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Beautiful blossoms: Kyoto’s most stunning seasonal flowers and where to admire them

2021.12.23

One of the lovely things about Kyoto is that there’s something new to discover in every season here, whether it’s festivals, culinary delicacies, or natural beauty. When it comes to seasonal flowers, the prefecture is bursting with scenic spots to view colourful blossoms throughout the year, from the sea to the north, to the mountains and farmlands in its central region, to the tea fields in the south! Here are some of the top locations where you can admire Kyoto’s most beautiful blooms and nature, from the legendary cherry blossoms to fiery autumn leaves. Don’t forget to bring your camera!

Plum blossoms: late February to late March

   

Plum blossoms, or ume, are among the first flowers to bloom every year. They are associated with the beginning of spring, and people celebrate their appearance with viewing festivals all across Japan. One of the best spots to see these pretty flowers is the 20-hectare Aodani Plum Grove in Joyo City, to the south of Kyoto. Around 10,000 plum trees grow on its gentle slopes, filling the air with their strong, sweet fragrance. The blossoms range from pure white through to a rich, dark pink, making a stunningly beautiful contrast as you wander beneath the boughs.

Access:
20-minute walk from Yamashiro-Aodani Station on the JR Nara Line.

Aodani Plum Grove

Aodani Plum Grove

Commanding a distant view of the holy mountain Jubo, the Aodani Plum Grove spreads out over the gently sloping hills bordering the crystalline Aodani River. The 20-hectare plum grove has been reknowne …

Rapeseed flowers: mid-March

   

Nanohana, known as rapeseed in English, is another blossom you can enjoy observing in early spring. You often see fields of rapeseed around Japan because the plant is grown as a crop in certain places. In Kyoto you should head to the Omido Kannon-ji Temple area in Kyotanabe City for some of the best views of these delicate flowers. This temple is over 1,300 years old, and in front of it you can admire a carpet of bright yellow petals waving gently in the breeze.

Access:
Take the Nara Kotsu bus from Miyamaki Station (Kintetsu Kyoto Line) or JR Miyamaki Station (JR Gakken Toshi Line). Omido Kannon-ji Temple is a 5-minute walk from the Fugenji bus stop.

Omido Kannon-ji Temple

Omido Kannon-ji Temple

Omido Kannon-ji Temple is located in the “Infused with Tea” region of Kyoto in Kyotanabe City. The temple was founded over 1300 years ago at the request of Emperor Tenmu. It has been hit by numerous f …

Camellias: late March to early April

There are several places where you can view ornamental camellias (tsubaki) across Japan, however for something extra special visit Taki-no-Sennen Tsubaki Park in Yosano-cho. Here you will come across an enormous camellia tree that’s estimated to be over 1,000 years old, and still flowers today. These wild blossoms are a rare dark crimson in colour and, combined with the tree’s impressive size, make for a striking sight. Nearby you’ll find the Kaya Camellia Culture Museum, where you can admire camellia-related artwork and other floral displays.

Access:
The camellia tree is located at the end of a logging road, and best accessed by car using the address of the museum (1986 Taki, Yosano-cho, Yosa-gun, Kyoto).

Taki Thousand Year Camellia

Taki Thousand Year Camellia

Hidden away at the end of a logging road in Yosano, this camellia tree is about 1,000 years old, making it one of the oldest in the world. The tree is 9.7 meters tall, with a girth of 3.26 meters. A c …

Cherry blossoms: late March to mid-April

Sakura, better known in English as cherry blossom, is undoubtedly the most iconic flower in Japan. The blossoms’ fleeting beauty is symbolic of the transient nature of life, and it’s impossible not to be captivated by the exquisite pale pink flowers when they come into bloom. There are a number of gorgeous locations to view cherry blossoms all across Kyoto prefecture, however many of those in the city centre get very crowded – so taking a trip off the beaten tourist track and to some lesser-known spots is especially good at this time of year.

One great choice is Mukojinja Shrine in Muko City. Cherry trees line the long, paved path that leads up from the magnificent stone torii gate at the entrance, transforming the walkway into a magical tunnel of soft pink flowers when they bloom.

