Events

January

  • Kyoto Winter Travel – Keihan Bus

    Each year, Keihan Bus provides a special tour service, called Kyoto Winter Travel. Their Kyoto Regular Tour Buses visit famous Kyoto locations not normally accessible. For details, refer to the Keihan Bus website.

    Kyoto Winter Travel – Keihan Bus
    Phone:
    Kyoto Regular Tour Bus: +81-(0)75-672-2100
    Access:
    Buses leave from the Kyoto Regular Tour Bus loading area next to JR Kyoto Station, located outside the Karasuma exit.
  • Toka Ebisu

    The main day of the festivals celebrating Ebisu, god of merchant prosperity, falls on January 10, with festivities on the days before and after that as well. Toka Ebisu is a popular festival, with many people buying good luck bamboo branches and praying to Ebisu for prosperity in the new year. The shrines are open all night long for praying on the nights of the 9 and 10.

    Open hours:
    Kyoto Ebisu: January 8 to 12
    Horikawa Ebisu: January 9 to 11
    Imamiya Ebisu: January 9 to 11
    Admission:
    Kyoto Ebisu Shrine: No fee for admittance to the inner grounds
    Horikawa Ebisu Shrine, Osaka: No fee for admittance to the inner grounds
    Imamiya Ebisu Shrine: No fee for admittance to the inner grounds
    Address:

    Kyoto Ebisu Shrine: 125 Komatsu-cho, Yamato Oji-dori 4-jo Sagaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Horikawa Ebisu Shrine, Osaka: Nishi Tenma 5-4-7, Kita-ku, Osaka > Map

    Imamiya Ebisu Shrine: Ebisu Nishi 1-6-10, Naniwa-ku, Osaka > Map

    Phone:

    Kyoto Ebisu Shrine: +81-(0)75-525-0005

    Horikawa Ebisu Shrine, Osaka: +81-(0)6-6311-8626

    Imamiya Ebisu Shrine: +81-(0)6-6643-0150

    Access:
    • Kyoto Ebisu Shrine:
      • It is a six-minute walk from Gion Shijo Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
      • Alternatively, it is an eight-minute walk from Kawaramachi Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
    • Horikawa Ebisu Shrine, Osaka:
      From Tenma or Kitahama Station on Keihan Electric Railway, transfer to the subway to Minami-morimachi Station. It is a five-minute walk.
    • Imamiya Ebisu Shrine:
      From Yodayabashi Station on Keihan Electric Railway, transfer to the subway to Daikokucho Station. It is a five-minute walk.
  • Fushimi Gofuku Meguri

    Originally the town outside Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s castle in the sixteenth century, Fushimi is a popular location to visit during the new year. Visitors perform hatsumode (new year visit to a shrine or temple) to five well-known “good luck” temples and shrines in Fushimi. Fushimi is also popular for taking strolls and enjoying the views of the sake breweries, an outing providing a different feeling from Kyoto’s city center.
    Choken-ji Temple – god of improving luck, merchant prosperity, accomplishment and proficiency
    Daikoku-ji Temple – god of success, improving luck, financial prosperity
    Go-Kogu Shrine – god of safe childbirth, improving luck, protection from misfortune
    Nogi Shrine – god of academic performance, winning
    Fujinomori Shrine – god of winning, improving luck

    Fushimi Gofuku Meguri
    Open hours:
    9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day at all five shrines and temples
    Admission:
    1,000 yen for the sheet of irogami (colored paper) and the first stamp. 300 yen at each of the other four temples/shrines for the remaining stamps.
    Choken-ji Temple: No fee for admittance to the inner grounds
    Daikoku-ji Temple: No fee for admittance to the inner grounds
    Go-Kogu Shrine: No fee for admittance to the inner grounds
    Nogi Shrine: No fee for admittance to the inner grounds
    Fujinomori Shrine: No fee for admittance to the inner grounds
    Address:

    Choken-ji Temple: 511 Higashi Yanagi-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Daikoku-ji Temple: Takajo-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Go-Kogu Shrine: 174 Gokogu Monzen-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Nogi Shrine: 32-2 Itakurasuo, Momoyama-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Fujinomori Shrine: 609 Fukakusa Toriizaki-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Phone:

    Fushimi Gofuku Meguri: +81-(0)75-611-0559 (Rakunan Hoshokai)

    Choken-ji Temple: +81-(0)75-611-1039

    Daikoku-ji Temple: +81-(0)75-611-2558

    Go-Kogu Shrine: +81-(0)75-611-0559

    Nogi Shrine: +81-(0)75-601-5472

    Fujinomori Shrine: +81-(0)75-641-1045

    Access:
    • Choken-ji Temple:
      It is a five-minute walk from Chushojima Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
    • Daikoku-ji Temple:
      It is a 10-minute walk from Tambabashi Station on either Keihan Electric Railway or Kintetsu.
    • Go-Kogu Shrine:
      It is a five-minute walk from Fushimi-Momoyama Station on Keihan Electric Railway, from Momoyamagoryo-mae Station on Kintetsu, or Momoyama Station on the JR Nara Line.
    • Nogi Shrine:
      It is a 15-minute walk from Fushimi-momoyama Station or Momoyama-Minamiguchi Station on Keihan Electric Railway, or from Momoyamagoryo-mae Station on Kintetsu. Alternatively, it is a 10-minute walk from Momoyama Station on the JR Nara Line.
    • Fujinomori Shrine:
      It is a 10-minute walk from Sumizome Station on Keihan Electric Railway, or a five-minute walk from Fujinomori Station on JR.
  • Miyako Shichifukujin Mairi – Visiting Seven Gods and Goddesses

    Belief in the Seven Gods of Fortune first began in Japan in Kyoto around six hundred years ago and then spread throughout the country. Named Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Daikokuten, Ebisu, Fukurokuju, Hotei and Jurojin, these gods and goddesses of Japan, China and India are said to bring people good fortune. Tradition holds that if a picture of a treasure boat bearing the Seven Gods of Fortune is placed under your pillow when you go to bed on January 2, it will bring you good luck. During the new year, many people pray at the temples and shrines for the Seven Gods of Fortune for the Seven Fortunes and ward off the Seven Misfortunes. Pilgrimage is made at other times of the year as well.
    Ebisu Shrines – Ebisu – merchant prosperity
    Myoen-ji Temple (Matsugasaki Daikokuten) – Daikokuten – improved fortune
    To-ji Temple – Bishamonten – the Seven Fortunes
    Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple – Benzaiten
    Sekizan Zen-in Temple – Fukurokuju – longevity and happiness
    Kodo (Gyogan-ji Temple) – Jurojin – immortality and longevity
    Manpuku-ji Temple – Hotei – destiny and good omens

    Open hours:
    From 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., although times vary for each temple.
    Admission:
    Kyoto Ebisu Shrine: No fee for admittance to the inner grounds
    Myoen-ji Temple (Matsugasaki Daikokuten): No fee for admittance to the inner grounds
    To-ji Temple: Admittance fee for some areas
    Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple: Adults: 600 yen, students: 500 yen, children: 400 yen
    Sekizan Zen-in Temple: No fee for admittance to the inner grounds
    Kodo (Gyogan-ji Temple): No fee for admittance to the inner grounds
    Manpuku-ji Temple: Adults: 500 yen, elementary/junior high students: 300 yen
    Address:

    Kyoto Ebisu Shrine: 125 Komatsu-cho, Yamato Oji-dori 4-jo Sagaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Myoen-ji Temple (Matsugasaki Daikokuten): 31 Matsugasaki Higashi-machi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto > Map

