Kyoto Botanical Garden: Top Attractions & Nearby Gems!

The Kyoto Botanical Garden is a historic botanical garden located in Sakyo-ku, Kyoto.

It was established in 1924 as Japan’s first public botanical garden. Spread across a vast 24-hectare area, it houses around 12,000 different plant species. Visitors can enjoy various seasonal flowers and plants native to Japan in the garden’s flower beds, as well as explore attractions like the greenhouse, which houses tropical plants.

This blog post, from the perspective of the author exploring the garden thoroughly, introduces highlights such as vibrant flowers in full bloom and popular spots within the garden. Feel free to use this as a reference for your Kyoto trip or outing, along with other nearby tourist attractions.

Exploring Kyoto Botanical Garden

The Kyoto Botanical Garden, situated on flat land in the northern part of Kyoto city, is a prefectural botanical garden. Located amidst picturesque surroundings, with Mount Hiei and the Higashiyama mountain range to the east, the Kamo River to the west, and the Kitayama area to the north. This tourist spot, known as Japan’s first botanical garden opened in 1924, offers a blend of natural beauty and cultural significance.

On the southern side of the garden, visitors can enjoy attractions such as the “Main Entrance Flower Bed,” showcasing seasonal flowers, and the “Observation Greenhouse,” where plants from around the world like Baobab and Pitcher plants can be seen up close. The southern part of the garden is characterized by its artificial aesthetic beauty.

On the northern side, visitors can explore the only natural forest in the garden, called the “Half-Wooded Forest,” along with other areas featuring plants cultivated in their natural state.

With Japan’s largest greenhouse and approximately 12,000 plant species nurtured across its vast 24-hectare site, the Kyoto Botanical Garden is often referred to as a living museum of plants.

History of Kyoto Botanical Garden

The location of the Kyoto Botanical Garden used to be a rural area with Half-wood Shrine, a subsidiary shrine of Kamigamo Shrine, and the Half-wood Forest until the Meiji era. The city of Kyoto purchased this land for the “Taisho Imperial Kyoto Exhibition” commemorating the enthronement of Emperor Taisho, which was originally intended to host a grand exhibition. However, due to opposition from the parliament, the exhibition was canceled, and instead, it was decided to establish the “Daiten Memorial Botanical Garden” on the purchased land.

During the construction of the botanical garden, the rare vegetation of the ancient yamashiro basin in the Half-wood Forest was preserved. As of 2019, the northern half of the garden still retains the Half-wood Forest, a natural forest, and the Half-wood Shrine is also located within the botanical garden grounds. Subsequently, in 1924, it became Japan’s first public botanical garden to open to the public for a fee.

After the war, the area occupied by the occupying forces was used for their residences, leading to the temporary closure of the botanical garden. In 1957, the land occupied by the occupying forces was returned, and in 1961, the botanical garden reopened. Since then, there have been many attractions, including Japan’s largest observation greenhouse completed in 1992.

Tourist Information about Kyoto Botanical Garden

  • Address: Kamigamo-Hanagichō, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: 1-minute walk from Kitayama Station on the Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line, 12-minute walk from Kitaoji Station
  • Phone Number: 075-701-0141
  • Closed: December 28th to January 4th
  • Opening Hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (Observation Greenhouse: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM)
  • Official Website: Kyoto Botanical Garden

The Kyoto Botanical Garden is a vast botanical garden sprawling over 24 hectares. When visiting, it’s advisable to wear comfortable walking shoes as you’ll be strolling through the expansive grounds. Admission is free for elementary and junior high school students as well as seniors, making it easily accessible for families with young children and people of all ages.

Despite attracting over 900,000 visitors annually, making it one of Japan’s most popular public botanical gardens, its spacious layout allows for a relaxed and unhurried experience. The garden features a forest cafe called “Mori no Cafe” and a green-surrounded dining spot named “Kitayama Cafe.” Facilities such as wheelchair-accessible toilets and well-maintained pathways ensure a comfortable visit for visitors of all ages.

