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December Event Highlights 2016

See, touch and experience the Old Capital What's on this month!
*Time, dates and information of events are subject to change.

Pick Up Event

Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro - 2016
Dec. 9 - 18; 17:00-20:30 (rain-or-shine event)

The Saga Arashiyama area in western Kyoto has long been favored by its natural setting and traditional cultural heritages. Arashiyama Hanatouro, one of the most popular large-scale modern events in the Old Capital, is staged every December in this Saga Arashiyama district.

An about 5-km path will be lined with about 2,500 lanterns made using Kyoto craft techniques and materials (bamboo, ceramics and stone, etc.). Along the route, visitors will also find a number of huge ikebana flower displays.

*During the event period, the night time special opening/light-up will be held at some surrounding temples, shrines and cultural facilities; Also various events are scheduled to be held; For details, please see their website: www.hanatouro.jp/e/index.html

Photos courtesy of Kyoto Hanatouro Promotion Council

Until Dec. 29
Sagano Romantic Train Ride

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

The Sagano Romantic Train 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).

Tickets: 620 yen (one way); Access: JR Saga Arashiyama Stn.; Sagano Kanko Tetsudo: Tel: 075-861-7444; www.sagano-kanko.co.jp

Every Day
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; Boats depart every hour between 10:00-14:30 (the last boat departs at 14:30).; No operation from Dec.29 to Jan. 4.

Tickets: 4,100 yen; 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

Dec. 1
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 10:00; A tea ceremony is held and people can enjoy a bowl of matcha green tea (10:00-15:00).

Tickets: 5,000 yen; Access: Kyoto City Bus #50, get off at Kitano Tenmangu-mae; Tel: 075-461-0005; kitanotenmangu.or.jp

Dec. 4
Shimai Daikoku Festival at Jishu Shrine (in Kiyomizu Temple)

The ceremony starts from 14:00 at this small shrine located in the precinct of Kiyomizu Temple; Prayers are offered to the deity and people pray for a healthy life for the next year.

Entry: 400 yen to enter Kiyomizu Temple; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Kiyomizumichi; Tel: 075-541-2097; www.jishujinja.or.jp

Dec. 7 & 8
Daikon White Radish Ceremony at Senbon Shaka-do Temple

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

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.

Admission free; Boiled white radish offerings are available between 10:00 and 16:00 on both days for 1,000 yen; Access: Kyoto City Bus #50, get off at Kamishichiken; Tel: 075-461-5973; www.daihoonji.com

Dec. 8
Needles Ceremony at Kokuzo Horin-ji Temple

This temple has attracted worshippers for centuries who wish to improve their hand sewing and entertainment performance skills; A special service to express one's gratitude 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 sake offering will be held as well.

Admission free; Access: Kyoto City Bus #28, get off at Arashiyama Koen; Tel: 075-862-0013; www.kokuzohourinji.com

Dec. 12
Announcement of This Year's Chinese Character at Kiyomizu Temple

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

Every year, the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation collects applications according to a ''Kanji-that express the year,'' which symbolizes the social trend of the year from a nationwide perspective, and announces the character with the highest polled number at Kiyomizu Temple; The chief priest then writes the character of the year on a large sheet of paper on the stage in front of the huge crowd, purifying this year's sins so as to welcome an auspicious new year.

Entry: 400 yen; From 14:00; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Kiyomizu-michi; Tel: 075-551-1234; www.kiyomizudera.or.jp

Dec. 13
Koto Hajime Year End Greetings in Gion

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

From around 10:00, geiko and maiko in each Kagai (maiko & geiko districts) set out to visit their teachers and others to thank them for their support; They bring kagami-mochi, a special New Year's rice cake to their teachers.

Admission free; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Gion.

Dec. 13 & 14
The Kyoto Cuisine Exhibition at the Miyako Messe

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

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, a Japanese cooking knife ceremony and a tea ceremony performance; Dining areas are also a fun part of this event.

Tickets: 800 yen; 10:00-16:00; Access: Kyoto City Bus #5, 100, get off at Okazakikoen Bijutsukan Heian Jingu-mae; Kyoto Cuisine Association: Tel: 075-221-5833; www.miyakomesse.jp

Dec. 13-25
Ofuku Ume Plum Service at Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine

People drink a special tea on the morning of New Year's Day to ensure a healthy new year; Ofuku Ume Plums for this special tea will be available from this day (700 yen /6 plums) at the shrine.

Admission free; Access: Kyoto City Bus #50, get off at Kitano Tenmangu-mae; Tel: 075-461-0005; kitanotenmangu.or.jp

Dec. 13-31
Kakure Nenbutsu Buddhist Sutra Chanting at Rokuharamitsu-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; Nenbutsu-odori, a Buddhist chant dance, which was originally developed from this ritual, will be performed from 16:00.

Admission free; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Kiyomizu-michi; Tel: 075-561-6980; www.rokuhara.or.jp

Dec. 20
Susuharai Temple Cleaning at Higashi & Nishi Hongan-ji Temple

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

Buddhist priests and other citizens from all over Japan come to these two important temples on this day to participate in the yearend cleaning; They clean in a very interesting manner such as wiping the tatami mats moving all together in a long line and fanning the dust out of the hall using huge hand-held fans all at the same time.

Admission free; 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; A 7-min. walk from JR Kyoto Stn.

Dec. 23
Kabocha Pumpkin Ceremony at Yata Temple

This pumpkin special ceremony starts from 10:00; A pumpkin is set in front of the main hall and people come to touch it to ward off illness; Visitors will receive free cooked pumpkin (limited to the first 1,000 people).

Admission free; Access: Subway Tozai Line, Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Stn.; Tel: 075-241-3608.

Dec. 25
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 by monks with fine cotton cloths to ward off misfortune.

Admission free; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Chionin-mae; Tel: 075-531-2111; www.chion-in.or.jp

Dec. 31
Okera Mairi Visit at Yasaka Shrine

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

People light okera-bi, a thin straw rope, and bring it back home to light the first fire of the New Year; Ohara-e purification ritual starts at 15:00 and the Joya New Year's Eve Festival at 19:00.

Admission free; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Gion; Tel: 075-561-6155; www.yasaka-jinja.or.jp

Temple & Shrine Flea Markets

Dec. 4
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. 11 & 23
Kyoto City Hall: A big public flea market; 10:00-15:30; In case of rain, it will be postponed to a different date (see their website; www.plusone.ne.jp/fm/fm_shiyakusho1.html ).

Dec. 8, 18, 28
Toyokuni Shrine: A very small market of local products; 10:00-15:00.

Dec. 15
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
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; 7:00-17:00.

Dec. 25
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.

Dec. 25 & Jan. 22
Kamigamo Shrine: Handicrafts, arts, food, and more; 9:00-16:00.

NOTE: Markets shut down much earlier in autumn and winter; when the days get longer and warmer, sellers tend to stay a little longer.