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What do in Kyoto this Autumn

Towards the end of October, the leaves in Kyoto start changing colours. With mild temperatures and incredible views, it certainly is the perfect time to visit Kyoto.  

The beauty of Autumn is you still get warm weather, not too hot, and of course the fantastic colours of the leaves with all festivals that come along with it. This page will give you a brief overview of the best places to see the autumn leaves (Koyo) in Kyoto including fun festivals (matsuri) and events that are worth checking out. 

For more information on Kyoto, ⇒click here to go to our Kyoto travel homepage.

Kiyomizu Dera

Possibly one of Kyoto's most iconic and famous temples and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kiyomizu Dera (literally: “pure water temple”) is set on the east hills of Kyoto, facing in towards the city. Founded in 780, the Temples was associated and tied with the Hosso Sect, one of Japan's oldest Japanese Buddhist schools. Its most famous for the wooden stage/platform that juts out of the side of the hill, allowing incredible views of Kyoto city. An excellent selfie/pic opportunity for the gram. The temple is spread out over a large area but you can follow the path or indeed the crowds and it’ll take you round the whole site. I recommend getting there earlier in the day as it gets incredibly crowded with other tourists from Asia region.

One of the other fun things about Kiyomizu Dera is the streets that lead up to the temple entrance. The main street is called Matsubara Dori. Have a stroll up and down this street and enjoy the fun foods and wares that are being sold. You can even take some left and right turns down some smaller streets. Shops are selling loads of tasty rice snacks, ice cream, fried snacks and other Japanese Oyatsu (snacks). You can even find the famous Machiya style Starbucks which is great fun. The temple is located just a kilometre east of the city centre and accessible on foot.

The Koyo is particularly beautiful around Kiyomizu Dera.

►Admission fee: 400yen

►Hours: 6:00-18:00

♦Click here for google maps♦

The view from Kiyomizu Dera during early fall/autumn.

The view from Kiyomizu Dera during early fall/autumn.

Autumn maple leaves at Kiyomizu dera. Notice the scaffolding on the main building. These repair works finish late 2018/ early 2019

Autumn maple leaves at Kiyomizu dera. Notice the scaffolding on the main building. These repair works finish late 2018/ early 2019

The autumn leaves looking on point - 2018/19 update

The autumn leaves looking on point - 2018/19 update

Takao Mountain area - Kyoto Prefecture

The Takao Yama (mountain) area is an incredible place to see the autumn colours. Located a few clicks north of Kyoto, you can explore the area on foot and take in the incredible natural surroundings. The Kiyotaki river runs through the area, and a stroll up the river is also very pleasant.

I also recommend you visit some of the Ryokans in the area as they are very stunning and worth staying overnight.

Momijiya Bekkan Kawa no Iori is a Ryokan famous for its beauty tradition. The Entire Hotel runs alongside the Kiyotaki River, surrounded by incredible mountain scenery, it really is worth a visit.

♦Click here to Book Momijiya Bekkan Kawa no Iori♦

► Best time to Visit? Early November

♦Click here for google maps♦

Kiyotaki River in Takaoyama

Kiyotaki River in Takaoyama

Some Restaurants in the Takaoyama Village.

Some Restaurants in the Takaoyama Village.

Bridge over the Kiyotaki river at the beginning of Autumn. Stunning colours!

Bridge over the Kiyotaki river at the beginning of Autumn. Stunning colours!

Dining areas of Momijiya Iori. The hotel runs alongside the river.

Dining areas of Momijiya Iori. The hotel runs alongside the river.

Try the local restaurants in Takaoyama village. Here I am enjoying Herring noodles on the Kiyotaki River!

Try the local restaurants in Takaoyama village. Here I am enjoying Herring noodles on the Kiyotaki River!

Entrance bridge to Momijiya Iori... definitely worth a visit!

Entrance bridge to Momijiya Iori... definitely worth a visit!

Kozanji Temple - TakaoYama mountains, Kyoto Prefecture

Located a few kilometres north-west of Kyoto city, you can get here by bus number 8 from Shijo Dori, or take a taxi which won't cost more than 2000 yen. The temple is set in stunning Japanese mountain scenery where plush trees turn incredible colours in Autumn.

