December Event Highlights (2013)
*Time, dates and information of events are subject to change.
Until Dec. 26
Kaomise Kabuki Performances at Minamiza Theatre
Lavish, stylized, and larger-than-life, kabuki theatre is one of Japan's most distinctive art forms, the origins of which can be traced to the heart of Kyoto; Performances of kabuki in Kyoto are irregular, but December is a standout period: it is the month of Kaomise, which brings together the top stars; The Kaomise features two long performances, but no one expects you to sit and be quiet throughout the performances; Relax and watch what catches your eye, marvel at the costumes, watch the fast set changes, and check out the noodles and sake in the lobby; Tickets: 5,500yen-27,000yen; From 10:30 and 16:15; Reservations (10:00-18:00): Tel: 06-6530-0333; Access: Kyoto City Bus #201, 203, get off at Shijo Keihan-mae; Tel: 075-561-1155; www.shochiku.co.jp/play/minamiza/
Until Dec. 29
Sagano Sightseeing Tram Ride
The Sagano Sightseeing Tram route (7.3 km) runs from Saga to Kameoka along a gorgeous river gorge and passes through 8 old tunnels; No service on Wed. (except for holidays and tourist season); 600 yen (one way); Access: JR Saga Arashiyama Stn.; Sagano Kanko Tetsudo: Tel: 075-861-7444; www.sagano-kanko.co.jp/
Hozugawa Kudari River Run
The Hozugawa Kudari is a river ride that goes from Kameoka to Arashiyama, Kyoto (about 16 km in 2 hours) along a stunning river gorge of rapids with wonderful mountain views; Tickets: 3,900 yen; Boats depart every hour between 9:00-14:00 (the last boat departs at 15:30); Access: An 8-min. walk from the north exit of JR Sagano Line Kameoka Stn.; Hozugawa Yusen Association: Tel: 0771-22-5846; www.hozugawakudari.jp/
Kencha Festival at Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine
The origin of this ritual dates back to 1587 when the warlord Hideyoshi Toyotomi held a big tea party at the shrine; The ceremony starts from 10:30; A tea ceremony is held and people can enjoy matcha green tea (9:00-15:00); 5,000yen; Access: Kyoto City Bus #50, get off at Kitano Tenmangu-mae; Tel: 075-461-0005; kitanotenmangu.or.jp/
Shimai Daikoku Festival at Jishu Shrine (in Kiyomizu Temple)
The ceremony starts from 14:00; Prayers are offered to the deity and people pray for a healthy life for the next year; 300yen to enter Kiyomizu Temple; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Kiyomizu-michi; Tel: 075-541-2097.
Dec. 7 & 8
Daikon White Radish Memorial Service at Senbon Shaka-do Temple
This event is held to celebrate the day on which Buddha reached enlightenment; Eating radish (daikon) is believed to dispel misfortune; The Seido-kai memorial service is held on Dec. 8, from 10:00; Boiled white radish offerings are available between 10:00 and 16:00 on both days for 1,000yen; Access: Kyoto City Bus #50, get off at Kamishichiken; Tel: 075-461-5973.
Memorial Service for Needles at Kokuzo Horin-ji Temple
This temple has attracted worshippers for centuries who wish to improve hand sewing and entertainment performance skills; A memorial service for used needles is held from 13:00 until 14:00 on this day; People bring used needles from all over Japan and pray for better sewing skills and family happiness; A traditional Japanese dance performance and free sweet saké offering will also be held; Access: Kyoto City Bus #28, get off at Arashiyama Koen; Tel: 075-861-0069.
Koto Hajime Year End Greetings in Gion
From around 10:00, geiko and maiko in each Kagai (maiko & geiko districts) go out to visit their teachers and others to thank them for their support; They bring kagami-mochi special New Year's rice cake to their teachers; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, Gion.
