Autumn: Oct - Nov

Kyoto’s Autumn Illumination 2023 : 5 Best Spots and how to avoid crowds

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The autumn illuminations in Kyoto, running from early November to late December, are truly breathtaking. As the fall season arrives, this city, renowned for its rich history and cultural heritage, transforms into a magical wonderland. 
Here’s a glimpse into 5 Kyoto’s autumn illumination area and how to avoid crowds.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizudera  in Special Autumn night viewing
Kiyomizudera in Special Autumn night viewing

Kiyomizu-dera, located in eastern part of Kyoto City, stands as a testament to Japan’s rich historical and architectural heritage. One of the temple’s most captivating features is its maple trees, which during autumn, transform into a mesmerizing canvas of reds, oranges, and yellows.

The highlight is particularly the illumination evenings, where the sight of the wooden temple set against a backdrop of brilliantly illuminated maple leaves is nothing short of breathtaking. This experience, where the maple leaves are lit up against the night sky, offers a unique and enchanting ambiance that is distinct from daytime visits. However, visitors should be prepared for large crowds.

Jojuin temple

Jojuin temple, a sub-temple located on the west side of Kiyomizu-dera, is usually closed to the public but is specially opened and illuminated at night during spring and autumn each year. Visitors can view the pond garden from the tatami-floored main hall. The combination of autumn maple leaves, rock arrangements, and azaleas is beautiful. Since photography is prohibited, there are fewer people, and the garden maintains a quiet and peaceful atmosphere.

Tips to avoid crowds

  • Weekends and public holidays tend to be the busiest. If possible, plan your visit on a weekday.
  • The temple’s special evening event is scheduled from 18:30 to 21:30, with admission concluding at 21:00. It is advisable to visit soon after the event commences, as this time is typically less congested than the period just prior to closing.
  • The bus to Kiyomizu-dera often gets packed, so consider walking from the station instead. It’s about a 23-minute stroll from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station or a 30-minute walk from Kyoto Kawaramachi Station.
  • Although there are three main routes to Kiyomizu-dera — Ninen-zaka street, Sannen-zaka street, and Gojo Street — all tend to get crowded.

Information

①Kiyomizu-dera temple

Open hours

PeriodTime
Normal6:00 – 18:00
Special night viewing time
(Nov.18- Nov.30)
6:00 – 17:30 (Day time)
18:30 – 21:30 (Night time)
(21:00 Last entry)

※Temple is closed during after day time and before night time(17:30 – 18:30)

Entrance fee

Day time ticket
※Cannot be used as a Special night viewing ticket
Adult: 400 yen
Child: 200 yen
Special night viewing ticketAdult: 400 yen
Child: 200 yen

※Child is under 15 years of age.

②Jojuin temple

Open hours

PeriodTime
Autumn season
Nov18 to Nov30
9:00 – 16:00
18:00 – 20:30(Special night viewing)

Entrance fee

Ticket typePrice
Day time ticket
※Cannot be used as a Special night viewing ticket
・Adult: 600yen
・Elementary and junior high school student: 300yen 
Special night viewingticket

・Adult: 600yen
・Elementary and junior high school student: 300yen 

Address
1 Chome-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862


It’s a 20-minutes walking from the nearest station : Keihan Line “Kiyomizu-Gojo” station to Kiyomizu-dera temple.

Official site
Kiyomizu-dera temple Special night vewing

Kodaiji Temple

Kodaiji in special night viewing

Kodaiji Temple is a Zen temple built in 1606 by Nene, also known as Kita-no-Mandokoro, the principal wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

In the center of the temple grounds stands the “Kaizando”, a Buddhist hall constructed in 1605. Surrounding the Kaizando are two gardens, the eastern “Garyo-chi” and the western “Engetsu-chi”, together forming a pond-strolling garden. Around the pond, maple trees are planted, which turn beautifully red in autumn. The nighttime illumination of the garden is a breathtaking sight. The photo above shows the glossy maple leaves reflected in the pond and the corridor leading from the Kaizando to the spirit house, symbolizing a dragon.