►Admission: During autumn/fall, entrance to the grounds is 500 yen

►Hours: 8:30 - 17:00

►Best time to Visit? First 10 days of November

♦Click here for google maps♦

Kozanji balcony chilling with great autumn/fall colours

Kozanji balcony chilling with great autumn/fall colours

Kozanji temple is set in a beautiful and mysterious forest. Like something out of a Studio Ghibli movie!

Kozanji temple is set in a beautiful and mysterious forest. Like something out of a Studio Ghibli movie!

What a relaxing environment!

What a relaxing environment!

Jingoji Temple - Takao mountains, Kyoto prefecture.

Another temple within walking distance from Kozanji. The colours here are particularly beautiful. There is an area that overlooks a valley of an offshoot of the Kiyotaki river. You can pay a few hundred yen to throw clay disks over the valley, which is believed to bring good luck.

►Admission: 600 yen

►Hours: 9:00-16:00

►Best time to Visit? First 10 days of November

♦Click here for google maps♦

Amazing colours at Jingoji

Amazing colours at Jingoji

Deep red foliage at Jingoji in ealry November

Deep red foliage at Jingoji in ealry November

The Valley at Jingoji. Throw the clay disks over the river and it is said to bring you good luck!

The Valley at Jingoji. Throw the clay disks over the river and it is said to bring you good luck!

Ginkakuji / Silver Temple (Jishō-ji)

►Entry fee: 500 yen

The little brother of the more famous Kinkaku-ji or ‘Golden temple’. Ginkaku-ji ‘Silver temple/pavilion is officially known as Jishō-ji and isn't actually covered in silver, like its big brother covered in Gold leaf.

Although it’s much less famous than the Golden temple, in my opinion, is MUCH prettier, Especially in Autumn. It was built in the late 15th century as a resting and retirement place for the Shogun (Military General) Ashikaga Yoshimasa. When he became older, he became a Zen Buddhist monk. And now it is still a Zen Buddhist temple. It was called the silver temple because it was originally covered in lacquer and may have appeared silver in the moonlight.

I strongly advise visiting in the early morning, or late afternoon/early evening. It’s far less touristy and far more beautiful with the early morning /early evening light.

♦Click here for google maps♦

The actual pavilion, or main part of the temple which is called the silver pavilion. As you can see it's not silver at all!

The actual pavilion, or main part of the temple which is called the silver pavilion. As you can see it's not silver at all!

The temple grounds are stunning in autumn, in the evening

The temple grounds are stunning in autumn, in the evening

amazing colours and lighting

amazing colours and lighting

A little pond in the temple grounds, where people throw change in to wish for good luck and fortune

A little pond in the temple grounds, where people throw change in to wish for good luck and fortune

Koetsuji Temple - Kyoto city, Kyoto Prefecture

A small yet very pretty temple that is gloriously hidden away and protected from the tourist hordes. The temple is a few clicks north of Kyoto city, and is accessible by taxi, on foot, or by bicycle. My recommendation is to go by bicycle as the ride is very pretty. The temple itself was named after Honami Koetsu, a famous calligrapher, tea master and ceramic artist.  

The colours here are stunning during autumn.

►Admission: 300 yen

►Hours: 8:00 - 17:00

►Best time to Visit? First 2 weeks of November

♦Click here for google maps♦

Stunning colours

Stunning colours

One of the old tea houses at Jingoji in early Autumn

One of the old tea houses at Jingoji in early Autumn

The entrance passage to the temple. As you can see the Japanese maple leaves are starting to change

The entrance passage to the temple. As you can see the Japanese maple leaves are starting to change

Anrakuji Temple - beautiful Koyo leaves and a vegan cafe open only for a few weeks per year!

Anrakuji is a fantastic place to see Koyo. It is a pretty little temple on the east side of Kyoto in the Higashiyama area, north of the philosopher's path. Founded by two followers of the new sect - it is a temple of the Jodo-Shu Buddhism sect. Open mainly during the spring and autumn/fall seasons, it is a stunning temple, especially the temple grounds where the Cherry blossom and Autumn leaves create a stunning spectacle respectively. Autumn Koyo is especially beautiful at Anrakuji. Anrakuji also has a very nice little vegan cafe that is well worth the visit. 

