There are many place for hanami or envisioning the beauty of sakura in Kyoto. Of all places that I have been, my favorite is the Haradani-en, a private garden in the western part of the city.
Haradani-en is a 13,000 square metre garden with various plantation inside, including 24 species of sakura, Japanese maples, plum trees, and others. Since it is privately owned, it is has an entrance fee. However, if you visit the park at the peak of the sakura blooming season, the entrance fee will be really worth it!
Unlike other parts of Kyoto, here at Haradani-en, sakura blooms quite late - in the middle of April. I went to Haradani-en on April 14th, and it was just the perfect time to enjoy the beautiful garden.
To get there, I and my friends took a taxi from Kinkaku-ji bus stop, and arrived at the garden around nine in the morning. We decided to take a taxi because the M1 bus that generally takes visitors to the Haradani-en is limited with a rare frequency. For your information, a taxi from Kinkaku-ji bus stop to Haradani-en costs 870￥. If you go with friends, you can split the bill and it might be cheaper than the bus ;) . Alternatively, you can wait for M1 bus from Waratenjin-mae bus stop and ride for 230￥.
We were greeted by shidare zakura (weeping cherry) soon after we arrived at the park. The great thing about shidare zakura is that the flower is pink enough (some of the sakura are too white to be captured by the camera) and it stoops in an elegantly beautiful way (so you do not require a long camera lens to capture it).
The garden itself was very scenic. I was lucky as the weather that day was pleasant and perfect for hanami. All the chaos and noise from the outside disappears as soon as you step into the garden and it feels like a union with nature. The chirping birds, the gleaming sunshine and the breeze carries sakura petals over my face, making it an ethereal experience. At that time, all I want to do is to sit down and close my eyes, hoping that time would freeze.
As I walked through the garden, I found a weird fact that there was a momiji tree (Japanese maple) right next to a sakura tree. Momiji during spring? Very unusual, isn't it? Well, there was also a momo-sakura, a sakura tree with a unique combination of fuschia-pink and soft-pink flowers in a single tree.
Unfortunately, here in Haradani-en, we are not allowed to bring our own lunch boxes. However, there is a small shop inside the garden, selling inari sushi, Japanese rice with azuki beans (sekihan), and a special sakura lunch box around 2000￥. I was not really hungry, but who would have let-go the chance to enjoy hanami at this beautiful place? So I bought the inari sushi while enjoying shidare sakura falling around me, a perfect hanami.
To those who are willing to visit Haradani-en, I suggest you to arrive early in the morning. Because it is the best time of the day, the flower look fresh and some even have dewdrops on them making them look prettier. In addition, the crowd may be less than that in the afternoon. If you have time on weekdays it would be better. Have a wonderful sakura viewing!For more details: Haradani-en Address: 36 Okitayamaharadaniinuicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 603-8487 Hours: 9:00 - 17:00 Admission: Adults - 1500￥, Elementary and Junior high school students - 500￥, Elementary school students and younger - Entry is free.