Oct. 12, 2017 UPDATE
Exploring Kyoto in autumn!
Part 4

Mystical autumn illumination events in Kyoto

In this last part, we have some great illumination events that take place in Kyoto between October and December. This is your chance to see Kyoto and the autumn leaves like you have never seen them before: at night! The illuminations take place at temples and shrines that are hundreds of years old, so you get to see this year’s leaves and the historic temple buildings together in something that forms a very Kyoto-like harmony.
Kodai-ji Temple
Kodai-ji Temple: Special Night Entrance
Kodai-ji Temple is a popular sightseeing spot in the Higashiyama area of Kyoto by the famous Nene’s Path. Special Night Entrance events are held at the temple every season, and they are very popular. The way the pond of the temple reflects the leaves is really beautiful, and there are around 1300 maple trees at the temple. This event is so popular that it often comes up first when talking about temple illumination events in Kyoto.

Event dates: October 21 to December 10.
Kiyomizu Temple
Kiyomizu Temple: Special Night Entrance
You have to also see the Special Night Entrance illuminations at Kiyomizu Temple. The temple buildings like the Three-Storied Pagoda are all illuminated, and you even get to see a blue beam shot from the temple into the sky. This spot is one of the most famous in Kyoto, but if you are coming, you should try to go to Kiyomizu Temple at night too. There are so many maple trees at the temple that you get to see autumn leaves no matter which way you look, and the red of the leaves looks great contrasted with the historic temple buildings.

*Note that Kiyomizu Temple’s main hall is undergoing construction work through 2020. You can still see the temple but it’s covered by scaffolding.

Event dates: November 11 to December 3
Kibune Momiji Toro
Kibune Momiji Toro
Kibune area is in northern Kyoto, about an hour’s train ride away from Kyoto Station. At Kibune they hold an event called Kibune Momiji Toro, where the famous one-kilometer long path leading up to Kifune Shrine is illuminated and you get to see the beautiful sight of the red lanterns and the autumn leaves just gleaming in the night. Because Kibune is in mountainous northern Kyoto the temperature in there is lower and the autumn leaves season starts earlier than the rest of Kyoto. The leaves also look more vivid, and this is a great event to enjoy the beautiful nature of Japan in autumn.

Event dates: November 3 to 26.
Daikaku-ji Temple
Daikaku-ji Temple: Special Night Entrance
Daikaku-ji Temple in Arashiyama is famed for its beauty, and in autumn they hold an illumination event called Daikaku-ji Temple: Special Night Entrance. The temple is known as a great place for moon-viewing, but Osawa Pond of the temple is also really beautiful in autumn when it reflects the autumn leaves on its surface. The surface of the pond is called the “Crimson Water Mirror.” Because the temple is some way from the closest station it’s usually not that crowded so you get to view the leaves at your own pace.

Event dates: November 10 to December 3.
Chion-in
Chion-in Temple: Special Night Entrance
Chion-in Temple also holds Special Night Entrance events, and they hold them twice a year: in spring and autumn. In their autumn illumination event the famous garden Yuzen-en, one of the best of Japan’s Showa period, is illuminated by mysterious light. The beautiful Kannon statue in the middle of it is also illuminated, and getting to see the gentle Kannon together with the leaves is an experience you won’t forget. The huge Sanmon Gate, which is also a national treasure of Japan, is also illuminated and looks very different than in the daytime.

Event dates: October 3 to December 3
If you truly want to enjoy autumn leaves in Kyoto, I recommend you go to some of these events to see the autumn leaves at night too.
Kyoto is at its best in autumn. I would be so happy if you went to all kinds of places in Kyoto, saw all kinds of temples and shrines surrounded by red leaves, and just enjoyed yourself. I hope you have fun in Kyoto!
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