Tips to avoid crowds

  • Visit on weekdays, avoiding holidays and weekends.
  • entering the temple grounds after 20:00 can help avoid the crowds.
  • Since buses can get crowded, it’s better to walk from the nearest stations, Kiyomizu-Gojo Station or Kyoto Kawaramachi Station.
  • Since Kodaiji Temple is just a 13-minute walk from Kiyomizu Temple, it’s a good idea to visit Kodaiji after viewing the light-up at Kiyomizu Temple.

Information

Open hours

PeriodTime
Normal9:00 – 17:30(the entrance closes at 17:00)
Special night viewing time
(Oct.21- Dec.10)
17:00 – 22:00(the entrance closes at 21:30)
※Visitors who enter by 17:00 can enjoy the light-up time without having to leave the garden.

Entrance fee

Ticket typePrice
Day time ticket or Special night viewing ticket
Adult: 600 yen
High school and joiner high school student: 250 yen

Adress

〒605-0825 Kyoto, Higashiyama, ward, Shimokawaramachi 526,Kodaiji

It’s 18-minute walking from nearest station “Kyoto Kawaramachi Station to Kodaiji Temple.

Official cite
Kodaiji(English text)

Toji temple

Toji temple in Special night viewing
Toji temple in Special night viewing

Toji Temple, nestled in the heart of Kyoto and recognized as one of the World Heritage Sites, is a treasure trove of historical buildings, including

  • Five-storied Pagoda:
    special opening of the first tier of the National Treasure
  • Kodo:
    an entrance into the world of three-dimensional mandalas
  • Homotu-kan:
    historical museum protects and conveys the temple’s treasures, as Commemorating the 1200th anniversary of the founding of the Shingon sect.
  • Kanchi-in:
    a sub-temple that became the center of Esoteric Buddhist teachings and a National Treasure.

The various types of maple trees within Toji’s gardens contribute to the autumnal tapestry with leaves that turn into vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. Moreover, light-up event casts a celestial aura over the entire temple complex, creating a magical atmosphere that draws visitors from all over the world.

As you wander through the temple grounds, the illuminated five-story pagoda is reflected in the strolling pond garden”Hyotan-ike” (a pond shaped like a gourd) , a captivating vision amidst the vivid colors of the maple trees. This interplay of light and nature is truly a spectacle to behold.

Tips to avoid crowds

  • Visit around 20:30, an hour before closing, when it’s less crowded. This allows you to experience the tranquility of the temple and its gardens without the bustle of peak visitor hours.
  • Opt for a weekday night. Weekends tend to attract larger crowds, so a visit on a weekday can offer a more serene experience.
  • Booking your visit through a travel website in advance can allow for immediate entry upon arrival, bypassing any potential queues. This little bit of planning goes a long way in ensuring a peaceful visit.
    Travel website(Only Japanese text)

Information

Open hours

Day time

Placetime
・Kondo
・Five-storied pagoda first floor
(Nov 1st to Dec 10th)
・Kodo
(Nov 1st to Dec 10th)
8:00 – 17:00( the reception close at 16:30)
Kanchi-in and Homotu-in
(Sep 20th to Nov 25th)
9:00 – 17:00( the reception close at 16:30)


・Special night viewing
( Nov 1st to Dec 10th)

PlaceTime
Kondo and Kodo18:00 – 21:00( the reception close at 20:30)

※Temple is closed during after day time and before night time(17:00 – 18:00)

Entrance fee
・Day time ticket
※Cannot be used as a Special night viewing ticket

PlacePrice
Five-storied pagoda first floor,
Kondo and Kodo
・Adult: 800yen
・High school students : 700yen
・Junior high school students and younger: 500yen
Kanchi-in・Adult: 500
・Junior high school students and younger: 300yen
Homotu-kan・Adult: 500
・Junior high school students and younger: 300yen
All Places・Adult: 1300
・Junior high school students and younger: 800yen

・Special night viewing ticket

PlacePrice
Kondo and Kodo・Adult: 1000 yen
・Junior high school students and younger : 500 yen

Adress
1 Kujocho, Minami Ward, Kyoto, 601-8473

How to get Toji temple

Official site
Toji temple

Eikando

Eikando in Special night viewing

Eikando Temple, known formally as Zenrinji Temple, offers one of Kyoto’s most exquisite autumn experiences. During the autumn, the temple’s grounds come alive with a vibrant display of seasonal colors and lights, drawing visitors into a centuries-old landscape of beauty and tranquility.