    To-ji Temple: 1 Kujo-cho, Minami-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple: 81-1 Rokuro-cho, Matsubara-dori Yamato Oji Higashiiru 2-chome, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Sekizan Zen-in Temple: 18 Shugaku Inkai Konbo-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Kodo (Gyogan-ji Temple): 17 Teramachi-dori Takeyamachi Agaru Gyoganji Monzen-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Manpuku-ji Temple: 34 Gokasho Sanban-wari, Uji, Kyoto Prefecture > Map

    Phone:

    Kyoto Ebisu Shrine: +81-(0)75-525-0005

    Myoen-ji Temple (Matsugasaki Daikokuten): +81-(0)75-781-5067

    To-ji Temple: +81-(0)75-691-3325

    Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple: +81-(0)75-561-6980

    Sekizan Zen-in Temple: +81-(0)75-701-5181

    Kodo (Gyogan-ji Temple): +81-(0)75-211-2770

    Manpuku-ji Temple: +81-(0)774-32-3900

    Access:
    • Kyoto Ebisu Shrine:
      It is a six-minute walk from Gionshijo Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
    • Myoen-ji Temple (Matsugasaki Daikokuten):
      It is a seven-minute walk from Shugakuin Station on Eizan Electric Railway or a 15-minute walk from Matsugasaki Station on the Kyoto Karasuma subway line.
    • To-ji Temple:
      It is a 15-minute walk from Kyoto Station on JR, or a 10-minute walk from Toji Station on Kintetsu.
    • Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple:
      It is an eight-minute walk from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
    • Sekizan Zen-in Temple:
      It is a 20-minute walk from Shugakuin Station on Eizan Electric Railway.
    • Kodo (Gyogan-ji Temple): It is a 10-minute walk from Jingu-Marutamachi Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
    • Manpuku-ji Temple: It is a five-minute walk from Obaku Station on the Uji Line on Keihan Electric Railway or from Obaku Station on the JR Nara Line.
  • Yumihikizome, Toshiya – New Year Archery

    From one end to the other of Sanjusangen-do Temple, the distance is about 60 meters. Competing in archery to shoot arrows along the length is said to date back to the sixteenth century. Archery aficionados from throughout Japan gather in an impressive display, wearing traditional hakama. Young men having just turned adults at the age of 20 are particularly common. The invigorating winter air is filled with solemnity as the archers focus their attention on their target on this day, the first day of the lunar new year.

    Open hours:
    The Sunday nearest January 15, 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
    Admission:
    Adults: 600 yen, junior/senior high school students: 400 yen, children: 300 yen
    Admittance is free on the day of the event
    Address:
    657 Sanjusangen-do Mawari-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Sanjusangen-do Temple: +81-(0)75-561-0467
    Access:
    It is a seven-minute walk from Shichijo Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
  • Hatsu Kobo at To-ji Temple

    A festival day for Kobo Daishi (Kukai) is held on the 21 of each month in memory of his passing on the 21 of March. The word "hatsu" refers to the first festival of the new year. Some 1200 street stalls set up on the grounds of To-ji Temple, selling antiques, local specialty products, potted plants, gardening products, ceramics and more.

    Hatsu Kobo at To-ji Temple
    Open hours:
    January 21 from 5:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
    Admission:
    There is no charge for admittance to Hatsu Kobo.
    Ground admittance is also free, though there is a charge for admittance to Kondo and Kodo Halls.
    Adults: 800 yen, high school students: 700 yen, elementary/junior high school students: 500 yen.
    Address:
    1 Kujo-cho, Minami-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    To-ji Temple: +81-(0)75-691-3325
    Access:
    • • It is a 15-minute walk from Kyoto Station on JR
    • • It is a 10-minute walk from Toji Station on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line.
  • Hatsu Tenjin at Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine

    The 25th of the month is celebrated in memory of the death anniversary of Sugawara no Michizane, a famous scholar of ancient times also known as Tenjin (sky deity). Similar to the celebration for Kobo, the Hatsu Tenjin on the grounds of Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine is a grand day-long celebration. The festival days vie with each other, and according to one popular saying, if it rains on Kobo's day, the skies will be clear for the Tenjin festival. More than 1000 stalls are set up for the lively event, and there is an exhibit of new year wishes, showing the calligraphy work of visitors. Also, January 25 is the only day of the year when treasures of the shrine's repository are on view to the public.

    Open hours:
    Hatsu Tenjin: 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
    Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    Admission:
    No fee for admittance to the inner grounds
    Address:
    Bakuro-cho, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine: +81-(0)75-461-0005
    Access:
    It is a five-minute walk to Kitano-hakubaicho Station on Keifuku Electric Railroad.

February

  • Setsubun Festival

    Setsubun marks the last day of winter according to the lunar calendar. It is thought that the change of seasons may give rise to evil spirits, and many of the temples and shrines in Kyoto perform a variety of events to ward away the evil. Most homes also observe the Setsubun ritual of tossing soybeans while intoning, "Evil outside, good fortune inside!" Another practice commonly followed is to eat the same number of soybeans as your age, believed to bring about a strong constitution and long life. Among the many Setsubun festivals, those held at Yoshida Shrine, Rozan-ji Temple, Mibu-dera Temple and Narita-san Osaka Betsuin Myoo-in Temple are particularly popular.

    Setsubun Festival
    Open hours:
    Yoshida Shrine: February 2 to 4. The oni (demon) show is at 6:00 p.m. on February 2.
    Rozan-ji Temple: February 3. The oni dance is at 3:00 p.m.
    Mibu-dera Temple: The Mibu Kyogen pantomime show is put on hourly between 1:00 and 8:00 p.m. on February 2 and 3.
    Narita-san Osaka Betsuin Myoo-in Temple: February 3. Good luck soybeans are given out between 10:30 a.m., 1:00p.m., 3:00 p.m.
    Admission:
    Yoshida Shrine: No admission fee
    Rozan-ji Temple: No admission fee
    Mibu-dera Temple: No admission fee
    Narita-san Osaka Betsuin Myoo-in Temple: No admission fee
    Address:

    Yoshida Shrine: 30 Yoshida Kaguraoka-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Rozan-ji Temple: Teramachi-dori Hirokoji Agaru, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Mibu-dera Temple: Bojo-dori Bukko-ji Kita Iru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Narita-san Osaka Betsuin Myoo-in Temple: 10-1 Narita Nishi-machi, Neyagawa > Map

    Phone:

    Yoshida Shrine: +81-(0)75-771-3788

    Rozan-ji Temple: +81-(0)75-231-0355

    Mibu-dera Temple: +81-(0)75-841-3381

    Narita-san Osaka Betsuin Myoo-in Temple: +81-(0)72-833-8881

    Access:
    • Yoshida Shrine: It is a 20-minute walk from Demachiyanagi Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
    • Rozan-ji Temple: It is a 20-minute walk from Demachiyanagi Station or Jingu-Marutamachi Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
    • Mibu-dera Temple: From Gion-Shijo Station on Keihan Electric Railway take Kyoto city bus 11/203 to the Mibu-dera bus stop. It is a 5-minute walk.
    • Narita-san Osaka Betsuin Myoo-in Temple: From Korien Station on Keihan Electric Railway, take Keihan Bus 22/24B/25/25B to Narita-san Fudo-son-zen.
  • Godai Rikison Ninnoe

    Every year on February 23, Daigo-ji Temple holds its Godai Rikison Ninnoe, commonly called "Godai Riki-san." Godai Rikison Ninnoe is a ritual in which prayers are offered to the bodhisattva Godairiki, who embodies the power of Fudo Myo-o (Acala) and the other Five Wisdom Kings, for national peace and good fortune for the people. The history of the ritual goes back to the year 907 during the reign of Emperor Daigo. Special Buddhist images are given out only on February 23 for protection from fire and theft. These can be seen placed not only at the entrances to stores but homes as well. To receive these talismans, people wait from morning till night, forming an endless line. More than 100,000 people from throughout Japan come to see Godai Rikison Ninnoe, known as the largest event held at Daigo-ji Temple.
    In recent years, it has become popular for men and women to vie to see who can lift and hold giant rice cake stacks known as Godairiki mochi the longest. The men's contest is with 150 kilograms of weight and the women's with 90. With their strength as offerings, they pray for good health and physical strength. As a prize, the winners receive a portion of the giant mochi. If you think you have what it takes, turn out and see how long you can last! There is no charge to enter the contest.