►Best time to visit? Last two weeks of November

►Admission fee: 400 yen spring and autumn

►Hours: 9:30-4:30 

♦Tap here for maps♦

The entrance to Anrakuji has some stunning Koyo Autumn leaves

The entrance to Anrakuji has some stunning Koyo Autumn leaves

The main hall/building at Anrakuji

The main hall/building at Anrakuji

Beautiful Autumn leaves

Beautiful Autumn leaves

Vegan cakes

Vegan cakes

Bit chilly? Grab a book and warm up around the fire

Bit chilly? Grab a book and warm up around the fire

Sit, relax, and enjoy the Koyo autumn leaves

Sit, relax, and enjoy the Koyo autumn leaves

Nanzen-ji Temple Daineiken Garden 

A former sub-temple of Nanzen-ji (one of the biggest, most beautiful and most important temples in Kyoto) before the government confiscated the land. Now it’s privately owned and open to the public (it only opened recently, in mid-november 2019). The garden was built in the late Meiji era and is a well-known ‘Chisenkaiyu’ which is a style of garden that emphasizes a stroll around a pond. 

Daineiken Garden is a lesser-known jewel of Kyoto as is one of the BEST places to view the Autumn colours.  

►Best time to visit? Mid to end of November

►Entry price: 500 yen

►Opening times: 9:00-16:00

♦Tap here for google maps♦

Deep red

Deep red

Epic Autumn/fall colours

Epic Autumn/fall colours

The garden

The garden

Explore Arashiyama by bicycle or foot

Arashiyama is a very pretty area north-west of the city centre. It is famous for its monkey park, where wild monkeys roam around freely, the beautiful bamboo forest, and of course, beautiful scenery. The surrounding mountain areas are very pretty in autumn as the leaves turn red (Koyo).

It is easy to get to Arashiyama. Take the Hankyu Arashiyama metro line. It's about a 20 mins ride from central Kyoto. Arashiyama area is located a few clicks north-west of Kyoto city central. Here you can find many beautiful scenery sights, pleasant walks, and the famous monkey park where lots of Japanese Macaques hang out - and you can feed them! The famous Bamboo forest is also located here. My advice is to take the train here and check out the monkey park, the bamboo park, and walk around the town. It is also very nice to take a bicycle and cycle up the Katsura River.

Here are two good bicycle rentals in Kyoto central

Kon's Bicycle - www.konscycle.com/

J-cycle - www.j-cycle.com/takatsuji/en/index.html

 

♦Click here for Arashiyama on google maps♦

Cycling around Arashiyama as the leaves start turning red

Cycling around Arashiyama as the leaves start turning red

Bamboo grove in Arashiyama

Bamboo grove in Arashiyama

Explore the Katsura River in Arashiyama

Explore the Katsura River in Arashiyama

A Japanese Macaque chilling in the Monkey park at Arashiyama. Notice the amazing Kyoto backdrop!

A Japanese Macaque chilling in the Monkey park at Arashiyama. Notice the amazing Kyoto backdrop!

Check out some of the shops and cafes/restaurants in the bustling part of Arashiyama

Check out some of the shops and cafes/restaurants in the bustling part of Arashiyama

Kurama Hi Matsuri 

Set in the Kurama mountains north of Kyoto, in the small Kurama mountain village, occurs one of the most exciting and dangerous festivals in Japan.

It is an epic event and one that must be experienced if you are in Kyoto during the early autumn.

To read the full article about the Kurama Hi matsuri, tap here!

 

LIGHT UP: Autumn Leaves Projections and Light-Shows in Kyoto

Kyoto is world-famous for its autumnal leaves. People travel from across Japan and indeed the world to come to see the cityscape light up fiery red and gold for a few weeks every year.

An additional spectacle well worth the possible queues are ‘Light Up’ events, which take place at various venues across Kyoto, often at temples or shrines already steeped in hundreds of years of history. Light Up events usually start anywhere from about 17:30 and finish around 21:00-22:00.

These events use the latest projection and light technology (and sometimes also music) to illuminate trees and branches at night, incorporating reflections on ponds and rivers that snake around the ancient religious buildings. The resulting effect is stunning displays and light-shows that are very different from views of the koyo (autumn leaves) during the day.

