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What to do in Kyoto in Spring - Best Things To Do Recommended by a local

By Eko Heru Prasetyo Economics student with a love of extreme food who switched the cultural centre of Jogjakarta, Indonesia for the stunning gardens and temples of Kyoto
06 February 2020
What to do in Kyoto in Spring - Best Things To Do Recommended by a local

Edited by Holly Stark

In Kyoto, everywhere is beautiful during springtime. It’s the city’s cherry blossom season and almost every spot is considered a sakura spot, from the trees aligning the Kamogawa river, to the heights of the Inari mountain, to the magnificent Buddhist zen temple of Kinkakuji. There are plenty of things to do in Kyoto and with the mild breeze, budding flowers and magnificent pink tunnels, the city is truly a beautiful place to spend the season. Enjoy the lush parks and botanical gardens while adopting the ancient Hanami way of life; living the Japanese traditional custom of mindfully enjoying the transient beauty of flowers and blooming petals. With a Kyoto map in hand and a Kyoto itinerary, you won’t be stuck knowing what to do on the island of Hokkaido in Spring.


Kamogawa River


Looking for organic and unrefined things to do in Kyoto in spring? Head to the Kamogawa River. With a light breeze in the air and away from the Kyoto crowd, the spot provides the perfect opportunity for people and bird watching and admiring the city’s natural springtime phenomenon. A great place to experience the cherry blossom Kyoto, known locally as sakura trees, is where the majestic pink timbers meet with the Kamogawa river. Kamogawa, meaning “wild duck river” coasts through the Kyoto Prefecture; it is 31 km and sourced from the mountains in the area of Mount Sajikigatake, running from the Kyoto Basin down south to the Yodo River. The pink pathway sees mainly locals moving through their daily lives; having picnics, strolling around, fishing in the waters, playing tennis or football, cycling, practicing martial arts and making music. Tourists also head to this spot for a breath of fresh air, and the sweet natural sounds of the flowing river mixed with the surrounding urban environment. The best trees and Hanami parties are north of Imadegawa-dori. Head to the Philosopher's Path too; a lovely stone path which runs through the northern part of Kyoto's Higashiyama district. It’s considered one of the best areas to stay in Kyoto. The must-see Kyoto Philosopher’s Path follows a canal which is lined by hundreds of cherry blossoms.

Hanami and Flowers


Hanami means sitting under trees, hanging out alone or with friends and families, eating a packed lunch, reading a book or having a party under the sakura branches and admiring ume flowers. Hanami or cherry blossom Kyoto viewing often comprises a picnic party with a blanket, food and wine under the biggest and loveliest cherry blossom tree. Many locals have a Hanami party with friends, family or colleagues, admiring the transient trees in their prime. Looking for things to do in Kyoto at night? Try Hanami and mindfully admire the pale pink, white and purple budding flowers as the sun sets. Maruyama-koen Park is a bustling open park and during cherry blossom season, it becomes a vibrant Hanami party, both during the day and by night. For a more peaceful experience, head to Kyoto Gosho, Kyoto Imperial Palace Park; the area is large enough to host a lot of people and celebrations without feeling too crowded. Alternatively, the Kyoto Botanical Gardens are a favourite for many locals and won’t often pop up on a tourist’s Kyoto map; the gardens feature a lush park with many flowers from tulips to blossoms. Bring family or friends or go solo, enjoy snacks and drink some beers while soaking up the blissful surroundings.

Miyako Odori Geisha Performance


Your Kyoto itinerary would not be complete without seeing the iconic April Miyako Odori. Kyoto’s geisha communities put on an annual public show which provide an opportunity to see the geisha perform their arts; a highly stylized, tightly choreographed graceful dance, as well as seeing their lavish kimonos and intricate costumes, ornate hairstyles and an orchestra playing traditional Japanese music. During the annual Miyako Odori, the geisha of the Gion Kobu community perform; each performance has about eight scenes which depict aspects of Japanese life, from life in Kyoto, traditional shrines and temples, to the transformation of nature throughout the year. ‘Miyako’ means capital city, and ‘Odori’ means dance, so ‘Miyako Odori’ translates to ‘Capital City Dances.’ The dance began in 1872, just four years after Tokyo took over Kyoto as the capital city of Japan. Dances are held at the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theatre, and are popular with both Kyoto locals and visitors to the city. There are four performances each day which last an hour, at 12:30pm, 2pm, 3:30pm and 4:50pm. This schedule is maintained every day throughout the whole of April – when the cherry blossoms of Kyoto are in bloom.

Mount Inari and The Fushimi Inar Shrine


If you’re looking for a scenic view of the city, an easy hike in the surrounding hills, a glimpse at the beautiful cherry blossoms and one of the best places to visit in Kyoto during spring, the Fushimi-Inari pilgrimage is a great choice. Starting at Keihan Fushimi-Inari Station or JR Inari Station, the hike involves passing through hypnotic Shinto shrine gates, sub-shrines, trees and a network of woodland forest trails. Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, harvest, commerce and business. Foxes are thought to be Inari's messenger Gods, so many fox statues across the shrine grounds can be seen, sometimes with a key in their mouth, which symbolises the key to the rice storehouse in ancient times. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital's move to Kyoto in 794. It’s a beautiful place to visit in springtime, providing great views of Southern Kyoto.