    Godai Rikison Ninnoe
    Open hours:
    The mochi-lifting contest starts at noon
    Admission:
    The temple is free of charge on the event day. There is a fee for other areas.
    Address:
    Daigo Higashi Oji-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Daigo-ji Temple: +81-(0)75-571-0002
    Access:
    It is a 15-minute walk from the subway Daigo Station.

March

  • Nagashi-bina

    In Japan, March 3 is Hinamatsuri or Doll Festival, a day when traditional dolls are displayed on a special tiered doll stand. This custom comes from a ritual in which the dolls are sent down the river, carrying bad spirits with them. One of the oldest shrines in Japan, Shimogamo Shrine holds a ceremony in which male and female dolls made of washi paper are placed on plaited straw and floated down the Mitarashi River, which flows through the shrine compound, to pray for the good health of children. On the day of the ceremony, the first 250 visitors are given a nagashi-hina or doll for floating.
    Young women dressed in Heian-style 12-layer kimonos send the dolls down the river with prayer with great grace. It is a sight that should not be missed. It is also the time when the blossoms on the ume trees in the compound are in bloom. To be invited to drink some amazake, a sweet low-alcohol drink while enjoying the deep pink of the blossoms is a particularly wonderful treat.

    Nagashi-bina
    Open hours:
    The Shinto ritual starts at 10:30 a.m.
    Admission:
    No fee for admission or participating
    Address:
    59 Shimogamo Izumigawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Shimogamo Shrine: +81-(0)75-781-0010
    Access:
    It is a 10-minute walk from Demachiyanagi Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
  • Kyoto Higashiyama Hana Toro – Flowers and Lanterns

    From Shoren-in Temple and Maruyama Park in the north, a narrow flagstone roadway winds its way for about five kilometers, passing through Yasaka Shrine before coming to Kiyomizu Temple. Surrounded by whitewashed and earthen walls, the path is lined with Japanese lights and flowers. Faintly lighting the way forward are some 2500 lanterns, created using such traditional crafts as Kyoyaki and Kiyomizuyaki pottery, Japanese cedar craft, Kyomei bamboo craft and lacquering. Ikebana flower arrangements adorn the way in large vases, created by the heads of the various flower arrangement schools, creating such a dreamlike sensation of ornate beauty that it is called "the road you can't stop walking down." Daring works by young flower arrangement artists unfold before your eyes at a venue in Maruyama Park, and Kyoto schoolchildren put on street performances for an enhanced level of entertainment along the flowery way of lights.

    Kyoto Higashiyama Hana Toro – Flowers and Lanterns
    Open hours:
    About 10 days from Mid-March: 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (Admission until 9:30 p.m.)
    Admission:
    No fee for the walk. Temples and shrines charge an admission fee.
    Address:

    Shoren-in Temple: 69-1 Awadaguchi Sanjobo-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Kiyomizu Temple: 1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Phone:
    Kyoto Hanatoro Promotion Council: +81-(0)75-212-8173
    Access:
    • Shoren-in Temple: It is a five-minute walk from the Higashiyama subway station.
    • Kiyomizu Temple: It is a 25- minute walk from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
  • Kitano Odori

    Kitano Odori is a dance performance by geisha and maiko (geisha in training) associated with Kamishichiken. The season begins on March 25 each year and is a harbinger of spring in Kyoto, opening before the other spring dances in hanamachi such as Miyako Odori, Kyo Odori and Kamogawa Odori. Kamishichiken began as a series of seven tea houses, built near Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine around six hundred years ago. Among the five hanamachi or geisha districts of Kyoto, Kamishiken is the oldest. Of particular note is the refined movements of the geisha and maiko, cultivated over Kamishichiken's long history. A characteristic of this show is the use of spoken lines. The finale is "Kamishichiken Yakyoku" (Evening Song of Kamishichiken), a marvelous spectacle in which all of the geisha and maiko come onto stage and dance in gorgeous kimonos tailored in a fashion so as to trail on the floor. Somewhat smaller than many other shows, Kitano Odori has a special elegance of its own worth seeing.

    Open hours:
    March 25 to April 7
    Performance start times: 1:30, 4:00 p.m.
    Admission:
    Seat with tea: 4,800 yen, Seat: 4,300 yen, tea ticket: 600 yen
    Address:
    742 Imadegawa-dori Shichihonmatsu Nishiiru Shinsei-cho, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Kamishichiken-Kabukai: +81-(0)75-461-0148
    Access:
    Take Kyoto city bus 10/50/101/102/203 to the Kitanotemmangu-mae bus stop.

April

  • Miyako Odori

    Miyako Odori is a dance performance in which about 20 geisha and maiko (geisha in training) appear, making a spectacular show. A special spring attraction in Kyoto, the show's performers are from Gion Kobu. In 1872, soon after Japan's capital was moved to Tokyo, Miyako Odori was created as a special exhibit planned to maintain the historical pride of Kyoto as the traditional home of the emperor. Miyako Odori, or "Capital Dance," is characterized by a sliding movement of the feet unique to the traditional Kyoto Inoueryu style of dancing. Written by Yachiyo Inoue, the shows are selected to match the Chinese zodiac and the season.

    Open hours:
    April 1 to 30, every year
    Performance start times: 12:30, 2:00, 3:30, 4:50 p.m.
    Admission:
    Special seats with tea: 4,800 yen,
    top-grade seats: 4,200 yen (reserved seating),
    second-grade seats: 2,500 yen (open seating)
    Address:
    570-2 Gion-machi Minami-gawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Gion Shinchi Kobu Dance Association Committee: +81-(0)75-541-3391
    Access:
    It is a eight-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
  • Kyo Odori

    A special event for spring in Kyoto, Kyo Odori is a dancing performance by geisha and maiko (geisha in training) of the Miyagawa-cho Dance Association. The first performance was held in 1950. Incorporating popular places and products of Kyoto in dance, the performance has been well received. In the fifth season, the stage was moved to the Minami-za kabuki theater until 1969 when it returned to the newly completed Miyagawa-cho Dance Hall.
    With a large cast numbering about 80 geisha and maiko, the performance's main themes are places and products of Kyoto. The refined performers and creative genius of this production make it an event that lives up to its reputation as a tradition.

    Open hours:
    April 2 to 17
    Performance start times: 12:30, 2:30, 4:30 p.m.
    Admission:
    First class ticket with tea voucher: 4,800 yen
    First class ticket: 4,200 yen
    Second class ticket with tea voucher: 2,800 yen
    Second class ticket: 2,200 yen
    Tea voucher: 600 yen
    Program: 600 yen
    Address:
    4-306 Miyakawa-suji, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto > Map
    (Kyoto Gion Shijo Kawahashi Sagaru)
    Phone:
    Miyagawa-cho Dance Association: +81-(0)75-561-1151
    Access:
    It is a six-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station on Keihan Electric Railway.

May

  • Kamogawa Odori

    Coloring Kyoto with the invigorating new green growth of spring, Kamogawa Odori is a dance performance by geisha and maiko (geisha in training) of Ponto-cho. The first show was put on in 1872, a tradition carried on for more than a century. An innovative dance drama, Kamogawa Odori is choreographed in the Onoe style, and the stage provides a magnificent venue with picture scrolls that move as talented geisha dance about.

