See the Eternal City tinted in the delicate pink of Spring and sigh at the fleeting beauty of the sakura. Here are the top spots to for ohanami (cherry blossom viewing).
1) Tenryu-ji Temple
This is Kyoto’s most famous temple, with the Arashiyama mountains as a backdrop and a Zen garden – Sogenchi-teien – that has been recognized by the Japanese government as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty. The weeping sakura tree at the Tahoden Sanctuary is a must-see.
2) Ninna-ji Temple
This World Heritage Site is famous for its locally-cultivated sakura trees, called the Omuro sakura, which are shorter in height and bloom one week later than the mainstream Somei Yoshino variety. See the timeless beauty of these 200 sakura trees, which have been enjoyed here for over 400 years.
3) Hirano Shrine
See over 60 varieties of sakura trees here, particularly the early blossoming of the Sakigake sakura which is said to herald the start of the ohanami season. The shrine’s annual cherry blossom festival is the oldest in Kyoto, dating back to 985 AD.
4) Nijo Castle
50 varieties of sakura – including Satozakura and many rare types – are scattered throughout this World Heritage Site, built as the Kyoto residence for Japan’s first shogun. Evening entertainment such as taiko drumming, koto performances and tea ceremonies accompany the evening “light up” hours.
Watch out for Part II of this series for more must-see sakura spots!
How to ohanami:
-Ohanami involves sitting under a sakura tree end enjoying its natural beauty with a picnic. So bring a mat or sheet to sit on for your ohanami session and a small blanket as it can get cold sitting in the open.
-Check the dates of the local ohanami festival, where plenty of food stalls and some public events or performances will be set up
-Go early if you want to get a good ohanami viewing spot!
-The start of the cherry blossom season varies from year to year, but is generally from late March to mid-April in Kyoto (depending on the region).