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If you are in for an adventure paired with lengthy, quirky, brutal honest thoughts then you are in the right place.

My name is Arisa and was a cosplayer for 12 years in Malaysia before settling down in Kyoto, Japan. Exploring Japan full time has been a long time dream of mine, so let's explore it together!
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Local Sakura Viewing Spot in Sewari Tei, Yawata City Kyoto

When it comes to Sakura season in Kyoto (and whole of Japan), everyone both locals and tourists dread the idea that they have to brave though the sea of people just to get a glimpse of these dainty flowers that are definitely a gamble to view. If you don’t follow the predictions closely and come on the right period, you will miss it entirely by being too early or too late as these flowers literally take overnight to go full blossom and exactly a week later gone with the spring showers.

This is my first full fledge spring in Japan as my previous visits I’ve managed to only catch the leftovers of it (like I said, a gamble to catch it on the right moment) and you guys kept up with my sakura hunting updates via IG stories lol. Every area has a different blooming period, depending on its species and surrounding temperature some may bloom early while some might bloom later but based from my research on previous years’ predictions what’s consistent is that sakura in Kyoto starts blooming from end of the 3rd week of March all the way up to mid-April.

I also finally understood how the locals felt during spring, it was suffocating with the amount of tourists flooding in every single day and every sakura viewing spot we googled, they recommended the usual tourist spots (Philosopher's Path, Maruyama Park, Keage Incline) which we are all clearly trying our best to avoid despite it being rated as one of the top viewing spots. Yes, it’s no doubt beautiful only if you go at 5am in the morning or else you are going to see more human heads than sakura trees. Like seriously. 

Look at that view, definitely not much human in sight.

Coming across Sewari Tei was by pure luck after tons of nonstop scrolling on Instagram viewing Kyoto sakura hashtags, and googling its name alone you can see how underrated this spot is (which is good for people like me who enjoys being away from the crowd lol).

Kyoto is actually quite a big prefecture and it’s not limited to the usual tourist spots everybody knows by now, it even does have a sea (Amanohashidate) by the way; just that it’s a 2 hr bus ride away from Kyoto station and not many people bother to visit which they should because it’s one of the top 3 scenic spots in Japan! This prefecture consists of 15 cities, with the capital city name being the same as the prefecture itself lol, so far i've only visited 6 of it.
  • Ayabe
  • Fukuchiyama
  • Jōyō
  • Kameoka
  • Kizugawa
  • Kyōtanabe 👏
  • Kyōtango👏
  • Kyoto (capital- where most major sightseeing spots are) 👏
  • Maizuru
  • Miyazu
  • Mukō👏
  • Nagaokakyō
  • Nantan
  • Uji👏
  • Yawata👏

Since I’m already staying in Kyoto, it made more sense to explore its surrounding cities as well just to get to know this prefecture a little more in depth and the route less travelled is often more rewarding as well. So you guys ready for this little secret?

“Sewari Tei” dub as one of Kyoto local’s best kept secret Sakura spots, it’s really hard to know about this place if it wasn’t for the kind souls that uploaded & tag this place lol, when I visited there was barely any tourists at all. Only locals strolling around, enjoying their hanami; it was super-duper peaceful and I wished that sakura is available all year round so I can come here more frequently. Being away from the busy city is really therapeutic!

Sewari Tei located in Yawata city which is easily accessible by KEIHAN train line, taking only about 45min.
This is where the 3 main rivers of Kyoto meet and right at the separation section of Yodogawa & Kizugawa there are about 250+ sakura trees creating a 1.4km route of “pastel pink clouds” when seen from the observation tower located opposite of Yodogawa Riverside Park that was built in 2017 making it one of the newest landmark building in the area. 

Yawata city is also the place where Thomas Edison (the dude who invented electricity in case that name doesn’t ring a bell lol) got his bamboos from to use as a filament for his lightbulb invention. And it’s not any ordinary bamboo too, it can only be found on top of Mt. Otokoyama where Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine is located. That was how the relationship of Thomas Edison and Japan was formed, you can even find his monument up on Mt Otokoyama built in 1934, I seriously didn’t know any of this till AFTER I came across his monument while hiking up to Iwashimizu Hachimangu lol, I was like “what was Thomas Edison statue doing all the way up here?”.

So there you have it one of those random discoveries I had, it’s actually fun to like not research the place you are visiting in detailed so that you can still enjoy some surprise factors (good ones). I’ve known to be mostly to be a chill traveller, I’ll plan where I want to go but how to get there and schedule and all; I’ll just throw it out of the window. Unlike some of my friends I know would even do a PowerPoint presentation or a detailed excel sheet stating EVERY. SINGLE. DETAIL. EVEN. DOWN. TO. EXACT. COST. PER. DAY. (I’m not even talking about “rough” budget). That is like seriously amazing man, lol I only put it THAT amount of effort for work or my college research, but holiday? Nah.. I rather chill haha, so If you need an impromptu travel buddy in Japan, you know who to find.

Exiting the station and greeted with beautiful clear skies

Okay wander out of topic again lol my bad! So back to talking about Yawata City, upon exiting Yawatashi station we could see next to it is the cable car that leads up to Mt Otokoyama and walking straight ahead (roughly about 20 mins) would lead to the riverbank of Sewari tei. In one day you could easily cover both areas despite arriving around 12pm, our typical family going out time since lil penguin came along lol, takes forever to leave the door. One thing about sakura season is the weather can be quite unpredictable for example it will rain the whole day so make sure to check your weather forecast and Instagram (location tag) diligently to keep up to date. 