    Open hours:
    May 1 to 24
    Performance start times: 12:30, 2:20, 4:10 p.m.
    Admission:
    Special seat with tea: 4,800 yen,
    Special seat: 4,200 yen,
    Regular seat: 2,300 yen
    Address:
    Ponto-cho-dori Sanjo Ohashi Nishizume, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Ponto-cho Kabukai: +81-(0)75-221-2025
    Access:
    It is a five-minute walk from Sanjo Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
  • Kibune no Kawadoko – Dining Over the Kibune Stream

    A summer retreat from urban Kyoto, Kibune provides about 20 high-end restaurants with seating over the Kibune Stream. The narrow Kibune Stream runs quickly under restaurant-goers, who sit only a bit more than a foot above the water surface as to enjoy the refreshing breeze, nature's air conditioning. Meals are eaten surrounded by the green beauty of trees near the stream, a luxurious way to pass the time away during the extreme hot weather of Kyoto's summer. In the evening, the light of lanterns create a wondrous atmosphere, making Kibune a completely different place from the daytime.

    Kibune no Kawadoko – Dining Over the Kibune Stream
    Open hours:
    May 1 to September 30 (Dates may differ depending on the establishment)
    Admission:
    Inquire at the individual establishment.
    Address:
    Kurama Kibune-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Kibune Tourism Association: +81-(0)75-741-4444
    Access:
    It is a 30-minute walk from Kibuneguchi Station on Eizan Electric Railway.
    Inquire with individual establishments for pick-up arrangements.
  • Kamogawa no Yuka – River Dining

    Sitting near the Kamo River in the evening is a popular summer activity in Kyoto, beginning in May when the first signs of warmer days appear. From Nijo to Gojo on the west bank of the Kamo River, there are about 100 restaurants and inns that provide seating along the river for enjoying the cool of evening while eating. This practice along the Kamo River has a long history, said to have begun around the end of the sixteenth century. In addition to high-class restaurants, cafes and pub-like izakaya have riverside seating, a pleasant way to enjoy the townscape of Kyoto. As the evening comes on, the restaurants gradually turn on their lights, making a pleasant atmosphere.

    Kamogawa no Yuka – River Dining
    Open hours:
    May 1 to September 30
    Admission:
    Inquire at the individual establishment.
    Address:
    From Kiya-machi-dori Nijo Sagaru, Nakagyo-ku to Kiya-machi-dori Gojo Agaru, Shimogyo-ku in Kyoto > Map
    Access:
    Although distances differ, all of the establishments are within walking distance of Sanjo, Gion-Shijo and Kiyomizu-Gojo Stations on Keihan Electric Railway.
  • Aoi Festival – Hollyhock Festival

    The Aoi Festival (also known as the Kamo Festival) is one of the three great festivals of Kyoto. An annual festival of Shimogamo and Kamigamo Shrines, it was started by Emperor Kinmei in response to a famine that occurred in the middle of the sixth century. The procession of courtly elegance begins with a bamboo screen for the shrine of the imperial palace, followed by an ox-drawn court carriage, an imperial messenger, traditional formal court attire of attendants, and oxen and horses. With everything decorated with hollyhock leaves, the line marches from the imperial palace to Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine.
    The star of the Aoi Festival procession is a woman designated as the saio. In former times, an unmarried re lative of the emperor was selected for the role, but today, an unmarried female residing in Kyoto is chosen. Wearing a twelve-layer kimono, the saio sits in a palanquin with the bamboo screens open in all directions.
    Visitors are asked to refrain from taking photographs with a flash to avoid frightening the horses. Also, those seated are asked to not use parasols as a courtesy to those sitting further back. Make sure to bring your hat and suntan lotion!

    Aoi Festival – Hollyhock Festival
    Open hours:
    10:30 a.m.: Departs from the Kyoto Imperial Palace
    11:40 a.m.: Arrives at Shimogamo Shrine
    2:20 p.m.: Departs from Shimogamo Shrine
    3:30 p.m.: Arrives at Kamigamo Shrine
    Admission:
    Reservations for seating opens at the beginning of April.
    One seat is 2,050 yen. All seats are reserved and the price includes a pamphlet. For further information, contact:
    Kyoto City Tourism Association: (075) 752-7070 (open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
    Kyoto Tourism Information Center: (075) 343-0548 (open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
    Address:

    Kyoto Imperial Palace: 3 Kyoto Gyoen, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Shimogamo Shrine: 59 Shimogamo Izumigawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Kamigamo Shrine: 339 Kamigamo Motoyama, Kita-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Phone:

    Kyoto Gyoen National Garden Office, Ministry of the Environment: +81-(0)75-211-6348

    Shimogamo Shrine: +81-(0)75-781-0010

    Kamigamo Shrine: +81-(0)75-781-0011

    Access:
    • Kyoto Imperial Palace:
      It is a 10-minute walk from Jingu-Marutamachi or Demachiyanagi Station on Keihan Electric Railway, or a five-minute walk from Marutamachi Station on the subway.
    • Shimogamo Shrine:
      It is a 10-minute walk from Demachiyanagi Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
    • Kamigamo Shrine:
      Take Kyoto city bus 4/46 to Kamigamo Jinja-mae, Kyoto city bus 9 to Kamigamo Misonobashi, or Kyoto bus 30/32/34/35/36 to Kamigamo Jinja-mae.

June

  • Takigi Noh

    Kyoto Takigi Noh was started in 1950 as a cooperative project by the City of Kyoto and the Kyoto Noh Association. The Noh performance is held on a Noh stage set up on the grounds of Heian Shrine just for the event. Iron baskets with fire light up the vermillion lacquered shrine building, creating a magnificent venue for the Noh performance. Competition among the talented Noh performers from the Kanze, Kongo and Okura schools entice the audience into the quiet, elegant world of Noh. Each day has different works performed. A fee is charged for admission. In the case of rain, the performances are held in the Kyoto Concert Hall.

    Takigi Noh
    Open hours:
    Two days, early June,
    5:30 p.m. (doors open at 4:30 p.m.)
    Admission:
    Tickets bought on-site on performance day: 5000 yen
    Tickets purchased in advance: 4000 yen
    Address:
    97 Okazaki Nishitenno, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Kyoto Noh Association: +81-(0)75-771-6114
    Access:
    • • 15-minute walk from Jingu-Marutamachi Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
    • • 10-minute walk from Higashiyama Station on the Tozai subway line.
  • Kyoto Five Hanamachi Joint Performance

    The geisha and maiko (geisha in training) of Kyoto's five hanamachi (geisha districts) come together in a single venue to demonstrate the traditional and historical dance style of each hanamachi. The "Maiko no Nigiwai" is a particularly popular performance with 20 maiko performing simultaneously. The Kyoto Five Hanamachi Joint Performance was begun in 1994 in commemoration of the 1200th-year anniversary since Kyoto's founding as the capital of Japan. The five hanamachi of Kyoto are: Gion Kobu, Ponto-cho, Miyagawa-cho, Gion Higashi and Kamishichiken. Each has maintained and passed down fine styles of Kyoto dancing, which are performed at this unique event.

