Aug. 04, 2021 UPDATE
Delve into the World of the Kitano Tenmangu Area - From Basic Info to Hole-in-the-wall Spots; this is the Kitano Tenmangu Area -
Part 3

Recommended Spots

While the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine may be the symbol of this area, there’s also a number of other spots that are worth the visit.
In this part, we’ll be looking at some recommended spots that everyone coming to the area should visit.
We’ll also be looking at some events that you’ll want to come to Kyoto just to witness for yourself.
Both the places and events we showcase below are unique not only to Kyoto, but to the Kitano Tenmangu area itself, so if you’re planning your trip to Kyoto, check it out and make sure you’ve got this area on your Kyoto itinerary.
While Kyoto’s young geisha, known as maiko, are often associated with the city’s Gion district, there are actually three other neighborhoods where these traditional entertainers live.
Located near the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, the Kamishichiken district is said to be the oldest of Kyoto’s four hanamachi geisha districts and is filled with two-story tea houses where the maiko live and the kaburenjo where the maiko practice.
Because of these girls both live and practice in the area, if you visit at night, you often catch them making their way to work.
The area is also famous for working to protect its heritage, including burying all power lines, and maintaining the charm of ancient Kyoto streets.
Kitano Odori – Kamishichiken’s Harbinger of Spring
Kitano Odori
Known as the symbol of this small hanamachi, the Kamishichiken Kaburenjo is said to be one of the few remaining entirely wooden theaters in Japan. The Kamishichiken Kaburenjo also serves as the training quarters for maiko and geiko where they learn to sing, dance and train every day to improve their performances.
From March 20 to April 2, the theatre hosts the Kitano Odori, where the area’s magnificent maiko and geiko perform their traditional songs and dances under the instruction of a lead performer called a jikata.
The Kitano Odori is one of the Kamishichiken district’s preeminent spring events and fills the ancient townscape with a lively vibe.
The Nishijin district is home to the over 1,000-year-old luxury Japanese silk known as nishijin-ori.
Nishijin-ori is considered some of the most luxurious fabric in Japan and was designated by the government in 1975 as one of the country’s many traditional crafts.
The name Nishijin, which translates to "western camp," is said to come from the fact that during the Onin rebellion of the Muromachi period, the headquarters of Kyoto's western army was stationed in the area we know today as the Nishijin district.
While the Nishijin district may lack flashy sightseeing spots, it’s silent cobblestone streets and beautiful traditional townscape makes it a wonderful place for a stroll.
Also, if you wander down the area’s many narrow alleyways, you might happen upon some of the cool stores run by local artists.
The Nishijin Textile Center – Learn About Nishijin-ori
The Nishijin Textile Center
The Nishijin Textile Center is a cultural center that holds exhibitions of historical artifacts relating to nishijin-ori textiles, daily fashion shows of gorgeous kimono, and demonstrations of the actual weaving machines used to make the silk.
If you’re interested in Japanese textiles, then you can find out everything about the history and magic of nishijin-ori textiles at the Nishijin Textile Center.
The Hirano Shrine’s Okasai Festival
Okasai Festival
Held every April 10 at the Hirano Shrine, the Okasai Festival treats visitors to a parade of traditional Heian period garb.
The Hirano Shrine is also home to a variety of different cherry blossom species, which allows shrine grounds to stay beautifully pink well until the end of spring.
If you’re looking to visit the area just after the February/March plum blossom season, then the Hirano Shrine should be on the top of your list for places to visit.
Daihoon-ji Temple's Setsubun Festival
Setsubun Festival
Daihoonji is a small temple about a 10-minute walk from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. The main hall is still the same wooden structure that was built over 800 years ago and has been designated as a national treasure. Apart from its buildings, the temple is also well known for its large weeping cherry blossoms.

In February, Daihoonji Temple plays host to its famous setsubun festival, which is said to bring visitors a year of good fortune. On the day of the festival, after the temple holds its rather unique program of events, crowds gather for a special, and somewhat odd, exorcism ceremony known as mamemaki (a ritual of throwing roasted soybeans as “demons”). A mysterious ritual performed since ancient times, this event is definitely worth seeing up close.
The Ichijo Yokai Street’s Yokai Parade
Ichijo Yokai Street
Affectionately known as Yokai Street, the Taishogun shopping arcade is a quiet suburban street with some very interesting residents.
In Japanese, the word yokai means ghoul or ghost, specifically those of Japanese folk tales. One folk tale, in particular, says that this street used to be visited by a nightly procession of monsters, ghouls and goblins.
Nowadays, on the third Saturday of October, people gather to call forth this ghostly procession into the modern-day in a “yokai costume parade.”
If you happen to miss the parade, don’t worry, as the street is home to a number of yokai who stand at the front of shops and peek out from second-story shop windows! How many yokai can you find?
Held every August 16, Gozan-no-Okuribi is one of Kyoto’s most ceremonius events.
Setting the night sky of western Kyoto ablaze, the hidari daimoji bonfire, just one of five massive hillside fires, should be seen from the Hirano Shrine.
As most people head to Kinkaku-ji Temple to get closer to the mountain and thus a closer look at the bonfire, this leaves the slightly further away Hirano Shrine free of crowds and makes it a little known gem.
This spot sits you a little far from the bonfire but what it lacks in proximity, it more than makes up for in chill bonfire viewing vibes.

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