
Closest metro station: Keage station (Tozai line)
Closest bus stop: Ginkakuji-mae or Ginkakujimichi
Built in the early 17th century, Nijō Castle served as the residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. The castle is surrounded by expansive gardens, featuring more than 300 sakura trees of 50 varieties. With its rich history and beautiful architecture, Nijō Castle is a great spot to experience cherry blossoms in a historic setting.
Every spring, from late March to early April, Nijō Castle holds a Cherry Blossom Festival on its grounds. The festival, known as Naked Flowers, features night illumination of the cherry trees and a colourful projection mapping over the castle.
Address: 541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8301, Japan
Closest station: Nijojo-mae station (Tozai line)
Illumination: Naked Flowers at Nijō Castle (from 6 PM to 9 PM)
Kiyomizu-dera Temple is one of the city’s most iconic temples. It is famous for its large wooden stage, which extends 13m (43 feet) above the hillside. During the cherry blossom season, you can enjoy stunning views of the city framed by the blooming sakura from the stage.
There are in total up to 1,500 cherry trees on the temple grounds, with the majority of them planted around the pond near the exit. During the cherry blossom season, Kiyomizu-dera features evening illuminations (yozakura) during which the temple and its gardens are beautifully lit up.
Address: 1 Chome-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan
Closest station: Kiyomizu-Gojō Station (Keihan line)
Illumination: from sunset (around 6 PM) to 09:30 PM
Founded in 874, Daigo-ji is one of the major temples in the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. The temple complex is known for its stunning architecture and beautiful themed gardens, including a rock garden and a moss garden.
Daigo-ji Temple has more than 1,000 cherry trees of different varieties, including Somei Yoshino, Yamazakura and Shidarezakura (weeping cherry trees). This means that the trees typically bloom at different times, allowing you to enjoy the blossoms over an extended period of time.
The temple has been a popular hanami location since the Heian period (794-1185). Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a powerful samurai warlord, held a lavish hanami party in the 16th century with more than 1,300 guests. A recreation of this famous event, called the Hōtaikō Hanami Gyōretsu, takes place at Daigo-ji the the second Sunday of every April.
Address: 22 Daigohigashiojicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 601-1325, Japan
Closest station: Daigo station (Tozai line)
Illumination: from sunset (around 6 PM) to 10 PM, Cherry Blossom Parade (second Sunday of April from 1 PM to 3 PM)
Kiyamachi Dori (Kiyamachi Street) is a hidden sakura spot, which I stumbled upon by chance while I was walking to my hotel. The street is known for its historic charm and traditional teahouses, restaurants, and bars.
Located alongside the Takase River, Kiyamachi Dori is lined with more than 200 cherry trees. These trees burst into beautiful shades of pink and white during the spring, creating a stunning and picturesque scene.
Address: Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8016, Japan
Closest station: Kawaramachi station (Hankyu-Kyoto line), Gion-Shijo station (Keihan line) and Shiyakusho-mae station (Tozai line)
Illumination: from sunset (around 6 PM) to 10 PM
More Kyoto sakura locations
If you happen to arrive outside the cherry blossom season, take a look at the places below. Many of them feature sakura trees that bloom either earlier or later, ensuring you can still enjoy the beauty of the cherry flowers. To catch the late-blooming sakura trees, head over to Ninna-ji Temple or Heian Shrine, and for the early bloomers, visit Hirano Shrine.
Here are some other cherry blossom spots worth mentioning:
- Togetsu-kyo Bridge – spanning over the Hozu River, the bridge offers a picturesque view of over 1,500 cherry blossom trees on the slopes of the Arashiyama mountains
- Kōdai-ji Temple – the temple features a beautiful weeping cherry tree in the middle of a rock garden. The highlights are the evening illuminations of the sakura trees and the projection mappings of the temple (from 5 PM to 9:30 PM).
- Keage Incline – incline railway track, lined with over 90 cherry trees on both sides, creating a beautiful tunnel of pink and white blossoms (illuminated in the evenings)
- Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens – this park, surrounding the Imperial Palace, is home to more than 1,000 cherry trees
- Yodogawa Riverside Park – located on the outskirts of Kyoto, the park features a 1.4km (4593 feet) pink tunnel formed by 250 cherry trees
Ninnaji is known for its late-blooming cherry trees (Omurozakura). It’s the best place to see some cherry blossoms if you arrive in Kyoto after the end of the sakura season. When I visited, approximately five days after the peak bloom, the Omurozakura trees had yet to start blooming.
