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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 reknowned as a scenic spot since olden times. Its 10,000 plum trees are mainly of white-blossomed varieties, such as the large and fragrant Joshuhaku, Joyo City’s plum species. The Plum Festival is held every year from late February to late March.

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 fires and in a fire in 1437 (Eikyo 9) 13 temples and 20 monk’s houses were lost. Only Omidou (main hall) was rebuilt and survives to this day.
The main statue is of the eleven-faced Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, which is made by a technique which paper or cloth is lacquered to make it look like wood, and is registered as a national treasure as one of the only seven eleven-faced Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva statues in the country.
In spring, the cherry blossoms on the approach to the temple are in full bloom. Also rape blossoms cover the field in front of the temple, which is a spectacular sight to see.
In autumn, the main hall and garden are decorated with fall leaves. A light-up event is held every year and is the best way to enjoy the fall colors at the temple.

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 characteristic of this tree in particular are its dark crimson flowers, which are much darker than most of red camellia trees.

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 traffic safety.
Originally, there were two shrines on Muko Mountain、and they were later combined into one shrine and given the name “Muko shrine” that it goes by today. The main shrine, built in 1422 (Oei 29), was built in the “Sangensha Nagare-zukuri” style (three-bay wide structure with a gable roof) and has been designated as a national important cultural property.
A gentle cobblestone slope extends from the entrance gate to the main shrine. In spring, cherry blossoms are in full bloom on both sides of the over 200m path and in fall the changing autumn leaves turn the path into a colorful tunnel of red and orange.
What’s more, in April every year the “Sakura Festival” is held with events such as flower arrangement exhibitions, koto and drum performances, and bonfires are lit at night to create a different way to experience the cherry blossom from the daytime. In addition, the “Fire Festival” is held in October where Gomagi wood is burned to pray for a disease-free life and happiness.

   

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. The trees were planted at the separation levee where the Kizu-gawa and Uji-gawa Rivers merge, forming a band of flowers in early April. The surrounding area is a riverside park with a large lawn and a lookout area.

   

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 in Sakura Park, there are approximately 280 cherry trees of 28 varieties. This is also the location of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival and associated light-up events that draw many people to see the beautiful blossom each year.
Approximately a 25 minute walk from here, you’ll also find Izumo-Dai-jingu Shrine, the highest ranking Shinto shrine of the Tamba region, which has recently gained popularity as a powerful spiritual location.

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 about Esoteric Buddhism. It is also famous as “Peony Temple”. Every year around late April, about 2000 peony flowers from 30 different species are in full bloom and you can enjoy the elegant scenery of white Japanese umbrellas and colorful peony flowers.

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 Kyoto Prefecture. From late April to early May, you can find a sea of some 20,000 azaleas—one of the best displays in the Kansai region—and wander through the garden paths to surround yourself with the flowers. Opposite the azalea gardens are approximately 10,000 hydrangeas that begin to blossom in June, surrounding visitors with magnificent shades of pinks and blues. Finally, as you get closer to temple’s main hall, you’ll find a huge display of lotus flowers which bloom in all shades of pink and white from late June to early August. Make the most of the flowers by taking a rest at the tea house inside the temple grounds. Take in the pond and dry rock gardens, and of course the Buddhist statues, which are designated Important Cultural Assets.

   

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-Tenmangu is also known as “Mikaeri-tenjin” (a shrine that’s “hard-to-leave”), and was dedicated to Sugawara-no Michizane, a Japanese scholar, poet, and politician of the Heian era (794–1185). It is said that Michizane was posted to Dazaifu City (the military and administrative centre of Kyushu at the time), on his way to which he visited the location where the shrine currently stands, and was reluctant to leave. The entrance path to the main hall is lined with hedges of approximately 150-year-old Kirishima azalea trees, which bear distinctive dark red flowers which will be in full bloom beginning in late April, when they create an azalea tunnel. The Kirishima azaleas are also designated by Nagaokakyo City as a protected species. At Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine there is beautiful scenery to be enjoyed all year round, from cherry blossoms in the spring, lotus flowers in the summer, and Autumn foliage light-up events illuminating Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine’s Japanese garden, Kinkei-en. Next to the Hachijoga-ike Pond there is also a restaurant, Kinsuitei, where you can enjoy the beautiful scenery together with cuisine made using freshly picked young bamboo shoots in the springtime, or other traditional Kyoto cuisine during other times of the year

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. His son, Yorimichi, converted it into a temple. The Houou-do (Phoenix Hall, a National Treasure), which is surrounded by the Aji-ike pond, demonstrates elements of the gardens of the Heian period (794-1185). The influence of the Heian aristocracy, who dreamt of entering the Pure Land of Amida Buddha, can be seen in the building. Byodo-in Temple is depicted on the 10-yen coin and is a familiar sight in Japan.
Meanwhile, the Byodo-in Museum Hoshokan exhibits precious items owned by the temple, such as the National Treasures of a Gilt Bronze Phoenix, “Unchu Kuyo Bosatsu” (Buddhist saints holding a mass in the clouds), and Bonshou (temple bells). Reproductions that made with computer graphics utilizing state-of-the-art digital technology can also be enjoyed in the museum.

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 fields were discovered in 2015 by a photographer, and are a rare and beautiful sight. From the end of March to mid-April a sea of oriental paperbush flowers bloom and cover about 1.5 hectares of land. Oriental paperbush is a deciduous shrub that grows 1-2 meters tall, with little scented yellow flowers which are made up of four sepals with no petals, and a fibrous bark that has historically been used as material for washi (Japanese paper) and paper money. From the end of April until mid-May, after the oriental paperbush season, the mysterious-looking, snow white fringed iris bloom and cover the forest floor. In some parts of the forest, there’s also a 400 meter-long “corridor of irises.” The flowers are short-lived and last just a single day, but every day new flowers bloom to replace them. During the flowering season from the end of March to mid-May, you can also find local goods, tea, coffee, and sweet red bean-based soup at the Hanayadori rest area, which is open on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.. While you don’t need to hike to see the flowers, the forest is not paved please make your visit in shoes you don’t mind dirtying.

