Kyoto in Spring: 11 Incredible Sights, Foods & Events Not to Miss

Kyoto in Spring: 11 Incredible Sights, Foods & Events Not to Miss

Spring is a lovely season to visit Kyoto as the sakura will be in bloom. Here are some of the best things to do and delicacies to try on your Japan vacation!

It’s that awe-inspiring time of the year for Japan again; the one that denotes renewal and the time of joviality as hanami displays starts dotting Japan’s picturesque landscape after a frosty winter. In Kyoto, spring is the most coveted time of the year. As April begins, everyone gets into the festive spirit, restaurants revamp their menus with seasonal ingredients, and geishas hold dance performances in the event known as Miyako Odori.

If you’re planning to visit this evocative city this April, here is a list of iconic sights, flavours and events you don’t want to miss.  

1. Witness Miyako Odori

Image credit: Nullumayulife

Kimono-clad, red-lipped geishas put on an annual public performance at this time of the year for the general public. It’s a rare opportunity as these women trained in dance and music usually appear only for private gatherings and exclusive parties.

However, during the Miyako Odori, or “Capital City Dances”, these geikos and maikos with their beautiful kimonos, white-painted faces and elaborate hairstyles will be at the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theatre. All through April, during scheduled time slots, they will perform with flawless elegance and meticulousness.

Alternatively, visitors can also pay to see an arrangement of seven of Kyoto’s traditional performing arts, such as the tea ceremony, at the Gion Corner.

2.  Visit temples and shrines at Maruyama Park

things to do in kyoto spring

things to do in kyoto spring

Maruyama Park is one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots in Kyoto, and admission is free! Right in the heart of the park lies the famous shidarezakura (weeping cherry tree), where many street vendors gather to sell local and foreign delicacies. It’s the perfect place for cherry blossom viewing! The quaint Yasaka Shrine, Chionin Temple and Shorenin Temple are also within walking distance.

3. Scour through Nishiki Market

Also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen”, this is a market to catch if you’re a diehard foodie. From their fresh seafood hauls to delightful local sweets, Nishiki Market has all sorts of locally produced foodstuff lining their long, five-block shopping street. A variety of shops is found in the whole market, from small eateries to cookware retail stores.

Freshly cut sashimi, piping hot tempura, sweet finger-licking mochi and revitalising cups of tea. It is a Japanese food haven and the perfect spot to hunt for seasonal snacks!

4. Sample sakura-flavoured snacks

Image credit: Janet Hudson

With the blooming of the spellbinding spring flowers, many food establishments take it in their stride to incorporate cherry blossoms into their sweets and snacks. Think sakura-flavoured ice cream, sakura Kit-Kat, sakura taiyaki and sakura mochi.

While you’re in Japan this season, take full advantage of the opportunity and try out all the sakura-flavoured snacks! After all, they are only here this season. On top of that, they make for really pretty photos.

5. View Hanami at Nijo Castle

Was history not really your kind of thing? Well, Kyoto’s castles might change just that.

Once an imperial palace of Japan’s feudal era, the Nijo Castle is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site with some of the most stunning views that Kyoto has to offer. Its rustic, wooden castle grounds and stonewalls will take you back to the time when Japan was still ruled by shoguns, with samurai warriors under them.

In spring, the Nijo Castle becomes a remarkable hanami viewing spot as the castle grounds are lined with cherry trees. It also has its very own plum orchard that goes into full bloom together with the cherry blossoms. You might just be motivated to learn about Japan’s Edo period with these magnificent sights.

6. Walk across Togetsukyo Bridge

Another popular cherry blossom viewing location, the Togetsukyo Bridge lodges in Kyoto’s scenic and rural Arashiyama. The pastel pink petals against the turquoise waters of the Katsura River make this ancient capital of Japan look like it came straight out of a painting.

The multiple souvenir and snack stores aside, kimono rentals are also available at the foot of the bridge, allowing tourists to keep a memory of themselves in the traditional Japanese costume with the most ephemeral backdrop.

The famous bamboo groves are also within walking distance from the Togetsukyo Bridge.

7. Devour the five-flavour soft serve

For the sweet-toothed, this is all of Japan’s spring flavours in a cone! The five-flavour soft serve is made up of matcha, sakura, sesame, tofu and vanilla flavours, topped with a cinnamon stick for a spicy crunch. The ice cream store can be found along the streets of shophouses near the Togetsukyo Bridge.

8. Indulge in Ichigo Daifuku

Another traditional Japanese confectionary, with a seasonal twist! The ichigo daifuku is the marriage of sweet red bean mochi and a tart strawberry. With strawberries being another favourite delight in spring, you can trust anything that’s strawberry-flavoured to be exceptional.

If you have yet to try Japan’s strawberries during this season, give it a shot. They’re unlike the tangy ones you normally have in Singapore.

9. Hike to Iwatayama Monkey Park

Get up close with the Japan’s very own snow monkeys as they run about their terrain at the very top of the mountain. The Iwatayama Monkey Park is located on Mount Arashiyama, at the end of a hiking trail of scenic greens and cherry blossoms. Although it may be tiresome to hike all the way up, the view that will greet you at the top is going to be more than satisfying. Just remember to wear comfortable shoes!

The monkey park not only offers a terrain full of playful monkeys to watch and feed, but also a breathtaking view over Kyoto city.

10. Ride the Sagano Romantic Train

things to do in kyoto springImage credit: Annie Guilloret

Couple or not, this is one panoramic ride you must take with your travel companion(s) in spring. Sagano’s archaic and whimsical trains will take you on a voyage through the breathtaking clouds of cherry blossoms, canyons of woodlands, and finally rural Kameoka.

Prepare your cameras for all the scenic sights. Oh and, book your tickets in advance to reserve yourself a good seat. The Sagano Romantic Train is always crowded during this season.

11. Enjoy the unique taste of Takenoko Gohan

Image credit: City Foodsters

Spring is the time for takenoko gohan, also known as bamboo rice. Prided as Japan’s spring delicacy and staple, this dish is usually prepared with Japanese steamed rice, tender bamboo shoots and dashi, which is a typical Japanese broth. It makes for a simple yet gratifying meal that brings feelings of nostalgia and warmth. Try the takenoko gohan as locals start hunting for the copious amounts of bamboo shoots that have sprouted since the end of winter. After all, they will only be in menus for the season!

Also read: 12 Reasons Why Travellers Love Kyoto

About Author

Mirabelle Koh
Mirabelle Koh

Mirabelle is an avid tea lover with an extreme fervency to travel and work on anything visual. Apart from doing photography, designing and writing, she spends most of her idle time hunting for delectable cuisine and planning her next venture. Always armed with a camera in hand, she writes for the ink that lives in the back of her throat. She also (unashamedly) plays dota 2.


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