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Kyoto: Just Opened

Early-blooming shidare-zakura nearly at full bloom in the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park

The cherry blossom season has begun and blossoms are beginning to open a bit early across western Japan and in some of the country's major cities. While it usually takes 1–2 weeks for the most common mid-season varieties of sakura to reach their best viewing times, now is a great time to watch the flowers as they blossom into color. In addition, it's also a great time to find early-blooming varieties reaching their peaks about now.

Today, I made my way to Kyoto, one Japan's most popular cherry blossom viewing destinations to check on the status of some of the city's best early season sakura spots and the progress of the later blooming varities.

Kyoto Imperial Palace Park

Approaching Full Bloom

My first stop today was to Kyoto's Imperial Palace park. While the palace grounds aren't particularly well-known for cherry blossoms, one small grove in the northwestern corner of the park hides a cache of early-blooming shidarezakura, or weeping cherry trees, that often reach their fullest bloom around this time of each year. And this year, I wasn't disappointed.

Many of the shidarezakura here were magnificently full today, nearly at their peak. A few other varieties which bloom a bit slower were also just starting to show progress of their own, too, but the shidarezakura definitely stole the show.

One of several shidare-zakura, or weeping cherry tree, in the park nearly at full bloom
Thousands of blossoms raining down
Another early bloomer looking handsome
Cherry blossoms are photographer magnets, even this early in the season
Taking in the view
While not as crowded as some of the major sakura hot spots, there was a healty flow of tourists today
Light pink shidare-zakura and deep hot pink plum blossoms
A great day to for a stroll in the park

Maruyama Park

Just Opened

My second stop of the day was to Maruyama Park, one of Kyoto's most well-loved cherry blossom spots, just a 15-minute walk north of the famous Kiyomizudera Temple in eastern Kyoto. Today, I was excited to find that many of the trees' blossoms had just begun to open across the park, showing good progress for an early-April peak.

In addition to the more common mid-season varieties, though, I also came across a good deal of early-blooming shidarezakura here, too, many of which were nearly at full bloom. Even on a weekday afternoon this early in the season, crowds of people were already pouring into the park to see the flowers, with yatai food stalls setting up shop getting ready to serve them. Tonight (Friday, March 25) is also the first night that the park will start lighting up the trees at night for an illumination event that will last through mid April.

While a few early bloomers were reaching peak, most cherry blossoms were just opening at Maruyama Park
Much of the park looked like this today, though that didn't stop a few intrepied flower watchers
Sakura selfie
Opening blossoms over soon-to-open yatai food stalls
A great setting for enjoying the blossoms
Festival lanterns are strung up everywhere to add to the festive mood
The cherry blossoms are opening everywhere!
Trees aren't the only place to find cherry blossoms
Blooming in the alleys of Kyoto
A beautiful, prominent shidare-zakura bigger than a hippopotamus on the stairs of Sannenzaka


Just Opened

My final stop of the day was to none other than the iconic Kiyomizudera Temple. The ever-popular destination was buzzing as always today, but with a little extra excitement thanks to the now-obviously opening cherry blossoms scattered around the temple grounds. The progress here seems to be about in line with the rest of the city, so in a few days, we can expect to see a lot of great blossoms here.

The season definitely seems to be off to a good start here in Kyoto!

Most of the cherry blossoms around Kiyomizudera were either just opening or just about to open today
I'd put guy's face next to anticipation in the dictionary
So much in store for the crowds of visitors
The sakura trees that pepper the hillsides are close to showing their colors
Many blossoms were just opening
Progress being made on the construction of one of the temple gates; no more tarp (for now)!