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Kyoto: Full Bloom

Cherry blossoms in full bloom along Kyoto's Kamogawa River

It's been another beautiful spring day in the today, perfect for catching in full bloom across the region and most of western and central Japan. This week might be the best timing of the season to see the blossoms at their peak in these regions, though stormy weather predicted for this Thursday threatens to cut short the best viewing time significantly.

Our team is reporting daily this week and next to bring our readers regular updates on the conditions in the area and around the country: see the latest on our cherry blossom forecast and upcoming reports.

Today, I headed to to check the conditions in some of the city's . Like Yoshino and Osaka, where Raina and I were reporting from yesterday, Kyoto's sakura were still definitely at their peak today.

Kiyomizudera Temple: Full Bloom

I started my day today with a brief morning visit to one of Kyoto's all-around favorite temples, the iconic Kiyomizudera. While the temple isn't a packed-to-the-gills sakura hot spot, dozens of lush Somei Yoshino sakura trees are planted around the temple grounds and today were all at full bloom. The temple and blossoms will be also be illuminated every night through April 10 for even more atmospheric views (from 18:00 to 21:00).

Kiyomizudera Temple
The usual throngs of tourists packed onto the balcony to enjoy the view and the sakura
The cherry trees around the temple grounds were in full bloom today
A beautiful old sakura tree in front of a temple building and the main pagoda
The approach to Otowa Waterfall, surrounded by Japanese maple trees and a couple flashy sakura trees
Sakura against vermillion

Maruyama Park: Full Bloom

From Kiyomizudera, my next stop was Maruyama Park, just a 15-minute walk north of the temple. The park is arguably one of Kyoto's most popular spots for during peak season, which happens to be right now. Lots of flower watchers strolling about in traditional yukata, buying food from festival food stands, or staking spots to sit under the blossoms.

Perhaps the most atmospheric time to enjoy the atmosphere here is at night, when the sakura are lit until 1am(!) every night during the season, including the park's crown jewel, a famous, centuries-old giant weeping cherry tree.

Hanami partiers enjoying the blossoms at Maruyama Park
The crown jewel weeping sakura tree, which also looks stunning lit up at night
Blossoms at full bloom
A fantastic spot for nighttime hanami partying (if you have the energy for the crowds!)
Food vendors all set up and ready for the evening crowds
Just a short walk away from Maruyama, Gion's Shirakawa Dori was looking gorgeous today
Girls galavanting in Gion

Kamogawa River: Full Bloom

My next destination today brought me away from the bustle of the central city temples to the northern outskirts of the main urban city area of Kyoto, where my objective was simply to stroll along the beautiful Kamogawa River. The river stretches for kilometers through the city, and lining its banks as it passes through the city are hundreds of cherry trees. The blossoms today were all in full bloom along the entire river, making for spectacular views from the long river walkways and a lovely atmosphere for relaxing and picnicking on the banks, especially in north Kyoto where there is ample green space and fewer crowds.

The beautiful banks of the Kamogawa River in north Kyoto
Blossoms at full bloom by the river
Cheeky white flowers flagrantly parodying the modest sakura
Not a bad way to kill an afternoon
Playing by the river
One of many incredible sakura tunnels over the roads parallel to river

While in northern Kyoto, I made a quick side visit just a couple minutes' walk away from the riverside to Kamo Shrines. While not a major sakura destination, the somewhat off-the-beaten-path pair of shrines has a relatively relaxed atmosphere and, after having recently finished undergoing some renovations, were looking shiny and splendid today. The shrine grounds also features its own small grove of cherry trees which were equally pretty today.

Shimogamo Shrine looking dapper
The blossoms around the shrine grounds were very nice today
The shrine gronuds made for a great hanami spot for avoiding the usual Kyoto crowds

Kyoto Botanical Garden: Full Bloom

My next stop for the day was to the Kyoto Botanical Garden on the north edge of Kyoto's main urban area. The garden features a large cherry blossom grove with hundreds of Somei Yoshino and weeping cherry trees, most of which were at full bloom today. The garden also offers an illumination in the evenings this year each night until 21:00 through April 10.

The impressive cherry tree garden at the Kyoto Botanical Garden
'Just too nice a day not to hanami,' said every person in Kyoto today
Playing amongst the cherry trees
Can't beat the colors here (if pink and white is your thing)
Many great weeping cherry trees were at full bloom today
Tulips trying to embezzle attention away from the sakura: good try, guys