Access:
10-minute walk from Nishi-muko Station on the Hankyu Kyoto Line.

Mukojinja Shrine

Mukojinja Shrine

Located in Muko City in the Otokuni Bamboo Grove area of Kyoto Prefecture, Muko shrine is an ancient shrine founded in 718 and is said to be a shrine for good harvest, academic achievement, and traffi …

   

For a slightly longer stroll, head to Sewaritei in Yawata City. Here you can walk along a 1.4-kilometre route under overhanging branches adorned with pink and white blossoms, or have a picnic in the nearby riverside park.

Access:
10-minute walk from Iwashimizu Hachimangu Station on the Keihan Line

Yodo River Park Sewaritei District

Yodo River Park Sewaritei District

This park is located to the north of Iwashimizu Hachimangu Station on the Keihan Line, just across Goko Bridge. Here, you’ll find a line of cherry blossom trees that extends for about 1.4 kilometers. …

   

Another beautiful hanami (flower viewing) spot by the river is Yawaragi-no-michi Sakura Park in Kameoka City. Around 1,500 Somei Yoshino cherry trees grow along both banks of the Nanatani-gawa river, and in the park itself you can wander among 280 cherry trees of 28 varieties or attend light-up events after dark.

Access:
Take the Kameoka City Bus from Kameoka Station (JR Sagano Line) and alight at Nanatanigawa.

Nanatani-gawa River (Yawaragi Road)

Nanatani-gawa River (Yawaragi Road)

Approximately 1,500 blossoming Somei-yoshino cherry trees line both banks of the Nanatani-gawa River, extending for about 1 km and making this a popular blossom-viewing location. Adjacent to the river …

Peonies: late April

Peonies (botan) can bloom at different times of year depending on the species, however one of the top options for viewing these large and colourful blossoms in Kyoto is late April at Otokuni-dera Temple – the oldest temple in Nagaokakyo City. There are around 2,000 peonies planted in its garden, which are protected from direct sunlight by elegant wood-and-paper umbrellas. The whimsical combination of these white parasols and the vivid shades of the flowers beneath is unmissable.

Access:
20-minute walk from Nagaoka Tenjin Station on the Hankyu Kyoto Line, or 40-minute walk from Nagaokakyo Station on the JR Kyoto Line. Alternatively, take the Hankyu bus from either station and get off at Yakushido, then walk for 5 minutes.

Otokuni-dera Temple

Otokuni-dera Temple

Otokunidera is said to have been built by Prince Shotoku and is the oldest temple in Nagaokakyo City. Kukai and Saicho are also said to have met for the first time at this temple and exchanged ideas a …

Azaleas: late April to early May

Azaleas bloom around the end of April and beginning of May, and there are several locations in Kyoto where you can admire their beauty. Wander the garden paths of Mimuroto-ji Temple in Uji City – aptly known as the ‘flower temple’ – to immerse yourself in a breathtaking ocean of around 20,000 azaleas.

Access:
15-minute walk from Mimurodo Station on the Keihan Uji Line.

Mimuroto-ji Temple

Mimuroto-ji Temple

Mimuroto-ji Temple is known for its spectacular gardens, and it is sometimes called the “Temple of Flowers.” Mimuroto-ji is located in Uji City, part of Kyoto’s tea-producing region in the south of Ky …

   

Another fantastic spot is Nagaoka-kyo City’s Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine, which has a 200-metre long entryway lined with Kirishima azalea trees. Their distinctive deep crimson blossoms match the red-and-white lanterns dotted along the edges, creating a wonderfully picturesque pathway.

Access:
20-minute walk from the west exit of Nagaokakyo Station on the JR Kyoto Line, or 10-minute walk from the west exit of Nagaoka Tenjin Station on the Hankyu Kyoto Line.

Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine

Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine

Nagaoka Tenmangu is a shrine in Nagaokakyo City, Kyoto Prefecture, not far from Kyoto City and close to Uji—the region of Kyoto famous for matcha green tea—and the famous Otokuni Bamboo grove. Nagaoka …

Wisteria: late April to early May

Thanks to its gorgeous purple hue and ethereal hanging flowers, wisteria (fuji) is among the most popular blooms to see in Japan. One of the top spots to catch it is at the resplendent Byodo-in Temple in Uji City, which is best known for being featured on the front of the 10 yen coin. You’ll find three wisteria trellises in the temple garden, each transformed into a waterfall of violet by the trailing blossoms. The longest clusters grow over a metre long, and the sight of the central Phoenix Hall through the wisteria blossoms is beautiful enough to go on a postcard.

Access:
10-minute walk from Uji Station on the Keihan Uji Line, or from Uji Station on the JR Nara Line

Byodo-in Temple

Byodo-in Temple

Byodo-in Temple, which shows the historical glory of the Fujiwara clan, was once a villa on the west bank of the Uji-gawa River. It belonged to Minamoto no Toru but was given to Fujiwara no Michinaga. …

Irises: end of April to mid-May & Oriental Paperbush: end of March to mid-April

   

In the idyllic woodland around Oitomi in Ayabe City is one of Kyoto prefecture’s best-kept floral secrets. Stroll through the area in the first half of May, and you’ll be treated to the spectacular sight of countless fringed irises (shaga) blanketing the forest floor. You can even find a 400-metre-long ‘corridor of irises’, which looks just like a scene from a fairytale. Be sure to take a close look at these pretty flowers to admire the splashes of purple and yellow on the white petals, as well as their intricate fringed edges. The woods are also worth visiting between the end of March to mid-April, when they are transformed into a sea of buttery yellow as countless oriental paperbush flowers (mitsumata) come into bloom.

   

Access:
The forest is best accessed by car – from the Yamake Intersection on National Route 27, enter Prefectural Road 1 and go straight to the border of Fukui Prefecture.

Fringed Iris & Oriental Paperbush Meadow

Fringed Iris & Oriental Paperbush Meadow

Oitomi is a town in Ayabe City in the north of Kyoto Prefecture, where there’s a forest with dense fields of oriental paperbush (mitsumata) and fringed iris (shaga, Iris Japonica) flowers. These field …

Roses: late May to early June, and mid-October to mid-November

Roses (bara) are popular flowers all across the world, and Japan is no different. The Ayabe Rose Garden in Ayabe City was created by local volunteers, and has approximately 1,200 roses of an amazing 120 varieties blooming within its grounds. The most notable of these is the ‘Anne’s Rose’ variety, which grows in the central flowerbed. This was carefully cultivated from seedlings received from Anne Frank’s father, and lovingly tended ever since then as a symbol of peace.
   
The garden also has a system in which visitors can become partial “owners” of the garden. By paying 3,000 yen to sponsor a plant, visitors can leave a small signboard with their name and a message, which will stay in the garden for three years.

Access:
10-minute walk from the north exit of Ayabe Station (JR Sanin Line).

Ayabe Gunze Square

Ayabe Gunze Square

Ayabe Gunze Square consists of three facilities, Ayabe Specialty Store, Gunze Museums, and Ayabe Rose Garden. People who visit Ayabe’s Gunze Square will have plenty to do, from touring the flower gard …

Hydrangeas: June to mid-July

Unlike many other flowers in Japan, hydrangeas (ajisai) bloom during the rainy season in early summer. Because of the relative ease with which they can be grown, there are a wealth of different locations in Kyoto where you can admire their colourful clusters of blossoms. Yanagidani Kannon Yokoku-ji Temple in Nagaokakyo City has a Hydrangea Path with over 4,500 plants, and also adorns its purification fountain (where worshippers wash their hands before entering the temple) with their pastel blue, pink and yellow flowers.

Access:
Take the train on the Hankyu Kyoto Line to Nishiyama Tennozan Station and take a taxi for 10 minutes. Alternatively, take Hankyu Bus to Okukaiin-ji and walk for 40 minutes. From Hankyu (Kyoto Line) or JR (Kyoto Line) Nagaokakyo Stations, take a taxi for 15 minutes.