    Open hours:
    June 25 (Sat) and 26 (Sun)
    Morning performance starts at 11:00 a.m.
    Afternoon performance starts at 2:30 p.m.
    Admission:
    Special seating: 11,000 yen (first and second floors)
    First-class seating: 5000 yen (third floor)
    Address:

    Kyoto Kaikan: 13 Okazaki Saishoji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Minami-za: Shijo Ohashi Higashizume, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Phone:
    Ookini Zaidan of the Kyoto Traditional Geisha and Maiko Promotion Association: +81-(0)75-561-3901
    Access:
    • Kyoto Kaikan:
      It is a 15-minute walk from Jingu-Marutamachi Station on Keihan Electric Railway or a 10-minute walk from Higashiyama Station on the subway.
    • Minami-za: Located next to Gion-Shijo Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
  • Cormorant Fishing on the Uji River

    When the summer sun sets, cormorant fishing begins on the Uji River, one of Kyoto's summer attractions. The usho, or cormorant masters, work in the river around the passenger boat as their cormorants catch ayu or sweetfish. From the boat, tourists can watch the blue eyes and sharp bills that the cormorants use to partially swallow ayu from the river. The usho quickly picks up the cormorant and dislodges the fish. It is a very exciting experience. In all of Japan, there are only four female usho, and two of them work on the Uji River. Cormorant fishing is not conducted when there is flooding or bad weather.

    Cormorant Fishing on the Uji River
    Hours:
    Boat departures:
    July 1 to September 23 (Except August 16)
    Times:
    July 1 to August 31: 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
    September 1 to 23: 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
    Departures will be cancelled in case of heavy rain, strong winds or floods.
    Admission:
    Passenger boats:
    Adults: 2,000 yen, children: 1,000 yen
    Hired boats – reservation required
    10-person: 27,500 yen
    15-person: 41,250 yen
    20-person: 55,000 yen
    Address:
    Uji Togawa, Uji > Map
    Phone:

    Uji City Tourist Association: +81-(0)774-23-3334

    Uji River Tourist Barges: +81-(0)774-21-2328

    Access:
    • • 10-minute walk from Uji Station on the Uji Line of Keihan Electric Railway.
    • • 15-minute walk from JR Uji Station.

July

  • Cormorant Fishing at Arashiyama

    Cormorant fishing is a traditional method of catching ayu, or sweetfish, and other fish. Fishers wear a traditional kazaore cap and koshimino grass skirt while handling the ropes of about 10 cormorants. Cormorant fishing has a tradition of about one thousand years at Arashiyama. Watch the fishing action from the Togetsu-kyo Bridge, or board a boat and watch the cormorants up close, a unique experience that is highly recommended. Arashiyama is known as one of the most scenic areas of Kyoto, and the torchlight used for cormorant fishing will entice you into a world of swaying currents when times were simpler.

    Open hours:
    Boat departures
    July 1 to August 31: 7:00, 8:00 p.m. Consecutive holidays beginning August 16
    September 1 to 15: 6:30, 7:30 p.m.
    Admission:
    Adults:1,700 yen, children: 850 yen
    Hired boats - reservation required
    10-person: 40,000 yen
    16-person: 52,000 yen
    20-person: 70,000 yen
    Address:
    Saga, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Arashiyama Tusen: +81-(0)75-861-0302
    Access:
    It is an eight-minute walk from Arashiyama Station on Keifuku Electric Railroad, Arashiyama Station on the Arashiyama Line on Hankyu Railway, or Saga-Arashiyama Station on the JR Saga Line.
  • Gion Festival, Yoiyama

    One of the three great festivals of Japan, Gion Festival ranks among the greatest festivals in the world for its grand scale and long history. The festival has its beginnings in 869, when an epidemic hit Kyoto. Sixty-six halberds were erected, one for each of the provinces, and prayers were offered up in supplication for an end to the calamity. For the entire month of July each year, central Kyoto and Yasaka Jinja Shrine are busy, engaged in preparations and a variety of festivals and activities. The most popular event of Gion Festival is Yoiyama. At night, Kyoto’s commercial center, Shijo Street, is closed to cars so pedestrians can better enjoy the festivities. Visitors view the festival yama and hoko floats in each district, set up to ward away possession and sickness, and enjoy the many night festival stalls. Alternatively, the festival is called “Byobu Matsuri,” for the byobu (folding screens) and other family heirlooms that are put on display, sometimes with an offering of tea. Some ways to enjoy the festival are to look at the floats and halberds in each district while listening to the Gion bayashi musicians performing nearby, and to buy charms and chimaki rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves (for warding off evil, not for eating). Also considered correct behavior are viewing the folding screens and enjoying a pleasant stroll. People of all ages enjoy the atmosphere of the festivities, many dressed in their cotton yukata robes. It is also a delight to take in all the different yukata patterns as well, ranging from classic patterns to smart contemporary designs.

    Open hours:
    July 14 to 16, 6:00 to 11:00 p.m
    Admission:
    Free to watch
    Address:
    Gion Festival floats along Shijo-dori and Karasuma-dori Streets > Map
    Phone:
    Gion Festival Float Association: +81-(0)75-223-6040
    Access:
    • • 15-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Electric Railway
    • • Take the Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line to Shijo or Karasuma Oike Station.
    • • Take Hankyu Railway to Karasuma Station.
    Note: Buses may run on revised schedules and routes during Yoiyama. We recommend using trains instead.
  • Gion Matsuri: Procession of the Floats

    When yoiyama is over, then it’s on to the procession of the yama and hoko floats, the climax of Gion Festival. The floats assemble at Shijo Karasuma at 9 o’clock in the morning. The Naginata-boko float leads the procession to the accompaniment of Gion bayashi musicians. When the parade reaches Fuya-cho, there is a shimenawa rope strung on green bamboo (imitake) between the north and south corners, symbolizing the separation between the world of the kami (gods) and the world of humans. Ahead of 31 other floats, the Naginata-boko float passes through the barrier and enters into the world of the kami. Dressed in holy garments, a young boy chosen for the festival lowers a sword onto the shimenawa so that it falls, cut in two. This event is considered to be one of the great highlights of the festival. The floats start moving again, and then comes the next big event: tsuji-mawashi, the turning of the floats at Shijo Kawaramachi. At 12 tons and 25 meters in length, these floats make turning no easy task. The haulers rotate these mammoth structures a full ninety degrees, an incredible feat. Following cues from the leader, who uses a fan to set the pace, the float haulers slide the wheels on bamboo to change their direction. Of the 32 magnificent floats, 29 are important tangible folk cultural properties, and the floats, whose decorations include the likes of a Gobelins tapestry, are referred to as “an art museum on wheels.” In spite of the fact that the festival is held in the middle of summer when the heat is so extreme there are onlookers every year who suffer from heatstroke, the earnest prayers of people hoping for peace and tranquility have supported the festival for over a thousand years. If you can go to Kyoto only once in the year, the Gion Festival’s Procession of the Floats is the event to see.

    Open hours:
    July 17, starting at 9 a.m.
    The festival is held regardless of rain, but may be canceled in the event of extreme weather.
    Admission:
    Free to watch
    Paid seating: About 3,180 yen per seat.
    All seats are designated. Ticket price includes a program and visor.
    Address:
    Parade route:
    9:00: Intersection of Shijo and Karasuyama
    9:45: Shijo-dori Street – Shijo and Kawaramachi
    10:30: Kawaramachi-dori Street– Kawaramachi and Oike
    11:35: Oike-dori Street – Shinmachi Oike Shinmachi Street.
    Seating along Oike-dori Street is available for a fee.
    Times indicate when the first float is scheduled to pass by that point. > Map
    Phone:

    Gion Festival Float Association: +81-(0)75-223-6040

    Paid seating: +81-(0)75-752-7070 – Kyoto City Tourism Association

    Access:
    First, decide where along the parade route you plan to watch the parade. Because Gion Festival is very crowded, we recommend arriving at least one hour in advance.
    • Intersection of Shijo-dori and Karasuma-dori Streets:
      Take Hankyu Railway to Karasuma Station.
    • Shijo-dori Street in Kawaramachi:
      • Three-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Electric Railway.
      • Take Hankyu Railway to Kawaramachi Station.
    • Kawaramachi Oike:
      • Six-minute walk from Sanjo Station on the Keihan Electric Railway.
      • Take the Kyoto Municipal Subway Tozai Line to Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station.
    • Shinmachi Oike:
      Take the Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line to Karasuma Oike Station.

