We’re keen to head out to some of Japan’s beautiful autumn destinations this season and Kyoto is always high on our travel list. While the city is beautiful at any time of year, this autumn some of Kyoto’s temples will be lit up in the evening to add an extra touch of magic to the scenery.
As part of the Hikari no Kyoto festival organised by JR Central, eight temples and shrines in Kyoto will stay open later than usual, with their grounds and buildings featuring special light displays. In November and early December, four temples will be adorned with bamboo lanterns, while another four will have bamboo monuments on display. Best of all, the temples and shrines will have their fiery red trees lit up, so you can enjoy the autumn foliage at night.
The illuminations take place at different times and on different days for each venue. Here are all the participating temples and shrines in order of their start dates, along with a rundown on what to expect at each spot.
Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine
The entrance path and bridges at Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine will be lit with bamboo lanterns, making it look like they’re floating on Hachihoga Pond. The lights will be there every day from 5pm to 8pm between November 1 and December 5, and entrance to the shrine is free.
This hidden temple along the Yamashina Canal will have bamboo lights lining its paths every day from November 3 to 14 from 5.30pm to 7pm. The entry fee is ¥500.
Jingoji Temple will have bamboo lanterns placed all the way up the long stone staircase leading to the temple’s Sanmon Gate. The lanterns will be lit each day from 5pm to 7pm (last entry 6.30pm) between November 5 and 7. The entry fee is ¥800.
Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine
Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine is located at the summit of Mt Otokoyama, which you can access via the Keihan Cable Line, also known as the Otokoyama Cable Car (¥200). You can see the bamboo lanterns here from 5pm to 7pm every day between November 12 and December 5. Entrance to the shrine is free, but the cable car only runs three or four times per hour, so make sure to check the timetable before you leave.
Every day from November 19 to December 5, you can see the autumn leaves around Toji Temple lit up between 5pm and 8pm (last entry 5.40pm), and check out the special bamboo monument exhibit. It costs ¥1,500 to tour the temple in the evening and reservations must be booked in advance.
Byodoin Temple in Uji will be lit up from 6pm to 8pm for just two nights only: November 20 and 28. There’ll also be bamboo monuments on display. It costs ¥2,000 to visit the temple in the evening and reservations must be booked in advance.
The pathway leading up to this temple, also known as Kotozaka, has a tunnel of trees that turn blazing red in autumn foliage – they’ll be lit up daily from 5.30pm to 7.30pm (last entry 7pm) from November 20 to 28. And be sure to check out the bamboo monuments here as well. It costs ¥2,000 to see the temple in the evening and reservations must be booked in advance.
From November 26 to December 12, Kenninji Temple will have its autumn leaves lit up daily from 5.30pm to 7.30pm, as well as bamboo monuments on display. It costs ¥2,000 to tour the temple in the evening and reservations must be booked in advance.
To book your visit to any of the temples and shrines that require advance reservations, visit the festival website.
Not to worry if you don’t get a chance to visit Kyoto during the autumn, though. You can still catch the bamboo lanterns and monuments on a smaller scale at the Yaesu Concourse inside Tokyo Station from October 22 to November 7.
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