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Studio Trip March 09, 2024
Couple photoshoot in a landscape with cherry blossoms in Kyoto, Japan

Spring is almost here and the sakura-fever is about to flood the streets of Kyoto: families going for a picnic, couples renting a kimono and lots of tourists in an unending search for the pink emblem of Japan. Besides, nowadays everyone has an instagram account to be decorated with the colours of spring. The quantity of posts out there on how, where and when to take the best shot of the cherry-blossom is beyond belief. That’s why we decided to add one more to that myriad oriented to professional photographers and people seeking a photographer in Kyoto.

In the next list we introduce a mix of famous and lesser known locations with their respective tips for the best sakura photoshoot in Kyoto. You can check the locations by clicking on them:

However, there are a couple of things you should know if you are planning to visit Japan during spring:

Things you need to know before coming to Japan during Sakura Season

  • Sakura Bloom Time

    The cherry blossom forecasts are something to be taken into account when getting ready for a spring photoshoot in Japan. The sakura starts to bloom from south to north of the island in March, but the specific dates differ depending on the region and the year. In Kyoto, the cherry blossom usually starts to flower during the last week of March. According to several sources, this year the sakura will start blooming in Kyoto on the 22nd and achieve full bloom on the 31st. Before making any reservation in Japan, keep in mind the first bloom and full bloom dates of the region you are planning to visit this spring.

  • Hanami Culture

    The culture of hanami or “sakura viewing” goes back more than a thousand years ago in Japanese History and it’s probably one of the most relevant social events of the year in Japan. Families, friends and couples go out for a picnic under the cherry blossom boughs as a way to not only indulge in the mesmerising hue of the Japanese spring, but also to appreciate the bonds with each other emphasised by the transient beauty of the sakura. As a visitor, it’s essential to understand the roots of this practice and respect the spaces dedicated to it.

  • Best locations in Kyoto for a cherry blossom photoshoot

    1. Philosopher’s Path

    A stone path following a canal lined by hundreds of cherry trees… could there be a more Japanese view? This photoshoot location has its pros and its cons: on one hand, everyone in Kyoto knows this scenery and the crowds won’t leave the place until very late at night: on the other hand, it’s a fairly long trail, which makes it possible to find less crowded sections. And that’s precisely the key: to walk the whole path, from South to North, looking for that sudden reflection in the water, that narrow alley, the entrance of a temple framed by cherry trees.

    As always for this kind of excessively crowded tourist spots, good timing is essential. Although it might sound discouraging for some to wake up early in the morning during their holidays, believe me, the beauty of an empty Philosopher’s Path is worth it. The traditional architecture combined with the presence of nature through the cherry blossom and the stream makes for a wonderful first experience for hanami-beginners.

    Sky and cherry blossom in Kyoto, Japan
    A clear sky offers the perfect canvas for a spring photoshoot in Kyoto.

    2. Maruyama Park

    Continuing the list of mainstream places, another highlight of the hanami in Kyoto is the Maruyama Park. Located in the heart of Gion, right on the west entrance of the Yasaka Shrine, the (in)famous Maruyama Park becomes the most crowded spot of Kyoto during the sakura season. Its spacious gardens get blanketed with petals and, in the centre of the park, there’s a shidarezakura (or weeping cherry tree) that gets lit up at night.

    Our recommendation here is to wander through the park looking for a sudden opening in the crowd and to try some original set-ups (i.e. probably a close-up spring portrait is going to be easier to shoot than a landscape-encompassing angle). Again, when it comes to Kyoto during spring time, it’s always about the time of the day in which you shoot. Gion at night, for instance, is almost empty most of the time and there are few brave travellers who will dare to wake up early to enjoy the sunrise tainting slowly the wooden walls and the white petals of the geishas’ district. Don’t forget that even if you eventually decide to come back, your first time in Japan is unrepeatable and it might be worth it to make an effort to make the most of the experience.

    Couple kissing under a red torii near the Maruyama Park, Kyoto, Japan
    Maruyama Park provides the perfect background for a couple photoshoot, whatever the time of year.

    3. North of Kamogawa River

    If you decide to go for a stroll along the banks of the Kamogawa River and venture to walk a little bit north (leaving behind the Kamogawa Delta), you will be surprised to find a seemingly endless corridor of cherry blossoms with little to no visitors. The amount of shades of pink and white that can be found there serve as an incredible frame for any spring photoshoot. We strongly recommend this location for family photoshoots, especially when they include kids, since there’s way more space and way less people.

    In addition to the colourful cherry blossoms, the north side of the Kamogawa River offers an open view of the northern mountains of Kyoto (Kitayama), which, combined with the pristine Kamogawa, creates a timeless landscape that undoubtedly embodies the spirit of the city.

    Blue sky framed by two Japanese cherry trees in full bloom
    The riverbanks of the Kamogawa are decorated with several species of cherry blossom.

    4. Keage

    Keage is an old incline railway near the Nanzen-ji Temple (south-east of the city centre). Nowadays it has become more of a historic relic, but the cherry blossom trees lining up by the sidewalk of the railway create an unparalleled background for any spring photoshoot.

    Nonetheless, the beauty of Keage doesn’t only lie in the railway corridor: after a brief photoshoot under the white branches of the old railway track, if you go for a walk until the Okazaki Canal, you can enjoy a boat ride for 2000 JPY through the little Venice of Kyoto. Most of the boat ride is, in addition, completely surrounded by lush cherry blossom trees. A last tip: try to start your photoshoot around sunset. The gold reflections in the river and the petals create an otherworldly atmosphere.

    Boat ride through the Okazaki Canal surrounded by cherry blossoms in Kyoto, Japan
    Daunting view of the cherry blossoms bending over the Okazaki Canal from a boat.

    5. Sewaritei Yodogawa Riverside Park

    Last but not least, Yodogawa Riverside Park offers a completely different landscape to what we have suggested until now. One of the strong points of this park is the fact that it is the least popular of our recommendations: almost only known and visited by locals, this park by the riverbanks of the Yodogawa River (South of Kyoto) makes for a great example of what the culture surrounding hanami means. Families, lovers and friends go for a picnic under the branches of the cherry blossoms in full bloom.

    This location has many advantages: less crowds, a 1.4 kilometres long corridor of cherry trees and the panoramic view of a green valley.

    Spring couple photoshoot in Yodogawa, Kyoto Japan
    Young couple strolling through the sakura corridor of the Sewaritei Yodogawa Riverside Park.

    The perfect spring photoshoot in Kyoto

    Of course there are many other sakura spots in Kyoto that might be worth visiting: in the end, any Japanese garden with a couple of cherry trees and good illumination can become the perfect set for a spring photoshoot. However, as photographers based in Kyoto, these locations are the most complete in relation to criteria like how photogenic the landscape is, how crowded it gets, what facilities are in their surroundings, etc. When booking a photoshoot or video shoot during the sakura season, it’s as always essential to contact a reliable photographer or videographer with extensive knowledge of the area. For engagement or pre wedding photoshoots, you might want to look for more private atmospheres, while for vacation family photoshoots it’s probably better to bet on wide, open-air spaces. Don’t hesitate to contact us with any enquiry or specific request about your ideal session: if you can imagine it, we can create it.