Dec. 13 & 14
The Kyoto Cuisine Exhibition at the Miyako Messe
A number of Kyoto's top Japanese restaurants display their best dishes, their cooking skills and the beautiful appearance of their dish arrangements during this event; Part of the event includes a performance of the Shiki Bocho Japanese cooking knife ceremony and a tea ceremony performance; Dining areas are also part of this event; 10:00-16:00; Tickets: 800yen; Access: Kyoto City Bus #5, 100, get off at Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae; Kyoto Cuisine Association: Tel: 075-221-5833.
Ofuku Ume Plum Service at Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine
When Kyoto was struck by a serious plague in 951, people drank plum tea to cure the illness; This shrine is famous for its plum trees; Today, people drink this tea on the morning of New Year’s Day to ensure a healthy new year; This special tea will be available from this day (500yen) at the shrine; Access: Kyoto City Bus #50, get off at Kitano Tenmangu-mae; Tel: 075-461-0005; kitanotenmangu.or.jp/
Kakure Nenbutsu Buddhist Sutra Chanting at Rokuhara Mitsu-ji Temple
When Kyoto was struck by a serious plague in 951, the Buddhist monk Kuya held a dancing and sutra chanting ritual to stop the plague; A nenbutsu odori dance, which developed from this ritual, will be performed from 16:00; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Kiyomizu-michi; Tel: 075-561-6980; www.rokuhara.or.jp/
Susuharai Temple Cleaning at Higashi & Nishi Hongan-ji Temple
Buddhist priests and other people from all over Japan come to these two important temples on this day to clean them; Pre-cleaning ritual: Nishi Hongan-ji Temple: From 7:00, Higashi Hongan-ji Temple: From 9:00; Access: Nishi Hongan-ji Temple; Kyoto City Bus #9, get off at Nishi Honganji-mae; Higashi Hongan-ji Temple; JR Kyoto Stn.
Ominugui Buddhist Statue Cleaning at Chion-in Temple
Ominugui, Buddhist statue cleaning, starts from 13:00; The wooden statue of the Buddhist saint, Honen, will be cleaned with fine cotton cloth by monks to ward off misfortune; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Chion-in-mae; Tel: 075-531-2111; www.chion-in.or.jp/
Kabocha Pumpkin Memorial Service at Yata Temple
This pumpkin ceremony starts from 10:00; Visitors will receive free cooked pumpkin (limited to the first 1,000 people); A pumpkin is set in front of the main hall and people come to touch it to ward off illness; Access: Tozai subway line, get off at Shiyakusho-mae Stn.; Tel: 075-241-3608.
Okera Mairi Shrine Visit at Yasaka-jinja Shrine
People light (okera-bi), a thin straw rope, and bring it back home to light the first fire of the New Year; The Oharai Festival starts at 15:00 and the Joya New Year’s Eve Festival at 19:00; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Gion; Tel: 075-561-6155; web.kyoto-inet.or.jp/org/yasaka/
Temple & Shrine Flea Markets
Dec. 1 Sun.
To-ji Temple: This market is focused on antiques of all kinds; Usually not too crowded and great value all around; 7:00-16:00.
Dec. 8, Sun.
Kyoto City Hall: A big public flea market; 10:00-17:00.
Dec. 8, Sun.
Toyokuni Shrine: A very small market of local products; 10:00-15:00.
Dec. 15, Sun.
Chion-ji Temple: Kyoto's biggest handicraft market; An absolutely amazing range of handmade things and incredible prices too!; 8:00-16:00.
Dec. 21, Sat.
To-ji Temple: Also known as Kobo-san, this mega temple market offers everything and is extremely popular; Go early, especially if on a weekend or a national holiday; 8:00-16:00.
Dec. 22, Sun.
Kamigamo Shrine: Handicrafts, arts, food, and more; 9:00-16:00.
Dec. 25, Wed.
Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine: Also known as Tenjin-san, this super shrine market sprawls in and around this major shrine complex; 7:00-16:30.
NOTE: Markets shut down much earlier in autumn and winter; when the days get longer and warmer sellers tend to stay a little longer.