Admission Fees for Kyoto Botanical Garden:

Regular Admission:

  • Adults: 200 yen
  • High School Students: 150 yen
  • Junior High School Students and below: Free

Greenhouse Admission:

  • Adults: 200 yen
  • High School Students: 150 yen
  • Junior High School Students and below: Free

Annual Passport:

  • Adults: 1,000 yen
  • High School Students: 750 yen

Multi-Visit Pass (11 visits):

  • Adults: 2,000 yen
  • High School Students: 1,500 yen

Access to Kyoto Botanical Garden

The Kyoto Botanical Garden is located in Kamigamo-Hanagichō, Sakyo-ku, in the northern part of Kyoto city. In addition to the Main Gate and Kitayama Gate, the Kamo River Gate was installed in 2013, making it more accessible from various directions. There are several subway stations and bus stops in the vicinity, and it takes around 30 minutes to reach from Kyoto Station, making it conveniently located.

However, it’s worth noting that the area around Kyoto Station can get congested with traffic, so it’s recommended to use public transportation when accessing the garden.

Access by Bus

[Main Gate]
From JR Kyoto Station, take Kyoto City Bus routes 1, 204, 205, 206, or North 8, and get off at “Shokubutsuen-mae.” It’s a 5-minute walk from there. (Approximately 30 minutes travel time) From Keihan “Demachiyanagi Station,” take Kyoto City Bus route 1 and get off at “Shokubutsuen-mae.” It’s a 5-minute walk from there. (Approximately 15 minutes travel time)

[North Gate]
From JR Kyoto Station, take Kyoto City Bus route Kita 8 and get off at “Shokubutsuen Kitamon-mae.” It’s a short walk from there. (Approximately 30 minutes travel time)

[Kamo River Gate]
From JR Kyoto Station, take Kyoto City Bus route Kita 8 and get off at “Kitayama Bridge Higashizume.” It’s a short walk from there. (Approximately 30 minutes travel time)

Access by Train

[Main Gate]
From Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line, it’s a 12-minute walk from Kitaoji Station.

[North Gate]
From Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line, it’s just a 1-minute walk from Kitayama Station.

Exploring the Highlights of Kyoto Botanical Garden

Within the garden, you’ll find enchanting spots like the ancient Half-Wood Forest, which has been preserved since the garden’s inception, and the impressive Observation Greenhouse, considered one of Japan’s largest. With its vast grounds showcasing approximately 12,000 plant species, the botanical garden is a delightful place to spend the day exploring nature’s wonders.

Enjoy Serenity in the Half-Wood Forest, Surrounded by Four Ponds

the Half-Wood Forest

Located near the North Gate of the garden, the Half-Wood Forest preserves the original vegetation of the yamashiro basin in Kamigamo. This unique natural forest is home to a variety of trees, including old deciduous trees like hackberry and muku, as well as evergreens like Japanese chinquapin and oak, coexisting harmoniously. Take a stroll through this vast forest spanning 5,500 square meters and immerse yourself in the therapeutic experience of forest bathing.

In autumn, the Half-Wood Forest transforms into a spectacular spot for viewing colorful foliage, showcasing nature in its purest form.

Surrounded by ponds, the Half-Wood Forest offers beautiful waterside views. Near the ponds, you’ll find quaint structures such as water wheels and gazebos where you can admire the scenery.

Adjacent to the Half-Wood Lotus Pond, there’s a roofed pavilion with benches where you can sit and enjoy the views of the pond surroundings. Depending on the season, you might even get to see lotus leaves floating on the surface of the pond.

Hanagi Shrine

Located at the precincts of Kamigamo Shrine, “Hanagi Shrine” was historically known as “Ryuki Shrine.” This area was once renowned for its thriving sericulture and papermaking industry, establishing it as the birthplace of Kyoto’s textile industry. Hanagi Shrine is revered as the deity of textiles, and since the opening of the botanical garden, it has served as its guardian deity, protecting the land.

