If you want to enjoy Kyoto’s cherry blossoms like the locals do, look for a Hanami Party (Blossom Viewing Party) for a quintessentially Japanese experience
image © Jeffrey Friedl
The best way to enjoy the cherry blossoms is with a hanami (cherry blossom) viewing party. This involves setting out a picnic blanket or blue tarp under the loveliest (and biggest) cherry tree you can find and gorging yourself on festive food and drinks. Some of the more advanced partiers even bring portable karaoke systems. If you’re lucky, you might get asked to join a party as you walk by. (Here’s a short blog from a hanami party I witnessed a couple of years ago).
Be warned: if you join, there’s no escaping without imbibing a lot and perhaps even grabbing the mic to sing a few English songs. If you’re in the mood, this might be the highlight of your trip. But, don’t wait for someone to invite you: take matters into your own hands – buy the fixings and head to one of the following spots:
Maruyama-koen Park: It’s hard to find a spot of open ground here during cherry blossom season – almost every inch will be covered by a seething hanami party. On a weekend evening, the place goes off. Highly recommended.
Kamo-gawa Riverbanks: This is one long strip of hanami parties in season, but there enough room so it never feels crowded. The best trees and best parties are north of Imadegawa-dori.
Kyoto Gosho (Kyoto Imperial Palace Park): Like the Kamo-gawa, this place is big enough to soak up a lot of people without feeling crowded.
Kyoto Botanical Gardens: A favorite of many locals, but almost totally ignored by tourists.
Kyoto Cherry Blossoms Guide:
- When Do Cherry Blossoms Bloom In Kyoto?
- Where Is The Best Place To See Cherry Blossoms In Kyoto?
- Where To Stay In Cherry Blossom Season In Kyoto
- Where To Stay If Kyoto Is Fully Booked
- Best Places To See Cherry Blossoms In Kyoto Away from The Crowds
- Best Places In Kyoto For a Blossoming Viewing Party (Hanami Party)
- Kyoto 2-Day Cherry Blossom Itinerary
- Kyoto One-Day Cherry Blossom Off-The-Beaten-Track Itinerary
Visiting Tokyo or Osaka?
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router.
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass - here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)