Overdosed. This is the only word that can possibly describe how you will feel after a visit to the Haradani garden. Overdosed, but certainly not a bad trip! A friend of mine who has been living for 20 years in Kyoto told me that the cherry blossoms at Ryoan-ji were just amazing, that I had to see it, etc, etc... I told him he hadn't seen nothing yet. He would not believe me. So we went to Haradani-en, and I regret not having bet a zillion dollars with him that this place would one-up anything else in Kyoto, or in Japan, or in the known universe for that matter.
Having so much flowers both up (cherry blossoms) and down (insert lots of weird Latin names here) is a bit overwhelming, so not everyone may like it. But it is a sight to behold. After a few hours though, you will be a bit... well, overdosed. The crowd does not help, even though it's much more civilized than other famous hanami locations in Kyoto. The park being located in a small valley served by only a single bus line probably helps keeping it relatively quiet.
If you plan to visit, go there very early on a week day. People will probably be already queuing, but it's going to get worse later in the day. Also, do not count on getting there by bus: it's so packed that the driver will not open the entrance doors at the bus stop any more. Your best bet is to use a motorbike or a bicycle if you dare (the climb is 'a little' steep). You can also grab a taxi, a good alternative if you find one. You see, Haradani-en is located very close to Kinkaku-ji, the latter attracting way more tourists, and thus making available taxis a rare resource.
Once in, just stroll on the narrow alleys and enjoy nature's show. It's also a good spot for Japanese-spotting: families eating their bento's, people with petals in their hair (almost unavoidable), etc, etc,... If you're knowledgeable in sakura, try to spot the different species: there's quite a few! Plum trees, chestnut, persimmon, peach trees and maple are also planted in the garden.
According to their website, the place was a wasteland in the early 20th century with the planting spree starting in the late 1950s. If only this could be done to more dumping grounds in Japan...
Recommended for: Access:
Nearby: Ryōan-ji 龍安寺 (1.1km)
External links: Website, Kyoto Navi, Kyoto Design, そうだ京都, Satellite view, Map
Keywords: Japan, 日本, Japon, Kyoto, 京都, 右京, Ukyo-ku, 原谷苑, Haradani-en, park