Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

April 12, 2012

Flowers: Hanami in the Kyoto Botanical Gardens

The Kyoto Botanical Gardens are perhaps not what first comes to mind when thinking about a hanami spot. After all, they have to compete with the Philosopher's Path, Arashiyama, Daigoji, Gosho, Ninnaji and other luminaries. But I can report they are surprisingly good.

[Sakura in Kyoto Botanical Garden]

Of course there are the sakura - about 500 trees, of the varieties Somei, Yoshino and Shidarezakura. They stand along the paths and in grassy areas and you are allowed to picnic under the trees, although alcohol is forbidden.

But as this is a botanical garden, you have other flowers as well. I particularly liked the combination of the red tulips at the entrance to the gardens with the backdrop of pink cherries. The Conservatory here was rebuilt in 1992 and resembles the Golden Pavilion, with a typical dome-shaped roof. This is your chance to see some carnivorous plants in Kyoto, or even a full-scale mangrove!

[Tulips and sakura in Kyoto Botanical Garden]

The gardens also preserve part of the forest that once stood on the banks of the Kamo River. This is in the north-western part, in the area around the Nakaragi Shrine, a small Shinto temple that was incorporated into the gardens, and that gave its name to the forest. The trees are native to the Yamashiro basin and the forest is surrounded by ponds - a reminder of the regular floods of the Kamo River in past times.The fall foliage is beautiful here, too.

[Cherry blossom tunnel Kyoto Botanical Garden]

The Kyoto Botanical Garden is 24,000 square meters large and was laid out in northern Kyoto on the banks of the Kamo River. That was in 1924, as a belated commemoration of the enthronement of the Taisho Emperor. In the years after the war, the grounds were requisitioned by the U.S. army, and housing was put up in these wide spaces for the Occupation troups. After restoration, the Botanical garden was reopened in 1961.

[Nakaragi no Michi outside Kyoto Botanical Garden, on the banks of the Kamo River]

The lay of the land is beautiful here: to the east the peak of Mt Hiei dominates the skyline, west flow the clear waters of the Kamo River. The gardens stretch all the way from Kitayama-dori (where the northern entrance is) to - almost - Kitaoji-dori and the Main Entrance. There are 120,000 plants, divided over an Ume (Plum) Grove, Camellia Garden, Japanese Iris Garden, Bamboo Garden, but also a European-style garden with a rose garden and a sparkling fountain.

As a bonus, outside the gardens, on the riverbank, runs the Nakaragi no Michi, a path under cherry trees on the high embankment that makes it possible to enjoy the river scenery.
Kyoto Botanical Garden (Kyoto Shokubutsuen)
Address: Hangi-cho Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-0823. Tel. 075-701-0141.
Hrs. 9:00-17:00 (Conservatory: 10:00-16:00). Closed Dec 28-Jan 4.
200 yen (additional 200 yen for Conservatory). 250 yen combination ticket with Garden of Fine Art.
The fastest way to get here from Kyoto Station or Hankyu Karasuma is to take the subway to Kitayama Station - the northern entrance is right next to the station. The Main Entrance is serviced by city bus 1 from Demachi-Yanagi (Keihan).
Post based on a visit made in April, 2009