Surrounded by a forest where you can observe the natural ecosystem, the shrine exudes a mystical atmosphere, allowing visitors to feel a deep connection with nature.

Japan’s Largest Greenhouse & Hidden Gem for Kids: “Observation Greenhouse & Mushroom Library”

Observation Greenhouse

The “Observation Greenhouse” features a large pond called “Mirror Pond” and boasts one of the largest sizes in Japan. With the Kitayama Mountain Range as a backdrop, its exterior design reflects the elegant style of Kyoto, resembling the iconic Kinkaku-ji Temple floating on the pond.

This grand greenhouse, covering approximately 4,694 square meters with a maximum height of 14.8 meters, is divided into eight rooms, each offering different landscapes and habitats for various plants. From jungle-like rooms to desert-themed ones filled with cacti, visitors can enjoy diverse scenery as they explore each room. Inside the dome, which exhibits around 4,500 plant species, visitors can also find a wealth of plants, including those exhibited for the first time in Japan.

Monkey Orchid

Inside the Observation Greenhouse, you can admire a variety of rare plants.

Among them, the Monkey Orchid stands out with its unique flower petals resembling a monkey’s face. This rare orchid attracts plant enthusiasts from all over Japan who come to admire its uniqueness.

Formally known as Dracula gigas, this plant is nicknamed the Monkey Orchid due to its resemblance to monkeys and is often associated with Dracula due to its dragon-like appearance. You can also enjoy other unique plants like the Psychotria pepigiana, also known as “Hot Lips,” which has thick, lip-like structures.

The Kyoto Botanical Garden is a tourist spot that caters to a wide range of age groups.

Located just a short walk from the main entrance is the “Mirai-kun Square,” featuring two play structures with slides. In addition to the unique play equipment at Mirai-kun Square, there is also a grassy lawn area where families with children can relax, making it an attractive leisure spot for families.

Just behind Mirai-kun Square stands a unique mushroom-shaped building, which, upon opening its doors, reveals a bookshelf filled with books. Known as the “Kinoko Bunko” or Mushroom Library, this open-air library is not only popular among children but also catches the attention of adults for its Instagram-worthy charm.

The Kinoko Bunko houses around 3,000 picture books and field guides. Pick up a book from the shelves and enjoy reading while sitting on one of the nearby benches.

Stylish English-Inspired Flowerbeds: The Rose Garden & Western-style Garden

When you walk east from the main gate, you’ll find the Western-style Garden, a bright space where various flowers bloom depending on the season. Among them, the Rose Garden stands out with its sweet scent and vibrant flowers. In this garden, approximately 1,300 rose bushes of about 270 varieties are planted.

The best time to see the roses is from mid-May to early June and from mid to late October, happening twice a year. Even when I visited in late June, past the prime season, the garden was still adorned with colorful roses. Towards the end of May, the garden hosts a Rose Festival, where staff members guide visitors through the blooming roses.

Republic of Montmartre

“Republic of Montmartre” is a stunning rose with vibrant petals that catch the eye. Its deep crimson red petals create a striking contrast against the lush green leaves. As you approach, you’ll be greeted by a sweet fragrance reminiscent of roses and raspberries combined. Since different roses bloom depending on the season, you can enjoy a variety of views each time you visit.

Sunken Flower Bed.

Adjacent to the Rose Garden and slightly lower in elevation compared to its surroundings is the “Sunken Flower Bed.” In the center of this vibrant flower bed, filled with azaleas and seasonal flowers, a refreshing fountain bubbles up. Capturing a photo here, with the backdrop of Higashiyama and Mt. Hiei, will surely result in a dynamic shot.

The Sunken Flower Bed features a Display Garden recognized by two prestigious organizations: AAS (All-America Selections) and FS (European Ornamental Plant Breeders’ Rights). Experience the splendor of this certified garden, a unique attraction found only at the Kyoto Botanical Garden in Japan.

Enjoy the Four Seasons with Cherry Blossoms, Autumn Leaves, and Seasonal Flowers at the “Seasonal Flower Beds”

At the back of the main gate, on the north side of the botanical garden near the observatory greenhouse, lies a cherry blossom grove.