Omurozakura is a variety of cherry trees, which are much shorter in height and usually grow up to a height of only 2m. These dwarf cherry trees usually come into full bloom in mid-April. There is a small forest of Omurozakura trees on the inner grounds of the temple. Besides them, you’ll also find some Somei Yoshino and weeping cherry trees near the temple’s pagoda and the main hall.
Address: 33 Omuroouchi, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8092, Japan
Closest metro station: Omuro-Ninnaji Station (Keifuku Randen line)
Closest bus stop: Omuro Ninnaji
Heian Shrine was built in 1895 to celebrate the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto, once the imperial capital of Japan. The shrine, with its beautiful vermillion pillars and green roof, is a replica of the Heian Palace.
The extensive gardens of Heian Shrine feature more than 300 cherry trees, including varieties such as Shidarezakura, Somei Yoshino, Sato-zakura and Yamazakura. However, the main highlights are the weeping cherry trees, whose reflections shimmer on the surface of the pond.
If you’ve missed the sakura season by a few days, Heian Shrine is the perfect spot to catch the beauty of some late-blooming cherry trees.
Just next to the Heian Shrine, you can find the Okazaki Canal. The canal is lined with cherry blossoms, beautifully illuminated at night. Here, you can enjoy a scenic boat cruise beneath the stunning cherry flowers.
Address: 97 Okazaki Nishitennocho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8341, Japan
Closest station: Higashiyama Station (Tozai line)
Kyoto Botanical Gardens
Established in 1924, Kyoto Botanical Gardens is home to over 12,000 species of plants, both native and exotic. There are more than 450 cherry blossom trees of 140 varieties, including rare and exotic types. Due to the wide variety of sakura trees, you can enjoy a blossom viewing for over a month.
The extended sakura season starts in early March with the blossoming of Kanhi-zakura, followed by Somei Yoshino and Shidarezakura in early April and ends with Kikuzakura in late April.
Address: Shimogamo Hangicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-0823, Japan
Closest station: Kitayama station (Karasuma line)
Illumination: from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Tōji Temple is famous for its five-storied pagoda, which dates back to 1643. Standing at 54.8m (180 feet), it is the tallest wooden tower in Japan. During the sakura season, the pagoda is framed by cherry blossoms, creating a breathtaking view.
There are about 200 cherry trees planted on the temple’s grounds. However, the star is a 13m (43 feet) tall weeping cherry tree, over 130 years old.
Address: 1 Kujocho, Minami Ward, Kyoto, 601-8473, Japan
Closest station: Kyoto Station
Illumination: from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM
Hirano Shrine has been a popular cherry blossom viewing spot since the Heian period (794 – 1185). The first cherry blossom festival, called Oka-sai Matsuri, was held here in 985 during the reign of Emperor Kazan. Since then, it has become an annual tradition, attracting thousands of visitors.
Hirano Shrine is known for its early-blooming cherry blossoms. The shrine’s trees often blossom before the peak season, giving you an opportunity to enjoy the flowers even if you arrive before the peak bloom period. The Hirano Shrine’s grounds feature about 400 cherry trees of about 60 different types, including Somei Yoshino, weeping cherry, and Yaezakura. It is believed that the Sakigake-zakura, a cherry blossom type originating from the shrine, marks the start of hanami season in Kyoto with its bloom.
During the sakura season, the cherry trees are beautifully illuminated in the evenings. You can also find a variety of food vendors, selling local delicacies and souvenirs. The Oka-sai Cherry Blossom Festival takes place every year on 10th April.
Address: 1 Hirano Miyamotocho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8322 Kyoto, Japan
Closest station: Kitanohakubaicho station (Keifuku Randen line)
Illumination: from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Where to stay in Kyoto for cherry blossom
Kyoto boasts tens of cherry blossom spots, scattered all over the city. However, the most popular ones, including Maruyama Park, Philosopher’s Walk and Kiyomizu-dera Temple, are located near the Kamo River. Considering this, the best area to stay in Kyoto for sakura season is the Gion district, followed by Downtown Kyoto.
Gion is the city’s most famous historic district, known for its traditional wooden machiya houses and geisha culture. From here you can easily walk to some of the famous sakura spots, including Maruyama Park, Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Heian Shrine. And Nijō Castle is just a 5-minute metro ride via the Tozai line.
