Maruyama Park was built on land formerly occupied by a number of temples, which had burnt down in a large fire — a problem endemic to the era. Designed by famous landscaper Jihei Ogawa, the park took almost three years to construct. A garden was later added to the park in 1912 by Ogawa, which incorporated the area’s existing hilly landscape and added a large central pond. Numerous tea houses were built around the pond and make for pleasant resting spots when strolling through the park.
The park is particularly crowded during the springtime when its 600 cherry blossom trees come into flower. Daytime picnics transition into merry nighttime revelries with hanami-goers packed elbow-to-elbow. There are plenty of yatai food stalls around selling food and drink, and the highlight of the evening is Maruyama Koen’s 40-foot weeping cherry blossom tree brilliantly illuminated late into the night.
Maruyama Koen is accessible via Yasaka Shrine, one of the largest shrines in all of Japan, which is located in Kyoto’s famous Gion District. Enter through Yasaka’s main gate, Nishi-Romon — an icon in itself.