In early April, during their peak season, various types of cherry blossoms, including Somei Yoshino and Yaebenishidare, bloom profusely, adorning the garden with around 450 cherry trees in full bloom, making it a symbol of spring. Moreover, during springtime, various plants throughout the garden burst into colorful blooms, offering visitors a vibrant spectacle throughout the year.

During autumn, Kyoto Botanical Garden becomes a popular spot for viewing vibrant foliage as the trees in the garden change colors.

In the Four Ponds area within the previously mentioned Hanagi Forest, maple trees are planted along the ponds, creating a mesmerizing scene where the autumn leaves reflect off the water surface, adding to the enchanting ambiance. With comfortable temperatures for walking during the autumn season, it’s a great opportunity to stroll around the spacious garden and admire the colorful foliage.

Near the Kamo River Gate, you’ll find the “Four Seasons Hill,” an area where a diverse range of plants representing each season is beautifully cultivated, living up to its name. With waterways, ponds, and even an English-style garden on the hills, this spot offers the opportunity to admire various plants thriving in different environments. Adapted to their surroundings, you’ll find aquatic plants, useful herbs, and more, allowing visitors to experience the changing seasons through the lush flora.

From brick flower beds to tunnel-like plantings covered in ivy, and displays of waterside vegetation, the variety of exhibition methods here is captivating and ensures there’s always something new to see.

Within the Kyoto Botanical Garden, you’ll find several other flower beds worth exploring.

Near the North Gate, the “Wild Garden” features plants arranged along the flow of pathways amidst trees, rocks, and hills. Just in front of the Main Gate, the vibrant “Front Flower Bed” adds to the welcoming atmosphere. Another highlight is the “Iris Garden,” boasting 10,000 elegant and beautiful iris flowers blooming in early summer. Each flower bed has its own peak season, so visiting according to the blooming schedule of each flower would be a great idea to fully enjoy the garden’s beauty.

Recommended Sightseeing Spots around Kyoto Botanical Garden

The Kyoto Botanical Garden is a tourist spot located in the northern part of Kyoto city. Surrounding the garden are renowned attractions such as Shimogamo Shrine, famous for its spiritual energy, and art museums where you can admire replicas of famous paintings.

A Museum Where You Can Admire Famous Paintings from Around the World in Ceramic Tiles – Kyoto Prefectural Ceramic Art Garden

Just a short walk from Kitayama Station on the Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line, adjacent to the Kyoto Botanical Garden, stands the Kyoto Prefectural Ceramic Art Garden, also known as the “Kyoto Prefectural Garden of Ceramic Art.”

This museum specializes in ceramic tile reproductions of famous paintings from around the world, created by transferring original artworks onto ceramic plates. One of the remarkable features of these ceramic reproductions is their resistance to discoloration and corrosion, ensuring that visitors can enjoy these masterpieces semi-permanently without deterioration.

Designed by the renowned architect Tadao Ando, the garden surrounding the museum offers a unique experience, allowing visitors to stroll through a corridor-style painting garden. Among the eight featured paintings are renowned masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment” and Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

Visitors can purchase a joint ticket for both the Kyoto Prefectural Ceramic Art Garden and the Kyoto Botanical Garden at a cost of 250 yen for adults and 200 yen for high school students.

Tourist Information for the Kyoto Prefectural Ceramic Art Garden:

  • Address: Kamonosukekicho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: A short walk from Kitayama Station on the Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line, or a 5-minute walk from the Kitayama Station bus stop.
  • Phone Number: 075-724-2188
  • Closed: December 28th to January 4th (for facility maintenance)
  • Opening Hours: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Admission Fee: 100 yen for adults, free for junior high school students and seniors
  • Official Website: Kyoto Prefectural Ceramic Art Garden

Experience the Historical Power Spot of Kyoto at Shimogamo Shrine (Kamo Mioya Jinja)

Take the subway to Kitaoji Station or hop on the bus routes 1 or 205, and get off at Shimogamo Shrine (Shimogamo Jinja-mae) stop, just a short walk away from the shrine.