Yanagidani Kannon (Yokoku-ji Temple)

Yanagidani Kannon (Yokoku-ji Temple)

Yanagidani Kannon (Yokokuji Temple) is located in Nagaokakyo City, not far from Kyoto City and close to the famous Otokuni Bamboo Grove, where the main attraction is the eleven-faced, thousand-armed s …

   

Another temple famous for its hydrangeas is Gansen-ji in Kizugawa City, to the south of Kyoto Prefecture. Here there are around 5,000 flowers of 30 distinct varieties, creating a stunning scene with the temple’s vermillion three-storied pagoda in the background surrounded by greenery.

Access:
Take the Kizugawa Community Bus from Kamo Station (JR Yamatoji Line) towards Kamoyamano-ie and alight at Gansenji.

Gansen-ji Temple

Gansen-ji Temple

Gansen-ji Temple is an ancient Buddhist temple located in Kamo-cho, part of Kizugawa City in the southernmost part of Kyoto Prefecture. Thought to have been built in 729, the name “Gansen-ji” translat …

   

   

Tanshu Kannon-ji Temple in Fukuchiyama City is also much celebrated for its hydrangeas, with over 10,000 flowers of 100 varieties growing within its grounds. Wandering among the masses of blue, purple, white and pink blossoms surrounding the temple buildings is nothing short of magical.

Access:
15-minute walk from JR Isa Station on the San’in Line.

Tanshu Kannon-ji Temple

Tanshu Kannon-ji Temple

Located in Fukuchiyama, Tanshu Kannon-ji Temple was founded in 720 by the Indian monk Hodo. In 961 the monk Kuya built the seven temple buildings (a formation known as shichido garan), and it became t …

   

To really lose yourself among the blossoms, pay a visit to Maizuru Nature and Cultural Park in Maizuru City. The park’s hydrangea garden is bursting with a staggering 100,000 hydrangea flowers in 100 different varieties, and you can enjoy a pleasant afternoon strolling along the paths through the multicoloured blossoms.

Access:
From JR Higashi Maizuru Station on the Maizuru Line, take the Kyoto Kotsu Bus Mihama Line to the Natural Culture Garden bus stop.

Maizuru Nature and Cultural Park

Maizuru Nature and Cultural Park

Maizuru Nature and Cultural Park is a park blessed with the rich nature of the Oura Peninsula, in the northeastern part of Maizuru City. There is a camellia garden (approximately 30,000 camellia of 1, …

Sunflowers: mid-July to early August

In Japan, sunflowers (himawari) are synonymous with summer – and it’s easy to see why when you catch a glimpse of their tall, bright yellow flowers outlined against a clear blue sky. The Ayabe Fureai Bokujo Ranch in Ayabe City is among the best locations to enjoy them in Kyoto. The farmland boasts fields of around 50,000 cheery sunflowers stretching out across the hillside, and as an added bonus you can interact with the ranch’s cats, rabbits, goats, sheep and other animals while you’re visiting!

Access:
45-minute walk from JR Ayabe Station on the San’in Line, or you can drive to 81 Hinokimae, Iden-cho, Ayabe City and use the free parking lot on site

Lotuses: mid-July to mid-August

Famous as a symbol of enlightenment, lotuses can be viewed across Kyoto during the summer. A great place to see them is Ryogon-ji Temple in Ayabe City, which is also known as the Temple of Crows due to the paintings of the birds and the four seasons adorning its sliding paper doors. The sight of the soft pink and white flowers popping up on their sturdy stems at this temple, their petals unfolding amid a sea of green leaves, is sure to bring you some inner serenity.

Access:
From JR Ayabe Station on the San’in Line, take the Aya bus (Shigananboku line) to Tachi and walk east for 15 minutes.

