Kyoto Cherry Blossom Tour: Ish Meets Japan

Japan has quickly become one of the favorite vacation destinations for Filipinos. Thanks to more relaxed Japan visa application procedures, the “Land of the Rising Sun” is now a lot more accessible. Apart from the capital city of Tokyo, many tourists choose Kyoto due to its abundance of cultural heritage sites. Kyoto is also one of the best places to enjoy cherry blossoms or SAKURA.

Cherry Blossoms

To celebrate the spring equinox, I’m sharing my list of must-see places in Kyoto from my springtime visit there. Enjoy!

1. Arashiyama (JR Sagano Line)– This little district lies a little further out into the western outskirts of Kyoto so you might want to schedule a full day here. The reason why I like it so much is because it reminds me of a little snow globe. Everything in the town looks charming and pristine, as if it was all just a little toy replica of a real Japanese town.

Upon exiting the train, visitors to Arashiyama will be greeted by a kimono forest. the station is adorned with decorative posts wrapped in the colorful fabric used to make traditional kimono. This gives the place a bit of a theme park feel.

Arashiyama kimono forest
Arashiyama Station

Arashiyama is also the location of the famous bamboo grove. However, while Instagram photos project a very serene and calming stroll amongst the softly swaying bamboo reeds, expect something entirely different.  Unless you get here at sunrise, the place will surely be packed with camera-toting tourists.

Arashiyama Bamboo grove
Arashiayama Bamboo grove full of tourists

While the bamboo grove is a popular tourist trap in Arashiyama, the Tenryu-ji Temple and its gardens are the real gem. Located just off the main road, the temple shows off classic Japanese tatami rooms that you see in old-school samurai films.

The sprawling Sogenchi Garden is a real sight to behold during springtime. Apart from the classic white cherry blossoms, there are also peach and plum blossoms which are more brightly colored. There are different variations of pink, orange and purple trees. The garden also has a zen stone garden and various water fixtures.

The rest of Arashiyama is just as picturesque. During the springtime, the streets are abloom and almost every few steps reveals an Instagram-worthy view.

2. Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), Kyoto City Bus number 101 or 205 – Another must-see zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto is the Golden Pavilion. It is one of the most photographed buildings in Japan and is part of a collection of world heritage sites in the area. The top two floors of the building are completely covered in gold leaf. The gardens surrounding the pavilion could also be enjoyed in full bloom during spring.

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

3. Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), bus number 5, 17 or 100- Unlike the Golden Pavilion, Ginkaku-ji isn’t covered in silver. It is mostly black but it is just as beautiful. This zen temple boasts one of the most beautiful moss gardens that I have seen. The grounds also feature a Japanese sand garden and of course, lots and lots of sakura.

Silver Pavilion Kyoto
The Silver Pavilion
Silver Pavilion Kyoto
Ponds and gardens in the Ginkaku-ji complex

4. Philosopher’s Walk (a.k.a. Philosopher’s Path or Tetsugaku no michi)- If you’re already coming from Ginkaku-ji, step outside the complex and take a leisurely walk along the Philosopher’s Walk. This is one of the most popular places to see cherry blossoms in Kyoto. The path runs for about two kilometers from Ginkaku-ji to Nanzenji neighorhood.

The stone path runs along a canal that is lined with hundreds of cherry trees. The canal often gets filled with fallen blossoms, forming a flower river. Along the way, there are dozens of restaurants, souvenir shops and temples that you can visit.

Philosopher's Walk Kyoto
Philosopher's Walk Kyoto
Philosopher's Walk Kyoto
Fallen Cherry Blossoms turn the stream pink
A stream full of cherry lossoms
Philosopher's Walk Kyoto

5. Maruyama Park, bus number 100 or 206 Gion stop- Maruyama Park is centrally located in Kyoto and is perhaps the most popular location to enjoy cherry blossoms. Hanami or cherry lossom viewing parties are often held here in the early weeks of April.

Mats and low tables are set up on the ground and groups of friends, families or colleagues gather to share food and drinks. the park itself boasts an abundant number of vendors selling traditional Japanese fare.

Maruyama Park Kyoto
Food stalls in Maruyama Park
Cherry Blossoms Kyoto
Maruyama Park Kyoto
Cherry Blossoms Kyoto
Maruyama Park
Weeping Cherry Tree at the center of Maruyama Park
Maruyama Park
Maruyama is also a popular place to spot tourists dressed in kimono
Maruyama Park

6. Fushimi Inari Shrine, JR Inari Station on JR Nara Line-This Shinto shrine is another one of the highly photographed places in Kyoto. The vermillion torii gates have become one of the more recognizable symbols of Kyoto and Japan. Thousands of bright orange gates mark paths that lead up to Mount Inari.

Each gate has been donated with the price going directly proportional with the size. The names of the donors are inscribed on the gate posts. The full hike to the top of the mountain lasts over 2 hours but visitors are free to roam through the paths only as far as they wish. There are several shrines along the way to the top and one does not need to complete the hike to gain a great experience.

That wraps up my cherry blossom tour of Kyoto. Stay tuned for my entry on my favorite Kyoto street food and the related Osaka and Tokyo tours.

Remember, it’s best to book your cherry blossom tour in the first week of April. A bit later and the blossoms might already be gone. If you come too soon, it might still be too cold. Enjoy your trip and let me know if you discover other sights that I should visit next time!