Feb. 14, 2019 UPDATE

Kodai-ji Temple illuminated at night is an otherwordly sight

Seeing Kodai-ji Temple illuminated at night is something everyone should get to experience at least once during their lifetime.
Shiho[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]

Kodai-ji Temple was founded by Nene to mourn her late husband, the shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who lived during the Sengoku period. The temple is a famous sightseeing spot and it is close to Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park. Every year from the end of October to early December they hold an event where the temple and the trees are illuminated. During this time you can see the illuminations from after sunset until 10PM.

The Kodai-ji Temple illumination event is a famous in Japan, so it would be a shame not to go there! So of course we from Sharing Kyoto went there! We are going to give you three tips on how to enjoy the illumination event.

Kodai-ji Temple

We are at Kodai-ji Temple! It is my first time to see an illumination event where they use 3D projection mapping, so I, Shiho, am really excited and can’t wait to see the lights!

autumn foliage

It was early December when we went to Kodai-ji, but the autumn foliage was still stunningly beautiful. This made us look forward to the illuminations and projection mapping show still to come.

If you want to look at the illuminations in leisure, we recommend you go after 9PM on a weekday!

sightseeing spot

Kodai-ji Temple is a famous sightseeing spot so during the peak season of autumn leaves and holidays you may have to wait an hour just to buy a ticket!

But when we got there it was already 9PM on a weekday, so we could take our time and comfortably enjoy the illuminations.

Sharing Kyoto Tip: We recommend you go on a weekday after 9PM

The Mysterious Sight Reflected on Garyuchi Pond

Kodai-ji Temple illumination

One of the highlights of the Kodai-ji Temple illumination is the view of the autumn leaves reflected on Garyuchi Pond. You have the trees with their autumn foliage and you also have them reflected upside down on the surface of the pond. It is almost as if you were looking at a mirror. You have to see this mysterious sight full of emotion. After 9PM there are few people here so you can have the sight all to yourself.

Sharing Kyoto Tip: The sight of the gorgeous autumn leaves reflecting on Garychi Pond is well worth seeing! We hope you can get good photos here.

Three Minute Projection Mapping Light Show with a Different Theme Every Year

Video projectors

The main event has to be this! Video projectors are used to show an image on the main building of the temple, garden, and gates. Kodai-ji is the only temple in Kyoto that has a projection mapping show, so you have to see it!

This year’s theme was samsara

This year’s theme was samsara, the cyclicality of life. The frightening monsters of the Japanese folklore “Night Parade of One Hundred Demons” projected on the Chokushimon gate and the garden form a mysterious and bizarre sight. The theme is different every year so you will not get bored no matter how many times you visit.

Sharing Kyoto Tip: This projection mapping show at a temple is definitely worth a visit!

A Mysterious Sight below the Tea-Ceremony Room

tea-ceremony rooms

There are two famous tea-ceremony rooms at Kodai-ji Temple, Kasutei and Shiguretei. When you walk past the tea-ceremony rooms you get to see this beautiful bamboo grove! If you continue down the bamboo grove you will get back to the pond and the main building of the temple.

bamboo grove

Inside the bamboo grove a mysterious sight awaits you. To think that there is such a sublime place inside the Kodai-ji Temple grounds… there is no end to the charming places inside Kodai-ji Temple. The Arashiyama bamboo grove is also famous, but even inside Kyoto city you can enjoy a splendid bamboo grove like this! Great!

Sharing Kyoto Tip: Even inside Kyoto city you can enjoy a splendid bamboo grove experience!

projection mapping show

the tea-ceremony room

But illuminations at Kodai-ji Temple don’t stop at the projection mapping show! Like the tea-ceremony room in the picture other places are illuminated too. Especially worth viewing is the Kangetsudai (moon-viewing pavilion) on top of the pond. We hope you will come here yourself and see the wonders of the temple at night!

beautiful illuminations

I really want to recommend to you the illuminations and the projection mapping show at Kodai-ji Temple. In the crisp winter air seeing the beautiful illuminations, autumn leaves, temple, and bamboo groove make you feel invigorated. It was a big discovery for me to find out that just by moving the time of your visit a little bit you can enjoy Kodai-ji Temple this leisurely. Unfortunately this year’s event already ended but I hope you will go next year!

A comment from the staff
Many temples in Kyoto have illumination events during the autumn leaves period, but the event at Kodai-ji Temple is especially popular. It can get crowded during the peak season, but if you go there just when they open or right before they close or after 9PM it should not be that crowded. The highlight for me was the autumn leaves reflected on the garden pond. If you are in Kyoto during this event I hope you will go to Kodai-ji Temple!

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