Ryogon-ji Temple

Ryogon-ji Temple

Ryogon-ji Temple, in Ayabe City, Kyoto Prefecture, is famous for the thousands of azaleas that bloom in the spring, and lotuses in the summer. In fact, Ryogon-ji Temple is the second of the 25 Most F …

Cosmos: October and November

   

Autumn in Japan isn’t just about colourful leaves. One of the best known flowers which bloom exclusively at this time of year is cosmos, named akizakura (autumn cherry blossom) thanks to their popularity and stunning shades of pink. To see them in all their glory head to the Yume Cosmos Park in Kameoka City, where an astonishing 8 million flowers of different colors and species bloom. For adults, the fee to enter the garden is 600 yen on weekdays, and 800 yen on weekends (as of 2021).

Access:
From Kyoto City, get off at the Kameoka IC on the Kyoto Jukan Expressway, and head toward Route 372. The garden is in front of the Kameoka Sports Park Gymnasium. Free parking is available.

Autumn leaves: late November to early December

As the year draws to a close and the weather gets cooler and crisper, the leaves across Japan begin to change from lush green to vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow. This transforms the surrounding forests and mountainsides into fiery displays of autumnal colours (known as koyo), and is almost as popular as cherry blossom season. Some of the major tourist spots in Kyoto City can get very busy at this time, so exploring the wider prefecture gives you the perfect chance to admire the leaves away from the crowds.

One excellent location is Komyo-ji Temple in Nagaokakyo City, where hundreds of maple trees line the path from the Somon gate into the grounds. This transforms it into a 200-metre tunnel of vivid red and amber, with the falling leaves carpeting the ground beneath your feet with the same bright colours.

Access:
Take the train to Nagaokakyo Station on the JR Kyoto Line, or Nagaoka Tenjin Station on the Hankyu Kyoto Line. Board the Hankyu Bus, and get off at Asahigaoka Home Mae.

Komyo-ji Temple

Komyo-ji Temple

Komyo-ji Temple was first built in 1198 by the soldier Kumagai Naozane in an area favored by his master Honen. Today, it the head temple of the Seizan sect of Pure Land Buddhism. Visitors can tour the …

   

   

Meanwhile, the Ryuon-ji Zen temple in Nantan City has gingko trees as well as maples within its grounds, which add brilliant hues of yellow and gold to the mix.

Access:
Take the JR Sagano Line to Sonobe Station. Board the Keihan Kyoto Kotsu Bus and get off at Nie, then walk for 5 minutes.

Ryuon-ji Temple

Ryuon-ji Temple

Ryuon-ji Temple was constructed in 1509. This Zen temple was the family temple of the chief retainer of the Sonobe Clan. Reknowned for its autumn colors, the temple grounds and approach become beautif …

   

   

For more of an active trip, head to Kasagiyama Natural Park in Kasagi-cho, where you can hike through the fall foliage of the broad-leaved trees on Mt. Kasagiyama before exploring Kasagi-dera Temple or enjoying light-up events in Momiji Park.

Access:
45-minute walk from Kasagi Station (Kansai Line).

Mt. Kasagi / Kasagi-yama Maple Park

Mt. Kasagi / Kasagi-yama Maple Park

Mt. Kasagi in Kasagi rises 288 meters about the south bank of the Kizu River. It is home to many strange and mysterious rock formations giving it the nickname “Megalith Theme Park” and is designated a …

   

Miyazu City’s Nariai-ji Temple is another mountaintop location well worth a visit in autumn. The sight of the temple’s soaring five-storied pagoda surrounded by intense red and blazing orange leaves will take your breath away.

Access:
20 minutes by car from the Yosa Amanohashidate IC on the Kyoto Jukan Expressway Miyazu Yosa Road.

Nariai-ji Temple

Nariai-ji Temple

Nariai-ji Temple is located on a mountainside overlooking Amanohashidate” which is considered one of the three most scenic spots in Japan. There is an endless line of visitors to the temple, as it is …

This is just an introduction to some of the many picturesque locations you’ll find to view seasonal flowers in Kyoto Prefecture. No matter what time of year you visit, there will be plenty of stunning natural scenery to explore and colourful blossoms to admire. Why not see what other hidden gems you can discover here?