For full info on the light-up shows in Kyoto, click here to see our guide on Kyoto Light-up shows

Great autumn light projections at Kodai-ji

Great autumn light projections at Kodai-ji

Shosei-en light up show/autumn illuminations

Shosei-en light up show/autumn illuminations

Toji temple light up/autumn illuminations

Toji temple light up/autumn illuminations

 

Step back in time at the Kyoto Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages)

The Kyoto Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages) is an annual event held on October 22nd every year, to mark the founding of the historic city. 2,000 people dressed in authentic and accurate dress from every period in Japanese history march from the Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine in a procession filled with art, culture and history.

One of the three biggest festivals in Kyoto, and probably one of the biggest in the Kansai region. The Jidai Matsuri, Along with the Aoi Matsuri and Gion Matsuri, is one of the big three events in Kyoto.

The Governor and Mayor of Kyoto ride by in horse-drawn carriages in costumes from the 1800s, and after they come, dancers, shogun warrior-kings, samurais, famous women and nobles, aristocrats, peasants, armoured soldiers and everything in between from every major period. Famous names in history such as Oda Nobunaga also come alive in the Jidai Matsuri. Marching bands playing traditional flutes and drums and shrine floats carried by men with ropy muscles prance along for 5 kilometres, showing off the unique quintessence of Japan in an impressive and lively display.

The parade takes about two hours, and it is possible to follow it along all the way as it snakes from the Imperial Palace, along Oike Street and Sanjo Street and ends up at Heian Shrine, where it is likely to get the most crowded, so make sure to show up early if this is to be the highlight of your parade. There is paid to seating along the parade route available for 2050 yen; buy tickets in advance at any combini (convenience store) or JTB travel agency.

So travel back to antiquity and soak in all of Kyoto’s (and Japan’s!) history in a fantastic and immersive experience at the Kyoto Jidai Matsuri this year! Good luck keeping up with the samurai and shogunate!

The best place to view is the corner where Karasuma Oike Station is.

Click here for the spot on google maps.

 
City government Officials all dressed up in historic attire

City government Officials all dressed up in historic attire

Impressive Samurai armour

Impressive Samurai armour

Ladies dressed up as royalty

Ladies dressed up as royalty

Autumn fruit-picking in Kyoto Prefecture

The Japanese have always enjoyed picking seasonal fruits as an activity, whether as a fun day out with family or friends or as a laid-back and fun date idea. You may notice in Japan that although fruit is particularly delicious, it might seem more expensive than in other countries. However, the experience of picking the freshest fruit at farms and orchards around the country is second to none, with many places offering all-you-can-eat or pay-by-the-kilo options for less than 2,000 yen.

The fruit in season in autumn in Japan are grapes, pears and apples, and many areas will specialise in one or two of these. Kyoto is a great prefecture to explore - it’s a great idea to get out of the main crowded city centre and head north, further into the countryside where you will find fruit farms that offer to pick for locals and tourists.

Here are some locations in Kyoto Prefecture where fruit-picking is cheap and delicious!

Kyotango, a city in the north of Kyoto Prefecture boasts a number of visitor-friendly fruit farms, including the Fruit Tree Tourism Association Tourist Farm  (久美浜町果樹観光協会加盟の観光農園) in Kumihama Town, where you can pick pears from September to early November, 2 hours all-you-can-eat for 880 yen or grapes from early September to early October, 2 hours all-you-can-eat for approx. 1500 yen; and the Tango Fruits Garden (丹後フルーツガーデン) in Yasaka Town, where grapes are for the picking from the end of August to the end of November, all-you-can-eat for 1990 yen.

Fukuchiyama City, also in the north has Takenaka Vineyard (竹中ぶどう園), where you can pick grapes from September to early November, for 800-1600 yen per kilo.

Yamashirotaga Fruit Line (山城多賀フルーツライン) in Ide Town also has grapes from the beginning of September to mid-October, which you can enjoy for only 1300 yen!

Pack your bellies full of the freshest seasonal fruit and hopefully enjoy some of the less well-known areas of Kansai whilst you’re at it.

Picking some nice Sharon fruit (Kaki)!

Picking some nice Sharon fruit (Kaki)!

Japanese pears, called 'Nashi'.. these ones are massive!

Japanese pears, called 'Nashi'.. these ones are massive!

Nashi (pear) and Kaki (sharon fruit) fruit salad.. the best!

Nashi (pear) and Kaki (sharon fruit) fruit salad.. the best!

 

 

 

 

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