    It is a five-minute walk from the last station. During the parade, buses may run on revised schedules and routes. We recommend using trains instead.

August

  • Gojo-zaka Pottery Festival

    Along the slope of Gojo Street leading up to Kiyomizu-dera Temple is the birthplace of Kiyomizu-yaki pottery. With its rows of the stalls and shops of pottery artists, pottery producers, and pottery wholesalers and retailers, Gojo Street is well-known around the country for its production of Kyo-yaki and Kiyomizu-yaki pottery. The Gojo-zaka Pottery Festival began in 1920 when the potters set up shops along Gojo Street during Obon to sell pieces that can’t be billed as their finest work. Obon is when people pay a visit to their family graves, and Gojo Street is especially filled with people walking to the cemeteries at Rokudo Chinno-ji Temple and Otani Hombyo (Nishi Otani). More recently, this custom has developed into the largest pottery festival in Japan with some 400 shops opening their doors to the crowds who gather from all over the country in search of lucky finds and great bargains. In recent years, ambitious young ceramic artists have opened shops on the southern side of Gojo Street, creating a new attraction. They stay open till about 11 o’clock at night. Come and join in the pottery festival! You never know what you might find.

    Gojo-zaka Pottery Festival
    Open hours:
    August 7 to 10, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (rain or shine)
    Admission:
    Free to watch
    Address:
    Between the Kawabata Gojo area and Higashi Oji Gojo in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Gojo-zaka Pottery Festival Administration: +81-(0)75-541-1192 (recording)
    Access:
    Take Keihan Electric Railway to Kiyomizu-Gojo Station.
  • Gozan no Okuribi: the Five Bonfires of Kyoto

    On the 16th of August each year, a traditional festival known as Gozan no Okuribi, or Guiding Fires of Five Mountains, is held, signaling the end of summer. An essential summer Kyoto event, these fires help guide the spirits of dead ancestors back to the spirit world after their Obon visit. There are many different explanations for how this custom began, but in any case, the people of Kyoto have been fond of the annual bonfires for a long, long time. At 8 o’clock in the evening, the fire beds prepared on the slopes of five different mountains facing Kyoto from three different directions are lit, setting aflame the character for dai, or “great.” This is then followed by the characters for myo and ho (meaning “wondrous” and “dharma,” respectively). Next, the shape of a boat, another dai (called the dai on the left to distinguish it from the first) and then the shape of a torii shrine gate. For about 30 minutes, the night sky is filled with the flicker of the red bonfire flames. Standing out in sharp contrast against the pitch-black night sky, the guiding fires entice onlookers to the mystical fiery world they create. It is believed that when a person’s name and ailment are written on the wood to be used in the sacred fire, the disease will be healed. It is also said that if the ashes of the burned word are crushed into powder, they can be used as a medicine for curing chronic illnesses. Gozan no Okuribi is considered one of the four great Kyoto events, along with the three great festivals of Kyoto.

    Gozan no Okuribi: the Five Bonfires of Kyoto
    Open hours:
    August 16
    Guiding Fire Dai (great): 8-8:30 p.m.
    Guiding Fire Myoho (wondrous dharma) at Matsugasaki: 8:05-8:40 p.m.
    Guiding Fire Funagata, the shape of a boat: 8:10-8:45 p.m.
    Guiding Fire Dai (on the left): 8:15-8:45 p.m.
    Guiding Fire Toriigata, the shape of a torii gate: 8:20-8:50 p.m.
    *Times may vary in case of rain or strong winds.
    Admission:
    Free to watch
    Address:

    Guiding Fire Dai (great): Jodoji Nanamawari-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Guiding Fire Myoho (wondrous dharma) at Matsugasaki: Nishi-Yama (myo) and Higashi-yama (ho) in Matsugasaki, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Guiding Fire Funagata, the shape of a boat: Nishigamo, Funa-Yama in Kita-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Guiding Fire Dai (on the left): Okita-yama Kagamiishi-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Guiding Fire Toriigata, the shape of a torii gate: Saga Torii-moto Ikkahyo-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto > Map

    Phone:
    Kyoto Tourist Information Center (Kyoto Gozan Okuribi Association): +81-(0)75-752-0227
    Access:

    The Guiding Fires are an event to guide the spirits of ancestors and more recently deceased, and those not officially involved with the fires are not allowed in any of the fire areas on the day of the event. Here are some recommended locations for viewing the great fires and directions on how to get there.

    • Guiding Fire Dai (great):
      [West bank of the Kamo-gawa River – Marutamachi-bashi Bridge to Misono-bashi Bridge]
      Take Keihan Electric Railway to Demachiyanagi Station or Jingu-Marutamachi Station.
    • Guiding Fire Myoho (wondrous dharma) at Matsugasaki:
      • Myo [Kitayama-dori Street near Kyoto Notre Dame University]
      20-minute walk from Shugakuin Station on Eizan Electric Railway.
      • Ho [The banks of Takano-gawa River near the north side of Takano-bashi Bridge]
      15-minute walk from Demachiyanagi Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
    • Guiding Fire Funagata, the shape of a boat:
      [From Kitayama Ohashi Bridge on the Kamo-gawa River to the northwest]
      Take Kyoto city bus 9 to the Kamigamo Misonobashi bus stop.
    • Guiding Fire Dai (on the left):
      [Nishioji-dori Street from the north side of Shijo-doori Street to Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)]
      Take Kyoto city bus 12/46/59/101/102/204/205/206/Kita 8 to the Senbon Kitaoji bus stop.
    • Guiding Fire Toriigata, the shape of a torii gate:
      [Hirosawa no Ike Pond]
      Take Kyoto city bus 10/26/59 to the Yamagoe bus stop or the 11/91/93 to the Hirosawa Gosho no Uchi-cho bus stop.
  • Floating of the Lanterns at Arashiyama

    Originally started in 1949 to soothe the spirits of those lost in the war, Arashiyama’s Toro Nagashi, or Floating of Lanterns, has become established as an annual event to guide the spirits of the dead back to the Pure Land after their visit to the world of the living during Obon. Buddhist priests and monks from nearby temples gather to perform a Buddhist service in which some 7,000 lanterns are floated down the river from the east end of Togetsu-kyo Bridge. The spectacle of the lanterns slowly, quietly floating along the night river to carry people’s wishes and feelings is magical and beautiful, evoking just a tinge of sadness. Performed on the same day as Gozan no Okuribi, the Togetsu-kyo Bridge area is a popular destination from which visitors can see both the lanterns and the torii-shaped mountain bonfire as they say farewell to summer in Kyoto.