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 garden, to visiting the museums dedicated to Ayabe’s role in Japanese history. There is also a specialty goods shop selling Ayabe products, as well as an area to get tourist information and a café. The square is expansive and a great place to relax. It is also within walking distance to a lot of Ayabe’s downtown sites, including the train station.

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 statue of the bodhisattva Kannon statue. The temple is built on the side of a mountain, and the inner temple building and main hall are connected by a long corridor surrounded by a Kyoto-designated scenic garden, Jodo-en. On the second floor is the Kamishoin Study, which was once a designated study room for elites during the Meiji era (1868-1912). These days, the study room and its beautiful view of the gardens is open to the public. The Yokokuji Hydrangea Path is a famous place to enjoy hydrangeas and inludes over 4,500 hydrangea plants that bloom in June and in the summer months. In autumn, the deep red carpet of the Kamishoin Study and bright red autumn foliage creates an impressive sight, open for viewing only on the 17th of each month. It’s also widely believed that there is holy water (“oko-zui”) at Yokoku-ji Temple connected to the famous Buddhist monk Kukai, and that this water is thought to heal diseases of the eye.

   

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” translates literally to “Rock Boat Temple” and near the entrance of the temple’s main gate is a boat-shaped rock, where legend has it that priests used the rock for sacred cleansing rituals. Nestled in the pristine nature of Kyoto’s tea producing region, the three-storied pagoda on the temple grounds is a designated Important Cultural Property and the main hall maintains an ancient yet elegant charm. Gansen-ji Temple is famous for its displays of bright hydrangeas, water lillies, and crape myrtle flowers in the summer. Gansen-ji is truly a sight to see in any of the four seasons, though, with Japanese plum and cherry blossom trees blooming in the spring, autumn foliage, and camelias in the winter.

   

   

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 the center of worship of the bodhisattva Kannon in the Tamba area, reaching a peak in the Kamakura period (1192-1333). Today there are around 3,600 pieces of historical writings and teachings in the temple, which are designated cultural properties of Kyoto Prefecture.

Tanshu Kannon-ji Temple’s eleven-faced Kannon statue is famous for healing, and granting good fortune and road safety. In the temple gardens, there are cherry blossoms in the beginning of April, hydrangea in June, colorful leaves in late autumn and wintersweets from January to February, filling the temple with different colors throughout the year. Tanshu-Kannonji Temple is also known as the Hydrangea Temple, and from June to July there are over 10,000 hydrangea flowers of 100 types blossoming in white, blue, purple and pink. On the 4th Sunday in June every year there is also a Hydrangea Festival, which is held with a series of events including the Buddhist preaching of the monks, and attracts many people each year.

   

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 1,500 different varieties) and a hydrangea garden (approximately 100,000 hydrangea of 100 different varieties) inside, attracting many visitors in their respective blooming seasons. In addition, there is a green lawn in early summer, red leaves in fall, and beautiful seasonal scenery all year round, making the park a popular place for nature observation.

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 Famous Flower Temples of Western Japan. The temple grounds are also home to a 400 year-old camellia, a 500 year-old bo tree, and a 400 year-old crape myrtle, all of them ranked in the Top Hundred Ancient Trees of Ayabe. The sliding paper doors within Ryogon-ji Temple are patterend with crows in all four seasons, painted by the unique painter Ikka Nagai, famous for crow motifs. These patterns earned the temple the nickname Temple of Crows. (Visitors wishing to see the crows on the sliding paper doors must make a reservation prior to visiting.)

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 temple itself and see the beautiful sights inside, as well as those of the garden. The temple has an excellent collection of Buddhist artwork and statues, which are on display to visitors. Inside the Mie Hall, the principal statue is papier-mâché, and it is said that Honen made it himself by dipping a letter from his mother in water.
When you enter the temple main gate, the road is divided into two. The gentle slope leading to the main hall on your right is called “Omotesando.” This approach is designed so that both women and the elderly can easily climb it and is known as the “women’s slope.” The road from “Chokushimon Gate” to “Somon Gate” on the left is commonly known as the “Maple Path,” and in the fall the autumn leaves on both sides of the approach, which stretches for about 200 meters, make a brightly colored tunnel of fall colors. The path is one of the most famous spots for autumn leaves in Kyoto.

   

   

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 beautifully colored with over 20 maple and gingko trees.

   

   

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 as a historic scenic spot in Japan. Although it is not an easy hike, anyone with average ability can reach the top and enjoy the spectacular views.
From the top of the mountain, it looks like you are on an island floating in a sea of clouds. The view from the top of the mountain was a popular place to moon gaze during the Edo Period. The view is particular spectacular during the autumn season when the entire 3,000 sq. meter river valley is covered in carpet of red maple leaves
Mt. Kasagi is of great historical significance. It is home to a Shingon Buddhist temple of the Chisan School with historic connections to Todaiji on nearby Nara. Famous monks such as Jokei have lived at the temple and Yamabushi, or warrior hermits said to be imbued with supernatural powers, are said to have trained here; making it an important part of Japanese Buddhist history. What’s more, in the late Kamakura period (1185–1333), it was also the stage of foiled plot kill the shogun by the 96th Emperor Go-Daigo.

   

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 the 28th temple of the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage.
Autumn leaves around the five-story pagoda turn a spectacular red in autumn, and the scenery here looks just like a picture scroll. A light-up event will be held on November 10th and 11th.

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?