If you’re looking for the best of Japan in the fall, then you can’t overlook a visit to the magical Kyoto. Kyoto fall foliage is simply spectacular, and coupled with the city’s famous attractions and fall-related events it makes it a superb time to visit. A special mood descends about Kyoto in the fall, and while many seek the best fall foliage in Kyoto at this time, there are several events both separate and related to the changing seasons. Of course, the traditional attractions are still there to experience, and along with the city’s hidden gems and famous cuisine, you’ll be spoilt for choice in the latter months of the year. Here are ten things to check out if you’re wondering what to do in Kyoto this fall!
Tanukidani-san Fudō-in Temple Fall Festival
Japan fall season is often marked by traditional rituals that focus on praying to cleanse individuals of wrongdoings, and for good fortune in the future. One of the most fascinating of these is Tanukidani-san Fudō-in Temple Kyoto Fall Festival. Visitors write their wishes on wooden tablets, while monks throw these into a sacred bonfire. The festival is marked by the chants of Buddhist sutras as the visitors’ wishes burn in the blaze. This important traditional festival takes place on November 3rd, 2019 at 11am.
Kyoto Fall Foliage
No trip to Japan in the fall would be complete without stopping to take in the changing colors of the leaves in Kyoto. Kyoto’s best fall foliage is divided between many of the region’s famous parks and natural spaces, and it’s difficult to go wrong in the city during Japan fall season. A visit to Arashiyama bamboo grove is a must regardless of the time of year, but it can be particularly breathtaking when the Kyoto fall foliage starts to appear. Other notable fall attractions include the temples of Tōfuku-ji, Tō-ji, and Giō-ji.
Kiyomizuyaki no Sato Matsuri
If you love pottery, then you can’t miss Kiyomizuyaki no Sato Matsuri pottery festival. The event takes place on the third Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of October, and it showcases beautiful pottery items from both Kyoto and elsewhere in Japan. Weather in Kyoto in October is usually just right for some daytime activities, and this is a remarkable festival at which to browse and purchase traditional ceramics and learn more about the craft. Although many who visit do so simply out of curiosity, there’s also the chance to throw some clay of your own and make something special.
Although it’s still young, Jidai Matsuri is one of the top festivals in Kyoto. It takes place at Heian Shrine on the 22nd of October each year. The shrine was built to commemorate the anniversary of Kyoto’s founding, and it promotes a revival of concern for the city’s future after Tokyo became the capital in the 1860s. It’s a celebration of Kyoto and everything that it stands for, and is well worth a visit if you are interested in the city’s past and future. The weather in Kyoto in October is often cool but well suited to an outdoor event, and there are few more intriguing festivals to include in your itinerary than this.
If you’re looking to experience one of Kyoto’s newest festivals, then make a plan to visit Seiryū-e. It started just 19 years ago, which by Japanese festival standards makes it a baby! But that’s not to say it’s any less fascinating. Also called the Blue Dragon festival, it was created to honor Seiryū - one of the god-beasts believed to guard Kyoto from disaster and misfortune. The festival takes the form of a procession that begins at the temple, and follows a route around the neighborhood before returning to its starting point. The costumes, dragons and various traditional attire are truly masterful and fascinating to witness in person. The festival takes place on September 14th and 15th.
The weather in Kyoto in September is perfect for outdoor festivals and a little bit of plum wine, and there are few more spectacular settings for both than the plum groves of Kitano Tenmangū shrine. It’s located in northern Kyoto, and is one of the most visually appealing shrines in the city. The shrine hosts a three day plum wine festival in September, where winemakers from across the country showcase their wares, offer tastings, and sell bottles of their products. If you’re a fan of both local liquor and fall, and wondering what to do in Kyoto this fall, then this festival is one not to miss!
Photo credit: Sharing Kyoto
The Meigetsu Kangen-sai is an annual festival held on the night of the harvest moon. It takes place at Shimogamo Shrine, and is a tradition that’s been in place for thousands of years. Historically, the city’s nobility would hold opulent parties to mark the fall equinox, but these days it’s a much more liberated event. Outsiders are free to attend, and they’re treated to various live musical performances as the moon rises over the festivities. In 2019 it takes place on September 13th, and is one of the best things to do in Kyoto in the fall.
Gion Higashi Geisha Dance
In early November each year, the geishas at Gion Higashi put on an impressive dance display. Although the Gion Higashi geisha district is the smallest geisha district in the city, this is widely considered one of the most impressive displays in the fall. Although the weather in Kyoto in November can be chilly, it’s a great time to witness this popular Japanese tradition. Tickets are available early on the day, or through various outlets in the city.
In the mountainous region outside Kyoto is Mount Takao. Here you’ll find massive maple trees starting to change color, towering cedar trees and plenty of hiking trails which lead you through the ancient forests and snake up its mountainous peaks. Hidden amongst the forests are two particularly beautiful temples, which should not be missed during Kyoto in the fall. The first is Jingoji Temple, one of Kyoto Takao’s most famous temples thanks to its stunning fall colors and the impressive stone stairs you have to climb to reach the temple. The other, Kozan-ji Temple, dates back to the 13th century, and once you’re sitting on its veranda you’ll feel like nothing has changed in over a thousand years as you marvel at the fall foliage. You can reach Kyoto Takao with a one hour bus ride from Kyoto, and it’s one of the most rewarding fall destinations close to the city.
If you’re a fan of markets, then diarize the 25th of the month you’re in Kyoto. On this day each month is the popular Tenjin-san Market, one of the most popular in the city. Locals know it just as Tenjin-san, and it’s the perfect place to purchase various traditional Japanese items like ceramics, kimonos and antiques. There’s also plenty of food and drink options available, and if you’re traveling on a budget, it’s still a superb place to engage in a bit of people watching. It takes place in Kitano Tenmangu from early morning until mid-afternoon.
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