Find more information and recommendations in my guide to where to stay in Kyoto.
Granbell Hotel – Best mid-range
Granbell Hotel has the perfect location for sakura season. The hotel is only a 5-minute walk from the Keihan and Karasuma metro lines, and just a 10-minute stroll from the magnificent weeping cherry tree at Maruyama Park. There is a public onsen, surrounded by a Japanese garden, where you can relax. The breakfast buffet features Japanese and Western meals including Obanzai, which is popular Kyoto cuisine.
Why book – 5min walk to Gion-Shijo and Kawaramachi stations, public onsen with a garden
Dhawa Yura – Best luxury
For a luxurious getaway, reserve a room at Dhawa Yura Hotel. This charming boutique hotel offers cosy, contemporary rooms with a tatami seating area by the window. Breakfast is superb with a choice of American or Asian options. Additionally, the hotel features Grill 54th, an excellent dinner restaurant.
Why book – 2min walk to Sanjo Station, great Spa, free drinks and snacks in the lounge
What to do in Kyoto during sakura season
Attend a tea ceremony
The tea ceremony is a centuries-old tradition deeply rooted in Japanese culture. This practice is centred around the preparation and consumption of matcha, a powdered green tea. The Tea Ceremony at Jōtoku-ji Temple (640+ excellent reviews) is a unique experience not to be missed while in Kyoto. You’ll not only gain insights into the ancient ritual but also savour some of the finest matcha tea.
Cherry blossom night viewing
Many of the popular sakura locations feature illuminations of the cherry trees at night. The cherry blossom night viewing (also known as yozakura in Japanese) offers another wonderful chance to appreciate the exquisite flowers.
Maruyama Park, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Daigo-ji Temple and Kiyamachi Dori are among the top places for cherry blossom night viewing. Some spots, such as Nijō Castle, feature colourful projection mapping displays as well.
Best cherry blossom near Kyoto
Located less than 30min away by train, Osaka Castle is one of the most popular cherry blossom spots near Kyoto. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful castles in Japan, especially during springtime. The castle’s park features around 3,000 cherry trees, creating an iconic scene with the 16th-century castle framed by sakura blossoms.
The Nishinomaru Garden boasts 300 cherry trees, mainly of the Somei Yoshino variety. During the sakura season, the trees and the castle are stunningly illuminated at night. Therefore, I suggest either staying overnight in Osaka or catching a late train back to Kyoto to ensure you don’t miss this enchanting view.
Himeji Castle is situated an hour away by train from Kyoto. Built in 1333, it is one of Japan’s most well-preserved and historically significant castles. With more than 1,000 cherry trees, Himeji Castle is one of the most famous spots for cherry blossom viewing in Japan.
Each year at the beginning of April, the Himeji Castle Sakura Festival takes place. During the festival, you can enjoy performances of koto (a traditional Japanese stringed instrument) and Japanese drums amongst the cherry blossoms. Additionally, you can savour unique tea flavours, local sake and traditional Japanese foods.
What to see next
If you’re planning to visit Japan during cherry blossom season, Tokyo is likely on your itinerary. The cherry blossoms in Tokyo typically bloom a bit earlier (from a few days to a week) than in Kyoto. Make sure to time your visit accordingly, so you can enjoy the sakura season in both cities.
Tokyo also has some stunning cherry blossom locations and festivals. Find everything you need to know in my complete guide to Tokyo cherry blossom season.
Faqs about Kyoto sakura season
Yes, Kyoto is renowned for its beautiful cherry blossoms (sakura) during the spring season. The city is one of the most popular destinations in Japan for cherry blossom viewing. Some of the most popular sakura spots are Maruyama Park, Philosopher’s Walk, Nijō Castle and Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
The cherry blossoms typically bloom in Kyoto in the last week of March and the first two weeks of April. However, it’s important to note that the exact timing can vary from year to year depending on weather conditions.
Although both Kyoto and Osaka offer fantastic cherry blossom viewing experiences, Kyoto is a better destination for sakura season. With its numerous temples and traditional gardens with weeping cherry trees, Kyoto is one of the best places to enjoy the cherry blossom season in Japan.
Cherry blossoms (sakura) hold great importance in Japan because they symbolize the transient and fragile nature of life, reminding people to appreciate the beauty of the present moment. The annual sakura season also marks the arrival of spring and new beginnings, giving a sense of renewal and hope.
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