As if I needed to give you reasons to experience the Kyoto cherry blossom season. But tips for your travel planning are definitely good to have. There’s quite a lot that I wish I had known. So I’m sharing it with you now.
Also, you can watch my tragic video of having missed Kyoto’s sakura in full bloom by a week. Don’t let that be you!
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Why Visit Kyoto for Cherry Blossoms?
There are two prime seasons for visiting Kyoto, which are also high season and super popular (for a good reason): cherry blossom season and maple tree season.
But those are prime time for all over the country as well. So what makes Kyoto’s spring time extra special?
- Cultural Heritage: Kyoto is steeped in traditional Japanese culture, making it the perfect backdrop for cherry blossom viewing, or hanami. The city’s historic temples, shrines, and traditional gardens add depth to the experience.
- Scenic Beauty: Kyoto boasts a plethora of cherry blossom trees, creating enchanting landscapes during sakura season. Iconic spots like Maruyama Park and the Philosopher’s Path offer breathtaking backdrops.
- Historical Temples: Kyoto’s historic temples, such as Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) and Kiyomizu-dera, provide a unique blend of cultural significance and natural beauty. And are gorgeous sakura backdrops, too!
- Nighttime Illuminations: Many locations in Kyoto illuminate cherry blossoms in the evenings in vibrant colours, creating a magical atmosphere for visitors to enjoy the flowers’ beauty after dark. Sometimes there are even live concerts to add to the magical mood.
- Seasonal Festivals: Kyoto hosts several cherry blossom festivals, adding to the festive atmosphere with traditional dance performances and geisha gatherings making its rich culture more interactive.
- Cherry Blossom Food: Kyoto’s culinary scene embraces cherry blossoms, offering various sakura-themed sweets, dishes, and beverages for a delightful gastronomic experience. You can only try them during this time of the year!
- Tea ceremonies: Kyoto’s gardens, serene temple grounds and tea houses offer a peaceful setting to enjoy the cherry blossoms, allowing for quiet reflection and relaxation. And all of this with a good brew makes for a happy memory. You can book your own traditional tea ceremony*, too.
- Historical Connections: Kyoto’s historical association with Japan’s imperial past adds an extra layer of intrigue to cherry blossom viewing, making it a destination that offers cultural depth and natural beauty. And you’ll learn a lot!
In summary, Kyoto’s combination of cultural richness, stunning natural beauty, and unique seasonal experiences makes it an exceptional destination for cherry blossom enthusiasts.
When to Best See Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto
Telling someone to visit Kyoto in spring is a very vague recommendation and the blossoming times change each year. If you’re more flexible and can explore Japan for two weeks, even better!
A good idea is to check the year’s previous cherry blossom report to get an idea around what time to expect the blossoms. For 2023 it was March 25 to April 2.
So you see, there is quite a vast difference, especially since cherry blossoms last for about a week. Your best bet is to look into seeing the cherry blossoms in Kyoto during the last week of March or the first of April.
I recommend staying for at least a weekend in Kyoto to have a better chance of good weather and better bloom.
To avoid the insane crowds underneath the sakura trees – and trust me, they will be there – visit under the week and super early in the morning. And check out my list of the best sakura spots in Kyoto to enhance your chances of quiet and reflective walks.
This also goes for regular sightseeing, not just for Kyoto cherry blossom spots. If you get up before sunrise, you can also see the soft glow of the early sun rays illuminate the pink petals. Win win!
Where to Stay in Kyoto
I wrote an entire post of great places to stay at in Kyoto. But to give you a quick overview:
Business travellers and digital nomads should book into the Sotetsu Fresa Inn Kyoto-Hachijoguchi*. It’s only 7 walking minutes from Kyoto Station and super central and well connected. Rooms include working desks.
Also, the design is sleek and stylish, offering beautiful visuals for creative stimulation and great zoom call backgrounds.
If you are backpacking Japan on a limited budget, try a local hostel, such as Piece Hostel Sanjo*, which gets excellent ratings across the board. It is seriously affordable for Japanese prices and it offers female only dorms as well. Solo travellers love this place!
While this hostel is located two minutes away from the Nishiki Market, its partner hostel Piece Hostel Kyoto* allows you to stay right next to the train station, from where you can easily reach the famous Fushimi Inari-Taisha torii gates.
I’ve stayed in airbnbs in Kyoto and haven’t had the best experiences. Hostels are definitely a good and affordable option.
How Early Should You Book Your Trip?
As soon as you know you will experience the Japanese cherry bloom, book your accommodation! The flight you should monitor over a few weeks.
The closer to spring, the more the prices skyrocket.
Here’s an example: Booking a hostel stay in February can cost as low as $10 per night but when I checked the same hostel for a stay in late March, suddenly costs were above $30! And since the pandemic, prices are skyrocketing.
The price difference gets even more dramatic with hotels. Also, a lot of it will be booked out after February. Ideally, start booking everything at least half a year in advance.
Is Kyoto Cherry Blossom Season Worth it?
If my reasons why you should visit Kyoto for the cherry bloom aren’t convincing enough, check out my photos. Kyoto is definitely one of the prettiest locations for seeing sakura in Japan.
If you had to choose one Japanese city only to visit during the famous cherry blossom season, I personally would pick either Kyoto or Tokyo.
There is just so much to see in such a relatively small city. The temples and shrines are absolute stunners and surrounded by hundreds of flowering sakura trees, they stand out even more. Getting around is easy and less tricky than with Tokyo’s public transport.
Even if you have only one day in Kyoto, you will be treated to quite the spectacle in the city centre and Gion district. Definitely put it on your travel bucketlist!