At the centre of Kyoto’s Higashiyama’s tourist sites, which extend all the way to and beyond Shugakuin Imperial Villa north of Tofukuji temple (which is in the south), you can find Maruyama park, one of the most loved parks of Kyoto by both locals and tourists alike. It is especially worth visiting in spring, when its famous cherry trees are in blossom (usually late March to early April).
Maruyama park is an excellent place to get a glimpse of Kyoto gardens on a larger scale, and a fantastic space to take a rest after a hard days walk through some of Kyoto’s most well-known sightseeing spots. On its north side is Chion-in, one of Kyoto’s largest and most impressive temples (it also has one of the largest gates and bells in Japan- all of which are free to visit), to the south is another famous temple, Kodai-ji, and further on from this is Kiyomizu temple, and to the west side (going downhill) is one of Kyoto’s most important shrines, Yasuka shrine, and the geisha area of Gion. So for anyone visiting any of these places, Maruyama park is well worth stopping by.
Though it is said that Maruyama is the city’s oldest public park, it has a relatively recent history, completed in 1889 by Ogawa Jihei, a man considered by many to be the best gardener of the period. He also constructed the garden at Heian Shrine, another garden that can be freely entered behind the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art (in Okazaki), and many of the gardens of the holiday houses of the rich found around Nanzenji temple. We are very lucky therefore to have one of his greatest gardens open all year round for free at Maruyama park!
The garden is built in such a way that the water forming the stream that flows through it seems to gush down from the hill, as it flows out of a water fall at the top of the park. Ogawa Jihei was considered a master of the use of water, and this can be witnessed here. At the middle of the park, this stream enters a pond, around which are a number of seats for people to take a rest, look up the park towards the mountain above (Maruyama, meaning ’round mountain’) and look at the various trees and birds.
The most well known tree in the park is the large cherry tree below this pond, which is taken care of by a city cherry tree expert, a man whose father planted the current tree. This is one of approximately 680 cherry trees in the park. If you are lucky enough (or unlucky enough!) to arrive at this time of year at night, you will find yourself amongst a massive, bustling and boisterous cherry blossom party, as this is one of the most popular places for people to come and celebrate this time of year in Kyoto.
While the park is beautiful due to the cherry trees blossoming, it is also a great place to see the autumn foliage. While most people stay around the pond, and walk up to the water fall above, it is this writer’s recommendation to keep walking up the path to the bottom of the hill. This area is a continuation of the park, and contains some of the best spots to look at maple and ginko trees in autumn. You will also find some charming tea houses (one called Momiji-an is highly recommended), restaurants, some small temples worth visiting, as well as a great view across the city.
Access: You can get to the park by walking up from the Yasuka shrine (on the east end of Shijo street). You can also get there by walking up from the Higashiyama subway station. Both walks are highly recommended, the latter taking you through an old shopping mall, then up hill to the Chion-in temple before you arrive at the park. The park is free to enter.
See the following page for more detailed information:
http://www.kyotoguide.com/ver2/thismonth/Kyot HYPERLINK “http://www.kyotoguide.com/ver2/thismonth/Kyoto-Sakura-Splendor.html” HYPERLINK “http://www.kyotoguide.com/ver2/thismonth/Kyoto-Sakura-Splendor.html” HYPERLINK “http://www.kyotoguide.com/ver2/thismonth/Kyoto-Sakura-Splendor.html”o-Sakura-Splendor.html