    Open hours:
    August 16,
    7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The event may be canceled in the event of heavy rain.
    Admission:
    Free to watch 1,000 yen per lantern
    Address:
    Saga-naka no Shima-machi, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto – the Arashiyama Park Nakanoshima area > Map
    Phone:
    Saga Busso Association: +81-(0)80-5307-1060
    Access:
    • • Five-minute walk from Arashiyama Station on Keifuku Electric Railroad (Arashiyama Electric Tram Railway)
    • • Six-minute walk from Arashiyama Station on the Hankyu Railway Arashiyama Line
    • • 15-minute walk from Saga-Arashiyama Station on the JR San’in Main Line (Sagano Line)

September

  • Kangetsu no Yube (Moon Viewing)

    Since days of yore, the timing of the eighth moon (Aug. 15) according to the lunar calendar has been held as the finest time of year for moon-viewing because of the bright harvest moon. It is also known in some regions as the famous potato moon because of the custom of offering freshly harvested satoimo potatoes to the moon. Daikaku-ji Temple is one of the three great moon-viewing locations in Japan for its Kangetsu no Yube, and Osawa Ike Pond is a particularly important part of the occasion. The moon reflects on the pond beautifully, which may even be enjoyed from a passenger boat such as Dragon Head Boat or Geki Neck Boat. Events such as moon appreciation concerts and koto performances are held on the temple grounds, where well-known Kyoto establishments set up nighttime booths to offer a variety of entertainment and fun. Besides Daikaku-ji Temple, great moon-viewing events are held for the harvest moon at such locations as Ishiyama-dera Temple, Matsuo Grand Shrine, Shimogamo Jinja Shrine and Yasaka Shrine.

    Open hours:
    Daikaku-ji Temple: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    Kangetsu no Yube (Moon Viewing): Mid-September, 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. (rain or shine).
    Admission:
    Adults: 500 yen
    Elementary, junior high and high school students: 300 yen
    Boat tickets: 1,000 yen
    Address:
    4 Sagaosawa-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Daikaku-ji Temple: +81-(0)75-871-0071
    Access:
    • • 20-minute walk from Randen Saga Station on Keifuku Electric Railroad (Arashiyama Electric Tram Railway)
    • • 15-minute walk from Saga-Arashiyama Station on the JR San’in Main Line (Sagano Line)

October

  • Jidai Matsuri – Festival of the Ages

    An event to celebrate the 1100th anniversary of the move of Japan’s capital to Kyoto, Jidai Matsuri was begun in 1895 in conjunction with the establishment of Heian Jingu Shrine. Representing the times and customs of the past until the capital was moved to Tokyo in 1868, the festival is filled with 2,000 people dressed in costumes from each era who parade from the old Kyoto imperial palace to Heian Jingu Shrine in 20 different groups. Although merely admiring the procession is fun, if you can identify the farmer who rose to become Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a ruler of feudal Japan, or Murasaki Shikibu, the famous author from a thousand years ago, this event offers a special level of depth and interest. The thing most worthy of attention at the festival is the clothing. People take great care in making sure the tiniest details are accurate for the time represented, even replicating the material and dye colors where possible. The clothing of the higher classes in each period of time in particular is noteworthy as it encapsulates not only the technologies available at the time, but also the aesthetic sensibilities of these groups. The people participating in the procession are all Kyoto citizens, and even geisha and maiko (geisha in training) from Kyoto’s five hanamachi, or geisha districts, take part, taking turns in dressing up as famous women throughout the ages. Anyone who wishes to take pictures should refrain from using a flash because of the danger of scaring the horses and cows in the parade. Make sure you are facing in a direction that will keep light from interfering when taking a photo.

    Jidai Matsuri – Festival of the Ages
    Open hours:
    October 22, 12:00 to 2:30 p.m. The event may be postponed in the event of rain.
    Admission:
    Free to watch Paid seating: About 2,050 yen per seat.
    All seating is designated. Tickets include a program.
    Address:
    Parade route:
    12:00: Kenrei-mon Gate at the Kyoto Imperial Palace
    12:15: Sakaimachi Gomon
    12:30: Marutamachi-dori Street to Karasuma Maruta
    12:50: Karasuma-dori Street to Karasuma Oike
    1:20: Oike-dori Street to Kawaramachi Oike
    1:25: Kawaramachi-dori Street to Kawaramachi Sanjo
    2:10: Sanjo-dori Street to Sanjo Jingu-michi Street
    2:30: Heian Jingu Shrine
    Paid seating is available at Kyoto Gyoen National Garden, on Oike-dori Street and on Jingu-michi Street.
    Times indicate when the first group is scheduled to pass by that point.
    > Map
    Phone:

    Heian Jingu Shrine: +81-(0)75-761-0221

    Paid seating: +81-(0)75-752-7070 (Kyoto City Tourism Association)

    Access:
    • Kyoto Imperial Palace:
      • 10-minute walk from either Jingu-Marutamachi or Demachiyanagi Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
      • Five-minute walk from Marutamachi Station on the Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line.
    • Heian Jingu Shrine:
      • 15-minute walk from Jingu-Marutamachi Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
      • 10-minute walk from Higashiyama Station on the Kyoto Municipal Subway Tozai Line.
  • Kurama Fire Festival

    Held on October 22, the same day as the Festival of the Ages, the Kurama Fire Festival is counted as one of the three great unusual festivals of Kyoto. Held in Kurama, a small town in northern Kyoto, the Kurama Fire Festival is filled with lit torches and iron baskets holding fire. The danger of so much fire so close at hand and the incredible spectacle of it all may just make you a permanent enthusiast once you experience it. The youths bearing these torches are clothed only in loincloths as they parade about the town shouting spirited chants. The festival reaches its climax when one or two hundred of the torches are gathered on the stone steps in front of the main gate of the temple and everyone begins chanting "saireyaa, sairyo" in unison. The great number of people who gather for the Kurama Fire Festival overwhelms Eizan Electric Railway, the sole means of transportation, resulting in a long wait for the train. Departing in the early afternoon to visit Kurama-dera Temple beforehand to take in the tranquil rural scenery is highly recommended. Also, be sure to bring warm clothing, as Kurama becomes somewhat chilly at night.

    Kurama Fire Festival
    Open hours:
    October 22, 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. (rain or shine).
    Admission:
    Free to watch
    Address:
    1073 Kurama Hon-machi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Yuki Jinja Shrine: +81-(0)75-741-1670
    Access:
    Three-minute walk from Kurama Station on Eizan Electric Railway.
    Note: On the afternoon of the event, transportation restrictions go into effect throughout the Kurama area. The only means of transportation is Eizan Electric Railway, but because it has only two cars, its capacity is limited. Also, be aware that if you stay until the end of the festival, you will miss the last departing train.
  • Kiyomizu-yaki no Sato Matsuri

    In the industrial Kiyomizu-yaki pottery district and Kiyomizu-yaki danchi, located in Yamashina-ku of Kyoto, there are about 70 establishments involved in pottery, including pottery artists, pottery producers, wholesalers and clay suppliers. The great pottery festival known as Kiyomizu-yaki no Sato Matsuri has been held annually since 1975. The goods for sale include dishes, teaware, vases and other items for the home, primarily in Kyoto’s traditional Kyo-yaki and Kiyomizu-yaki pottery styles. With special areas set up for great bargains and great finds, attendees will find half a million rare, exclusive, hand-made and other pieces of pottery at 30 to 50 percent off. Another great feature of the festival is the opportunity to talk to the producers, who are not normally available. With the chance to try unique things like making the one-and-only raku-yaki, sitting at a potter’s wheel and joining a tea ceremony, this is an event the whole family will enjoy.

    Kiyomizu-yaki no Sato Matsuri
    Open hours:
    Three days beginning on the third Friday in October,
    9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (until 6 p.m. on the final day). Rain or shine.
    Admission:
    Free to watch
    Address:
    Kawata Kiyomizu Yakidanchi-cho, Yamashina-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Kiyomizu-yaki Pottery Association: +81-(0)75-581-6188
    Access:
    Take Keihan Bus 29/29A/88/88C to the Kiyomizu-yaki Danchi bus stop or the 17/29/29A/83A/84B/85/85A/87/87A/93/95 to the Kawata bus stop. It is a three-minute walk from either.
    Note: On the day of the event, buses run directly from Kyoto Station to the event.