Cable car up to Otokoyama next to Keihan line

We wanted to just enjoy a peaceful hanami as the park near our home was so crowded that we could hardly find a spot to put our 100x100cm picnic mat (that’s very small), so going to countryside areas maybe far but it’s worth getting away from the crowds! Sewari Tei is our next favourite Hanami spot next to Yodosui, Fushimi and we could easily visit both areas because one blooms earlier while the other blooms later. 
Honestly after 2 years of seeing sakura I don’t think I’ll get bored of it anytime soon because these dainty beauties are a sight to behold, something you constantly want to look forward to after every harsh cold and long winter. But I’ll see how long I can hold on to that promise before swear by it haha, who knows after a decade I might take back my words lol. But honestly la..coming from Malaysia a hot and humid country all year round, seeing sakura in Japan is such a rare and privilege opportunity, so I’m grateful for that. 

Bless Japan for delicious eki-ben!  

Boss baby getting some sunshine and milk

We bought our bento from Kyoto station because I was too lazy to pack fancy picnic bento from home lol (Japan is so convenient) got our picnic supplies from Daiso and enjoy our lunch under the cooling spring weather right under the sakura trees of Sewari Tei. You can also stroll along the upper path but take note that this part can be quite cold and windy compared to the lower pathways, so windy that it blew my socks away from under the baby stroller lol. 

Its a stroller & wheelchair friendly location

Temporary lavatories available at the entrance of the park

This park is wheelchair and stroller friendly as it has ramps and pavements rather than the usual staircases, during spring they even have temporary lavatories set up at the entrance of Sewari Tei, so best to use the loo before heading in as there won’t be another one available mid-way of the 1.4km route (1 way enter and exit). I find this to be rather rare because somehow most places in Japan are filled with staircases and minimal lifts available that it did got me questioning at one point how do those in wheelchairs get around, I mean for babies we could carry/ babywear them but adults? It’s abit rather sad to be honest and kinda annoying so the only way we can make do is search & share places that are wheelchair/ stroller friendly. 

 Photography angles does wonder lol, you don't even need to be touching the branches for a shot like this. That's why i don't get why do tourists like to pull down the poor delicate sakura branches for the horrid phone photo shots. Please respect the trees!

Enjoying the fresh cool air

The atmosphere and air quality here is so fresh; I mean Japan’s air quality is already great compared to back home but when you are in the countryside area imagine that quality amplified by x100000000 times. 

View from the Observation deck

Opposite the park there is an observation deck, which usually has an entry fee to go up but during sakura season the entry is free, the view from the top is really amazing and they have a baby changing station in the handicap toilet (1st floor) making it a great stop to get a nappy change before heading home. We also kind used the place as a “shield” from the cold winds haha, indoor building heaters ftw. 

After our picnic lunch we walked back to the station, and took the cable car up to Mt Otokoyama as it would be a waste not to visit the great Iwashimizu Hachimangū, this large complex Shinto shrine is over a thousand years old and it’s one of the remaining 4 examples of Hachiman-zukuri architecture style in Japan. The cable car has a fix schedule going up and down taking about 3 mins per way, costing only 400 yen per adult for a round trip. You can even opt to take the winding stairs up if you are feeling adventurous and obviously have the stamina (I obviously don’t haha). 

Fun fact: Did you know that Iwashimizu Hachimangu shrine has be struck & burned by lightning 7 times & rebuilt again after. That’s definitely a lot to take in.

You can learn more about Iwashimizu Hachimangu shrine’ s history from this detailed website, it also includes in a schedule of the shrine’s events all year round: https://www.discoverkyoto.com/places-go/iwashimizu-hachimangu/

Reaching up there is another sight to behold, because there is close to ZERO crowd! It’s so peaceful that you can actually feel yourself entering the “zen” mood while walking through the groove of bamboos leading up to the shrine. There also some playful stray cats along the way to greet us, and it was my first time seeing neutered strays as they had the end of one of their ears clipped to resembled a sakura petal. 

 Hey, lookie here! We found the bamboos there were used by Thomas Edison!

Cute stray cats spotted

Neutered strays have a sakura shape clipping on their ear

ZERO crowd, just a few people walking around and up here is also surrounded by sakura trees

The pathways leading up to the shrine may be abit bumpy and it has stairs so I would highly recommend to baby wear at this point & fold your stroller. Before entering the main section of the shrine, you’ll be greeted with over 500 rows of lanterns lined up leading all the way to the tori gate, these were donated by their worshippers over the centuries, which not only decorates but also paves the entrance to Iwashimizu Hachimangū in both light & darkness. The surrounding forest greenery that contrasts against the majestic vermillion shrine makes it a picturesque worthy shot, so make sure to take one for the memory!

 Absorb in the majesticness of this place

Coming here during sakura season was definitely a good decision, except for the temporary stage bamboo pole blocking the view

It’s really a rare sight these days to enjoy places in Kyoto that isn’t flocked with tourists, so I hope this little tip would make your trip in Kyoto less stressful. Trust me it’s worth the 45 mins train ride, you not only get to enjoy Sakura without fighting for a photo spot but also appreciate the spiritual peacefulness up in Mt Otokoyama. Kyoto is WAYYYY bigger than you think, all you need to have is the courage to step out from the usual routes. Make sure to bookmark this post if you are planning to visit Kyoto during sakura season (and trying to avoid the tourist crowds), who knows you might bump into me there haha!

Let’s just keep this “secret place” between you and me k? lol. 

Yours Truly,

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