Officially known as Kamo Mioya Jinja, this shrine boasts two main halls designated as national treasures—one in the east and one in the west. With its valuable architecture and treasures, Shimogamo Shrine was recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1994, under the designation “Cultural Properties of Ancient Kyoto.”

Near the nationally designated main halls, you’ll find several power spots, including the Gakusha, where the twelve zodiac signs are enshrined, and the Mitarashi Shrine, believed to ward off disasters and misfortunes.

The Tadasu no Mori, which forms the approach to Shimogamo Shrine, is a primeval forest located at the confluence of the Kamo River and the Takano River, boasting an area three times the size of the Tokyo Dome. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tadasu no Mori is a rare forest that preserves the same vegetation as the primeval forests dating back to around the 3rd century BCE. Flowing through the pristine forest, a clear stream allows visitors to enjoy the experience of forest bathing while walking along the shrine’s approach.

In autumn, the trees turn red, offering a picturesque scene of autumn foliage as you make your way to the main hall. Take a stroll through this historic and beautiful forest, which has been celebrated in poetry since the Heian period.

Shimogamo Shrine Visitor Information

  • Address: 59 Shimogamo Izumigawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: Take Kyoto Municipal Subway to “Kitaoji Station” then board bus No. 1 or 205 to “Shimogamo Shrine-mae” bus stop, located just a short walk away.
  • Phone Number: 075-781-0010
  • Closed: Open all year round
  • Opening Hours: 6:30 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Admission: Free
  • Official Website: Shimogamo Shrine

Ginkaku-ji Temple – Symbolizing the Elegance of Higashiyama Culture

From JR Kyoto Station, take bus number 32 or Rapid 100, then get off at Ginkaku-ji Mae Station and walk for 5 minutes to reach Ginkaku-ji Temple, a temple affiliated with the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism.

Known as the “Silver Pavilion” and paired with the splendid Kinkaku-ji Temple, Ginkaku-ji’s formal name is Jisho-ji Temple. Within its grounds, you’ll find highlights like the Kannon Hall, designated as a national treasure, and the aesthetically pleasing Ginkaku (Silver Pavilion).

The main attraction, the Kannon Hall, follows the architectural style of the Shari-den at Kinkaku-ji Temple. Surrounding the solemn-looking Kannon Hall, which is coated in black lacquer, are attractions such as the scenic Mirror Pond and beautifully landscaped gardens, offering picturesque views throughout the year.

When visiting Ginkaku-ji Temple, don’t miss the observation deck located on the hilltop. From there, you can enjoy panoramic views of all the famous spots within Ginkaku-ji, including the eye-catching Ginkaku (Silver Pavilion) with its striped pattern, the Sand Garden with its Moon-viewing Platform, and the Kannon Hall and Togudo Hall. Along the way to the observation deck, you’ll also encounter attractions like the Tea Garden, where spring water flows, adding to the charm of your visit.

Ginkaku-ji Temple Visitor Information:

  • Address: 2 Ginkakuji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto City
  • Map: Google Maps
  • Access: Take bus 32 or Rapid 100 from JR Kyoto Station, get off at “Ginkaku-ji Mae” bus stop, then walk for 6 minutes.
  • Phone Number: ‎075-771-5725
  • Closed: Open year-round
  • Hours: Summer 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM, Winter 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
  • Admission Fee: Adults/High School Students 500 yen, Children (Elementary and Junior High School) 300 yen, Children under elementary school age are free
  • Official URL: Ginkaku-ji Temple

Here are the highlights of the Kyoto Botanical Garden. As Japan’s first public botanical garden with vast grounds, it boasts seasonal flowers, notable features like the conservatory and the Semi-Wild Grove. With its ever-changing landscape throughout the seasons, it’s a recommended spot for year-round sightseeing enjoyment.


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