The main garden features a pond strolling garden known as “Hojochi,” which signifies a pond specifically created to release captured fish and other aquatic life. Surrounding the pond, a multitude of trees, including maples with their fiery red leaves, crape myrtle, and golden ginkgoes , create a rich tapestry of autumnal shades.

A highlight of the illumination at Eikando is the “Tahoto”, a distinctive double-story pagoda characterized by its circular upper story and square lower story. During the illumination, this architectural marvel is gently lit, emphasizing its unique design and augmenting the mystical aura of the temple environs.

Tips to avoid crowds

  • Choose Weekdays Over Weekends and Holidays
  • Get to the temple shortly before the illumination begins at 17:30 pm to enjoy the temple grounds with fewer people.
  • Walking and using the trains is better to get there in time than using buses. It’s 12-minutes walking from nearest station Tozai Line Keage to Eikando  

Information

Open hours

PeriodTime
Normal9:00 – 17:00
(The reception closed at 16:30)
Special night viewing time
November 3rd – December 3rd
17:30 – 21:00
(The reception closed at 20:30)

※Temple is closed during after day time and before night time(17:00 – 17:30)

Entrance fee

Periodprice
Normal・Adult(Age19 to over) : 600yen
・Child(Age 6 to 18): 400yen
Autumn exhibition
(Nov 3rd – Dec 3rd)
・Adult(Age19 to over) : 1000yen
・Child(Age 6 to 18): 400yen
Night visit time
(Nov 3rd – Dec 3rd)
Adult(Age13 to over): 600yen

Adress
48 Eikandocho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8445

Official site
Eikando night visit

Nijo-jo Castle

The projection mapping on castle wall in Nijo-jo Castle
The projection mapping on castle wall in Nijo-jo Castle

Nijo-jo Castle was built in 1603 by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo shogunate, as a residence and protective fortress for the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, as well as a lodging place for the shogun during his visits to Kyoto. Within the castle grounds, you can see the “Ninomaru-goten palace” a representative example of a samurai-style shoin-zukuri (study-style) building from the Edo period. There is also the “Ninomaru Garden,” a strolling-style garden around a pond, which is a quintessential example of Japanese pond gardens. It was originally landscaped by Kobori Enshu in the early Edo period and later remodeled under the orders of the third shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu. Additionally, the castle features a Tang-style gate and other elements that showcase the architectural style of the Momoyama period. Due to its historical significance, Nijo-jo castle was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

The night illumination is also famous, offering a spectacular tour around the vast grounds of Nijo Castle. The projection mapping on the Tang-style gate and the castle walls is particularly impressive.

Tips to avoid crowds

  • Visit on a weekday instead of a holiday.
  • If you visit around 19:30 PM, an hour and a half before closing, there tend to be fewer visitors.
  • Although the light-up event is expected to be crowded, you can enter the castle without having to queue by making a reservation in advance.
    Website for Purchasing Illumination Tickets

Information

Open Hours

PlaceTime
Nijo-jo castle 8:45 – 17:00(the reception close at 16:00)
Nijo-jo Castle and Ninomaru-goten Palace8:45 – 16:10

Closed days
・Nijo-jo castle
December 29 to 31

・Ninomaru-goten Palace
Every Tuesday in January, July, August, and December, January 1 to 3, and December 26 to 28

※When any of the above-mentioned days fall on a public holiday, Ninomaru-goten Palace will be closed the following day instead.

Entrance fee

PlacePrice
Nijo-jo castle Adult : 800yen
Junior high school : 400yen
Elementary school : 300yen
Nijo-jo Castle and Ninomaru-goten PalaceAdult : 1300yen
Junior high school : 400yen
Elementary school : 300yen

※Entrance fee is free for children younger than elementary school age.

Adress
541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8301

Official website
Nijo-jo castle

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