Feb. 15, 2019 UPDATE

Higashiyama Hanatoro is an event where you can enjoy Kyoto at night: the temples and stone paved streets illuminated

Sharing Kyoto's writer Erika went to the Kyoto illumination event of Higashiyama Hanatoro!
Erika[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]

Higashiyama Hanatoro has been held every year from the year 2003, and the event has become an established seasonal night event in Kyoto. The event is held at the popular Higashiyama area, famous for the popular sightseeing spots of Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Yasaka Pagoda and during this event the streets are illuminated with lanterns making Kyoto seem even more mysterious than usual. Besides this, many of the temples of the area are illuminated and are open at night especially for this event, so there is a lot to see. So, of course, we from Sharing Kyoto had to go and participate in this event!

▼Click here for details about the event

lantern-illuminated streets

The illumination event of Higashiyama Hanatoro starts at 6 p.m. The area that is illuminated starts from Kiomizu-dera Temple in the south and ends at Shoren-in Temple just north of Chion-in Temple, and there are many great places along the lantern-illuminated streets. This time we decided to start at Kiyomizu-dera Temple and head for Shoren-in Temple! First, we went up the street that goes to Kiyomizu-dera while we waited for the sun go down. 

Niomon Gate The lacquered, vermillion Niomon Gate almost shines against the night sky. 

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera Temple illuminated at night is something everyone should see at least once in their lives. The many buildings of the temple illuminated at night offer a chance to see the normally dynamic temple in a mysterious light. 

laser beam

The way the blue laser beam tears the sky in half is impressive!

Kyoto Tower And from the stage of Kiyomizu-dera you can see almost all of Kyoto. You also get to see Kyoto Tower illuminated too, so this really is a great place to see the night view of Kyoto. 



The sight you can see from the great photo-spot of Okunoin Hall behind Kiyomizu-dera’s main hall is like this, very mysterious. Right now they are doing renovation works at the main hall of Kiyomizu-dera so you the scene won’t be the same as in guide books, but this is in itself something you can’t see normally, and from the stage you can see the traditional Japanese wooden scaffolding up close. 

Even if the temple is covered with scaffolding it’s still as impressive as always. It’s a spot you have to go to if you go to Higashiyama Hanatoro. 

yuzu citrus soft serve After enjoying Kiyomizu-dera at night, it’s time to head for the next spot. When we were going down the sloping street of Kiyomizu-zaka we noticed a shop selling shiso and yuzu citrus soft serve that we couldn’t pass by. The taste was even more refreshing than what we first thought, it was just delicious! 

lanterns emitting soft light There were lanterns emitting soft light by the Sannenzaka lane so the view was even more charming than usual. Many of the souvenir shops by the lane are open until late so we strolled on popping by the shops that interested us. 

Yasaka-dori Street Next, we headed for Yasaka-dori Street. After Sannenzaka you get to Ninenzaka, and from there through the Path of Nene you can go to see the illumination of Kodai-ji Temple, but we wanted to see Yasaka Pagoda at night, so we headed for Yasaka-dori. Yasaka Pagoda rising from the darkness, shining through the night is something very mysterious to see. 

If you want to see Higashiyama Hanatoro from one end to the other, you would have to walk 5 kilometers so it’s pretty difficult to see everything in one day. It’s easier to limit your list to the places you definitely want to see; this way you can relax a bit! 

mysterious sight

Next, we went through Yasaka Shrine to Maruyama Park. There was a lot to see at Maruyama Park like Ikebana displays, but especially beautiful was the scene you can see in the picture. This mysterious sight consists of around 500 bamboo lanterns in the river that runs through Maruyama Park. Most of the lanterns at Higashiyama Hanatoro have LED lights inside them, but these bamboo lanterns have candles inside them. This makes the light feel even warmer. 


fox’s wedding procession

We were just in time for the “fox’s wedding procession” at Maruyama Park, an event held only during Higashiyama Hanatoro. A woman wearing a fox mask is carried on a rickshaw from Chion-in Temple to Kodai-ji Temple. It is said that seeing the fox’s wedding procession brings good luck, but seeing the procession of the woman surrounded by people holding lanterns also feels somewhat unreal. 

  Shoren-in Temple

Lastly, after seeing the fox’s wedding procession we headed for Shoren-in Temple. Shoren-in is a little way from Chion-in Temple and during the Higashiyama Hanatoro event the temple is illuminated at night. 


This blue ocean of lights has to be the most striking part of the illumination! Many other temples have illumination events too, but it’s rare for the temples to be illuminated with blue light. There is something modern in this scene that doesn’t feel like a temple. 

paintings on the fusuma At Shoren-in you also get to tour the inside of the temple. Especially these paintings on the fusuma with their modern looking designs are cute. It’s also really nice that you can take pictures of them! 


bamboo forest

The bamboo forest surrounding the temple is also illuminated making the atmosphere around the temple feel mysterious. The entrance fee to Shoren-in is 800 yen for one person which is a little bit expensive but is heartily recommended for those who want to see an unusual temple illuviation. 

At Higashiyama Hanatoro we got to do something special, we got to stroll around Kyoto at night. There is so much to see that you can’t see everything in a day so I would like to also go next year! 

A comment from the staff
There is just so much to see at Higashiyama Hanatoro, all the temples and the area of Higashiyama are illuminated so you can't see it all at once. I'm already looking forward to going to the Hanatoro event again next year, not to forget the one they have at Arashiyama in December! What impressed me was the fox's wedding procession: you hear it before you see it. First you hear a somewhat ominious melody, then you get to actually see the woman wearing the fox mask. There is something mysterious about the whole procession and you just have to see it with your own eyes to really get it. Till next year!

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