First Shrine Visit of the YearAt the beginning of the year, people visit Buddhist temples and shrines and pray for good luck and a healthy life in the coming year. Some people write their wishes on the wooden tablet called “Ema”, or enjoy the celebratory Sake at shrines.
Toka EbisuThousands of people flock to this Ebisu shrine in Gion area to pray for the Ebisu deity that is considered to be the lucky God to bring them success in business. Visitors select lucky amulets such as red sea bream, and boxes of money, to decorate their stalk to invite as much luck as possible.
February is the coldest month in Kyoto. We sometimes have snow falls, which make the mountain scenery extraordinary beautiful.
Setsubun-saiSetsubun, literally means seasonal division, falls on the February 3rd, the last day of the winter. On this day, many temples and shrines hold rituals of “beans throwing” to chase bad luck and fortunes out, and to welcome good luck in. Yoshida shrine and Mibu-dera temple are ones of the most famous places in Kyoto to keep the tradition for centuries.
Kyoto MarathonA large-scale marathon event with 150 thousand amateur runners from all over Japan and even from overseas. The course is designed so that runners can enjoy the views of several UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Ninna-ji temple, and Ryoanji temple.
We usually enjoy the cherry blossom viewing from late March to the middle of April in Kyoto.
Hina MatsuriHina Matsuri is the largest girls’ day festival held on March 3rd. On this day, families with daughters typically display special Hina dolls to pray for young girls’ sound growth and happy life. Some temples celebrate Hina matsuri along with some additional cultural events such as experiencing the sorts of games that girls in ancient Japan would have played!
Hana touro in Higashiyama AreaApproximately 2500 paper lanterns decorate the 5km walking path in the scenic Higashiiyama area, the eastern part of Kyoto. You can enjoy the fantastic illumination as well as Ikebana arrangements and art works, inviting you to a magical atmosphere.
Miyako OdoriMiyako Odori is the spring dance festivals by Maiko and Geiko in Gion area. It is a flowery showcase of their traditional dances and music. Viewers can also enjoy their gorgeous kimonos and if you are lucky enough to get the additional tea ceremony ticket, you will have a chance to see Maiko preforming tea ceremony in front of you before the show.
Noryo-yukaNoryo-yuka is the breeze-enjoying balcony floor, which is open from May to September along Kamo river. You can enjoy summer specialty on the open balcony, feeling the river breeze close at hand.
Aoi Matsuri FestivalBeing one of the three most important festivals in Kyoto, Aoi Matsuri Festival origins from the rituals in as early as 6th century to pray for bountiful harvests. The main feature is the grand parade of hundreds of participants dressed in Heian period aristocratic clothing, making their way from Imperial Palace to the Kamo Shrines.
In Kyoto, we have comparably more rainy days from early June through middle July than in other period.
Gion Festival (First Half)Designated as one of the three greatest festivals in Japan. Whole July in Kyoto is completely dominated by Gion Festival. First half of July will see number of rituals to get ready for the large-scale float procession in the central city, followed by Mikoshi (portable deity of Yasaka shrine)procession. During this period, numerous food and other stalls line up along the main streets and narrow paths.
Gion Festival (Latter Half)Ten floats called Yama or Hoko parade the streets in the central Kyoto, followed by the return procession of Mikoshi to Yasaka shrine.
Kyoto Gojo-zaka Toki matsuriThis is one of the largest pottery fairs in Japan. Gojo-zaka, the path leading to world famous Kiyomizu temple, is packed with around 400 outlets selling ceramics and wares. The products are called “Kiyomizu-yaki” which are famous for its quality.
Gozan-Okuri-BiThis is the traditional August feature in Kyoto, which literally means “Sending-off bonfires on five mountains”. Extraordinary big Chinese characters, two of them mean “big”, are lit one after another to give our ancestors a good send off to the spiritual world. Many locals and tourists gather at some viewing spots to enjoy the spectacle.
Jidai-matsuriThis festival, one of the three top festivals in Kyoto, is primarily composed of a two kilometers procession of countless volunteers dressed in historical garb representing Japanese cultural history in eight eras in Kyoto, going back to as far as the 8th century. The parade is called “A living history museum” as you can imagine the society in eight past eras through the costumes and tools they carry. The parade will start from the Imperial Palace and finish at Heian Jingu shrine.
Kurama no Hi MatsuriThe Kurama Fire Festival is one of the most famous fire-based festivals in Kyoto. This is an re-enactment of the parade to move the guardian deity from imperial palace to northern Kurama, originated in 12th century. Viewers will be astonished by the vigor of the local people carrying huge fire torches marching to the shrine.
Autumn foliage in Kyoto is usually at its best in the middle of November for northern mountainous area, and late November for other parts in the city.
Bells on New Year’s EveIn Japan, on December 31th, just before midnight, many temples have customs to ring their giant bell for 108 times. In Buddhism, 108 is considered to represent the number of human’s worldly desires, and the sound of the bell is believed to efface them one by one.