Southern Higashiyama

KYOTO, JAPAN - APRIL 3, 2014: Crowds enjoy the spring cherry blossoms by partaking in seasonal nighttime Hanami festivals in Maruyama Park.

Maruyama-kōen is a favourite of locals and visitors alike. This park is the place to come to escape the bustle of the city centre and amble around gardens, ponds, souvenir shops and restaurants. Peaceful paths meander through the trees, and carp glide through the waters of a small pond in the park’s centre.

For two weeks in early April, when the park’s cherry trees come into bloom, the calm atmosphere is shattered by hordes of drunken revellers having hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) parties under the trees. The centrepiece is a massive shidare-zakura cherry tree; this is one of the most beautiful sights in Kyoto, particularly the yozakura (night cherry blossoms) when lit up from below at night. For those who don’t mind crowds, this is a good place to observe the Japanese at their most uninhibited. Arrive early and claim a good spot high on the east side of the park, from where you can peer down on the mayhem below.