You may know that viewing cherry blossoms is one of the most pleasurable springtime activities in Japan. Since cherry blossoms start blooming in the early spring when it’s getting warmer, the people in Japan are eagerly waiting to see them and feel that spring has come. The elegance of the cherry blossom trees is shown not only in the blossoming itself but also in the petals falling at the end of the season. Some people love the frailty and gracefulness, the way the petals fall. Since ancient times, cherry blossoms have been likened to a sense of the impermanence of all things, and the way the blossoms bloom and then fall quickly depicts an ephemeral life. Today, I’d like to recommend my favorite strolling route along Lake Biwa Canal in Kyoto for viewing cherry blossoms. I’ll show you the way, following the map below.
① Let’s Get Started!
Let’s start from Keage station on the Subway Tozai Line. Once you come above ground from the station, you’ll be overwhelmed by the beauty of cherry blossoms. Under rows of cherry trees, there is an old incline railway that is no longer in use. In old times, people used Lake Biwa Canal for boat transportation but they needed to carry the boats up and down along a trolley around Keage because there is a big slope there. The railway has since been maintained as a national historic site. If you want to know more about the incline, you can visit Lake Biwa Canal Museum.
② Which Way Would You Like to Go?
At intersection ②, you have two options. First, you may walk along the canal and the row of cherry trees. The second option is to visit Kyoto City Zoo and view the cherry blossoms from the other side of the canal. If you like animals or if you are with your kids, I highly recommend that you visit the zoo. They occasionally have some events. Why don’t you check it out?
Kyoto City Zoo
③ Big Torii Gate!
You’ll see a huge red torii gate over the street at around point ③ on the map. A torii is a gate that exists at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine. It’s said to be the gate from the human world to a sacred space. On both sides of the gate are museums, Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art and the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. If you’re an art person, they are your must-see! If you’re not, go through under the gate and visit Heian Shrine. The architecture of the Heian Shrine is not so old, as it was built in 1895 as a reproduction of the Heian Palace and then rebuilt after it partially burned down in a fire in 1976. But you can feel the atmosphere of the ancient Heian Palace and can enjoy its beautiful Japanese-style garden.
④ Let’s Have a Break!
Are you feeling a bit tired? Let’s have a coffee break! You’ll find Starbucks and Tsutaya bookstore at around point ④ on the map. The two shops are connected, so you can read books before buying them, all while enjoying a nice cup of coffee. This book store has very unique features and also has a rent-a-bike service. Take a look at their site!
ABOUT KYOTO OKAZAKI TSUTAYA BOOKS
⑤ Enjoy Cherry Blossom Again
Are you refreshed enough? Let’s go along the canal until you come across the Kamo River. From here you can choose either going to the left or to the right. Along the river, you can enjoy rows of cherry trees! Have a great rest of the day!
If you choose to go to the left, you’ll go towards downtown. You may see some couples sitting on the riverbank equally spaced. It’s really a mysterious phenomenon. How do they sit so equally spaced apart? The first couple sits, then the second couple will sit a bit far from the first one. The third couple will sit right in between them, and the fourth couple will do as the previous one… That’s the answer! The couples are called “Kamogawa Suzume (鴨川雀),” which means sparrows on the riverbank of Kamo River. You’ll see they look like sparrows perch on an overhead power line equally spaced.
A physical therapist in charge of rehabilitation at a hospital. I was born and raised in Ichijoji, Kyoto. My dream is to practice rehabilitation with foreign patients in fluent English so as to make them feel comfortable and at ease.