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Hoards of tourists flock to Kyoto to see the ‘Koyo’ (autumn leaves) during the fall, but not many people know about the stunning illuminations that some temples put on every autumn.
Every autumn/fall, from roughly the beginning of November up until early December, a few of the temples in Kyoto will use high tech lighting and sometimes music and projectors to create stunning night-time illuminations on the branches and trees, and sometimes the temple buildings as well.
It is well worth going to some of the temples if you have time as its a fantastic and alternative way to enjoy the stunning autumn colours of Japan. Most start between 17:30 and finish around 20:30. Tickets can be purchased on the door and range between a few hundred yen to no more than 2000 yen.
Below is our guide to the best Light-up shows in Kyoto!
Toji is one of the great temples of Kyoto and a UNESCO World Heritage sites. With its famous 5 story pagoda, which is the tallest wooden tower in Japan, with the lights illuminating it and the rest of the temple grounds areas, it's one of the better light up shows.
►Opening hours 17:30-21:00
A pretty garden temple near Kyoto station, with its quiet ambience, pretty pond, picturesque bridge and a great view of Kyoto Tower at night when it's lit up, it's a great place to visit during the light-up times.
There is sometimes a Shamisen show from 19:00, 20:00 in the main tea house which is worth going to.
►Opening times: 18:00 - 21:00 (final entry 20:30)
One of the most impressive light-up shows in Kyoto. The Kurodani Konkai Komoyo-ji is itself a very beautiful and grand temple, set on a hill in with one of the biggest graveyard/cemeteries of Kyoto and Kansai. The actual Kurdanicho area (surrounding the temple) is a great place to explore in the day, and if you’ve got the balls for it, night time. Very spooky! There is even an afro-buddha, see if you can spot him!
There is a Shakuhachi (Japanese flute) performance starting at 19:00 and 20:00
►17:30-21:00 (final entry 20:30)
Built in 1609, this is a stunning temple surrounded by a large pond that forms part of the projection mapping shows. This is also a themed event (2016 theme was ‘Rin-ne’, or Samsara, the Buddhist idea of the endless cycle of death and rebirth).
Kodaiji has a stunning garden and temple grounds, including a beautiful bamboo grove that is beautiful when lit up.
►Opening times: 18:00-21:00
1,200-year-old temple with unrivalled views of the whole of Kyoto from the upper galleries. Kiyomizu Dera is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto and the light-up show here lives up to the great splendour of Kiyomizu Dera.
Famous for its traditional sliding doors and landscape gardens, Zen courtyards and delicate architecture come alive when Entokuin is lit up in the autumn. Well worth a visit.
This temple also boasts a beautiful lake complete with quaint stone-arch Japanese-style bridges that seem almost superimposed on the colours when lit up as part of its Light-up events.
Built over a thousand years ago in 1012 and specified as a natural monument by the Kyoto government, Hosen-in Temple sits quietly slightly outside the city in a huge misty forest, that when lit up is undeniably both eerie and magical. With huge, knotty trees and rows of straight and high bamboo, illuminations at Hosen-in Temple give it a Studio Ghibli movie feel.
This spectacular autumn/winter display is made up of more than 2,500 LED bulbs and outdoor lanterns, combined with ikebana traditional flower arrangements. The world-famous Arashiyama bamboo forest is also lit up for a perfect seasonal light show.