Kyoto Hanatouro
Photo: 1844706/Photo AC

In photos: Kyoto’s Higashiyama Hanatouro light-up is the best time to visit

The after-dark festival is on now at temples and shrines in the historical Higashiyama district

Emma Steen
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Emma Steen
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Every spring, Kyoto’s historical Higashiyama district is lit up for the Higashiyama Hanatouro – an after-dark festival that was first held in 2003. This year, event organisers have gone all out to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the festival with a series of special nighttime events, and the festival runs until March 13. If you can’t make it to Kyoto, don’t worry – we’ve rounded up some of the highlights below.

Alongside the illumination of the 5km-long main path that runs through Higashiyama, some of the area’s most famous landmarks take part in after-dark spectacles, including Kodai-ji Temple and Hokan-ji Temple with seasonal light-ups. 

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Some of the participating shrines and temples have admission fees for nighttime viewings, but there are also plenty of free installations.

Naked Inc
Photo: Naked Inc

The free exhibits include this digital art collaboration between art collective Naked Inc and Ritsumeikan University students.

It’s interactive, so the colours and images change based on how visitors engage with the spherical lantern.

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There are also special lanterns lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag as a symbol of solidarity with the people of Ukraine in light of the ongoing Russian invasion. 

This year’s Higashiyama Hanatouro also coincides with the Artists’ Fair Kyoto 2022, where some of the city’s landmarks, like the 1,200-year-old Unesco World Heritage Site Kiyomizu-dera, have been turned into exhibition spaces for contemporary artworks.

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While Higashiyama Hanatouro organisers have stated they won’t be able to host any more festivals of this kind for the rest of the year due to a lack of funding, the after-dark illumination is likely to return next year – here’s hoping the borders will be open to overseas visitors by then. 

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