November

  • Gion Odori

    Gion Odori is said to decorate autumn in Kyoto like a silk brocade. Put on by the Gion Higashi Song and Dance Association, it is the only performance of the hanamachi (geisha districts) in autumn. The event is held in great style at the Gion Kaikan from November 1 to 10 each year. Formerly the dance recital hall for Gion East, the Gion Kaikan (Hall) is normally used as a movie theater. Including choreography and direction by dance artist Monjuro Fujima, acts are splendid performances that celebrate famous locations of Kyoto, and the final act is a Gion Higashi kouta song that brings the house down. Even after half a century of performing, Gion Odori continues to attract visitors from across Japan and around the world to see the unique program and organization.

    Open hours:
    November 1 to 10
    Performance start times: 1:30, 4:00 p.m.
    Admission:
    Seat with tea voucher: 4,500 yen
    Seat: 4,000 yen
    Tea voucher: 500 yen
    Program: 500 yen
    Address:
    323 Gion-machi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Gion Higashi Song and Dance Association: +81-(0)75-561-0224
    Access:
    8-minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Electric Railway.
  • Kyokusui no Utage – Meandering Stream Banquet

    The ancient banquet game of composing a poem as alcohol is floated down a stream originally came to Japan from China, and such banquets were held throughout the year in the Nara and Heian periods inside the imperial palace. Called Kyokusui no Utage, or the Meandering Stream Banquet, this tradition has been re-created at Jonan-gu Shrine. The Heian-style garden is bathed in soft sunlight filtered through the trees while the nearby brook gently flows along. When seven poets—clothed in the colorful courtly garments of Heian period nobles—take their seats alongside the brook, a child dressed in a suikan garment pours sacred sake into a cup made of cinnabar lacquer and floats it down the stream on the back of a small sparrow-shaped vessel known as an usho. Amid the sounds of the koto, the poets compose poems in the classical waka style on a theme selected for the day and write them down on a tanzaku poetry card. When the usho comes by, each poet takes up the cup and partakes in the sake. Shirabyoshi dancers perform during the banquet for a graceful time that recreates the refined air of the ancient court. Kyokusui no Utage is held once in spring and once in fall.

    Open hours:
    Jonan-gu Shinen Garden: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
    Kyokusui no Utage – Meandering Stream Banquet April 29, November 3: 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.
    The event is canceled in the case of rain.
    Admission:
    There is no admission charge to the grounds.
    Free viewing only on the day of the event.
    Normal admission: Adults: 600 yen, Elementary and junior high school students: 400 yen
    Address:
    7 Nakajima Toba Rikyu-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Jonan-gu: +81-(0)75-623-0846
    Access:
    15-minute walk from Takeda Station on the Kyoto Municipal Subway Karasuma Line to Takeda Station.
  • Kichirei Kaomise Kogyo – Kabuki Actor Debut

    During the Edo period (1603 to 1868), contracts for kabuki actors lasted for one year. A performance would be held each year to show off the actors newly signed in November. Known as the Kaomise (Face Showing), the vestiges of that practice continue to this day. The December Kaomise show at Kyoto’s Minami-za—the birthplace of kabuki—is the oldest such event, and popular kabuki actors from all around come together for an annual show of magnificence that becomes the talk of the town and draws great interest for days. Outside the front of the theater, wooden boards are displayed. Called maneki, they list the names of the actors in bold brushstrokes, and also signal that the end of the year is coming to Kyoto.

    Open hours:
    End of November to end of December
    Daytime show start: 10:30 a.m. Evening show start: 4:15 p.m.
    Admission:
    Special seats: 27,000 yen
    First class seats: 25,000 yen
    Second class A seats: 12,000 yen
    Second class B seats: 9,500 yen
    Third class seats: 7,500 yen
    Fourth class seats: 5,500 yen Prices are subject to change.
    Address:
    East end of the Shijo Ohashi Bridge, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Minami-za +81-(0)75-561-1155
    Access:
    Take Keihan Electric Railway to Gion-Shijo Station.

December

  • Kyoto Arashiyama Hana Toro – Flowers and Lanterns

    Kyoto Arashiyama Hana Toro is a five-kilometer walk that features a natural setting, waterside spaces, bamboo groves, historical and cultural treasures and views of the Saga and Arashiyama areas. Filled with the illumination from some 2,500 lanterns and lavish ikebana pieces along the way, the path is so inviting, people find themselves taking the entire route. The illumination near Togetsu-kyo Bridge lights up the bridge, the base of the mountain and the riverside, creating a sublime night view of nature. Another one of the endless attractions is the path through a bamboo groove from Nonomiya Shrine to Okochi Sanso, a mystical nighttime wonderland. Along the route, temples, shrines and cultural facilities have special exhibits, hours and lighting. For a truly romantic evening to feel the abundance and depth of Kyoto’s nature and history, this is an event to experience.

    Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro
    Open hours:
    About 10 days in the middle of December, 5:00 to 8:30 p.m.
    Admission:
    Free to watch
    Address:
    Throughout Arashiyama, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Kyoto Hana Toro Promotion Association: +81-(0)75-212-8173
    Access:
    • • Take Keifuku Electric Railroad to Arashiyama Station.
    • • Take the Hankyu Railway Arashiyama Line to Arashiyama Station.
    • • Take the JR San’in Main line (Sagano Line) to Saga-Arashiyama Station.
  • Final Kobo

    It was on the 21st day of the month that the founder of the Buddhist Shingon sect, Kobo Daishi (774-835), died. On that day each month, street stalls are set up, a custom said to have started in the middle of the Edo period (1200s) . The last of those festivals of the year is called “Shimai Kobo,” or Final Kobo, and is the most lively of the Kobo markets, when people express their gratitude for their good health over the past year. Carrying everything from good luck charms and daily necessities to plants and antiques, the street stalls pack the large temple grounds. Crowds of tourists come, making for great fun at this flea market. The great southern gate opens at 5 o'clock in the morning for those hunting for that great find among the antiques and lucky talismans.

    Open hours:
    Toji Temple: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (winter hours)
    Final Kobo 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
    Admission:
    There is no admission charge to the grounds.
    Kondo and Kodo Halls:
    Adults: 800 yen
    High school students: 700 yen
    Elementary and junior high school students: 500 yen
    Address:
    1 Kujo-cho, Minami-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Toji Temple: +81-(0)75-691-3325
    Access:
    • • 15-minute walk from JR Kyoto Station.
    • • 10-minute walk from Toji Station on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line.
  • Final Tenjin

    It is said that Sugawara no Michizane (845-903) was born, received his dishonorable transfer to Dazaifu in Kyushu and died all on the same day of the month, and a festival is held in his honor on that day (the 25th) of each month. December 25, in particular, the last of these festival days of the year, is filled with a great number of street stalls from early in the morning. Considered to be the last Shinto ritual of the year, wrapping up events in Kyoto, this celebration to the enshrined Sugawara no Michizane draws a great number of visitors from the greater Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe area, as well as people from around the country. Stalls selling goods such as herring roe, round chopsticks (used for festive occasions), bonsai with the auspicious triad of pine, bamboo and ume plum and other New Year’s goods are particularly noticeable, and the turnout is typically twice the normal crowd. A great number of food carts—known as yatai in Japan—are also lined up, providing visitors with Japan’s traditional version of fast food to eat as they admire the night view.

    Final Tenjin
    Open hours:
    Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Final Tenjin: 6:00 a.m. to 9 p.m.
    Admission:
    There is no admission charge to the grounds.
    Address:
    Bakuro-cho, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    Phone:
    Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine: +81-(0)75-461-0005
    Access:
    Five-minute walk from Kitano Hakubai-cho Station on the Keifuku Electric Railroad (Arashiyama Electric Tram Railway) Kitano Line.