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March Event Highlights 2019
See, touch and experience the Old Capital - What's on this month!
*Time, dates and information of events are subject to change.

March's Top-picked Events 1

Mar. 1 - 31
At various Buddhist temples

February 15th (in the lunar calendar) is the day that Buddha passed away. To commemorate this special occasion, in accordance with today's Gregorian calendar, temples all around Japan hold the Nehan-e ceremony in March. Kyoto is home to many important temples and some display a large and colorful painting called Nehan-zu in which the scene of Buddha's passage into Nirvana is depicted.

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

In the picture, the Buddha is lying under a flowering white sal tree with his head pointing to the north and facing west. Surrounding him are ten of his leading disciples, various men and women (old and young) and even birds and animals in a state of grief. In the upper right hand corner, the Mother of Buddha is shown descending from heaven to see visit her son.

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

Nehan doesn't simply mean death or passing away. The Japanese word ''Nehan'' derives from the Sanskrit word ''Nirvana'' meaning ''the state in which the fire (of desire) ceases to burn.'' In other words, it expresses the state of a spirit without worldly desires and thus the state of enlightenment. The day of the Buddha's death is considered to be the perfect state of Nirvana and Buddhists practice special rituals on this day. Nehan-e in Kyoto is considered to be amongst the very best and thus a special opportunity to experience a deeper understanding of Buddhism.

Shinnyo-do Temple (Mar. 1-31)

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

There are 127 different kinds of creatures in the painting in total, no other Nehan-zu in Japan shows so many; 1,000 yen; 9:00-15:45; http://shin-nyo-do.jp/

Tofukui-ji Temple (Mar. 14-16)

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

A huge Nehan-zu (12 m x 6 m) of the temple is under renovation this year, instead, another important Nehan-zu will be exhibited; 500 yen; 9:00-15:30; www.tofukuji.jp

Sennyu-ji Temple (Mar. 14-16)
Japan's largest Nehan-zu (16 m x 8 m); 500 yen; 9:00-16:30; www.mitera.org

Seiryo-ji Temple (Saga Shaka-do Temple) (Mar. 15)
400 yen; 9:00-16:00; seiryoji.or.jp

March's Top-picked Events 2

Hina Matsuri
The celebration for a girl’s healthy growth

The Hina Matsuri festival is a traditional family celebration for a daughter's health during which time hina ningyo dolls are displayed. Dolls became very popular in the Heian period (794-1185) among the imperial family and aristocrats.

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

There are many kinds of hina ningyo doll displays: the simplest consists of just a single stage with 2 dolls while some of the most elaborate will have 7 tiers rising up like a flight of steps with 15 dolls. On the top tier, sits the Odairi-sama (emperor) and Ohinasama (empress) sitting together in front of a golden folding screen and other tiers of dolls of different roles and various kinds of miniature furniture and fittings are presented. Hina ningyo doll sets are not something that small children play with but are considered valuable art crafts.

Recommended Hina Matsuri Events in Kyoto
Mar. 3

Nagashi Bina at Shimogamo Shrine

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

From 10:00, after a ceremony, people, including ladies dressed up in traditional Heianperiod costumes, release small hina dolls made of straw on a stream in the precinct to pray for the health of their children; Access: Kyoto City Bus #205, get off at Shimogamo-jinja-mae; www.shimogamo-jinja.or.jp

Hina Matsuri Festival at Ichihime Shrine

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

People dressed up in the Heian-period costume arrange themselves like the dolls on a traditional tiered hina ningyo doll set; A dance performance, juni hitoe dressing demonstration and tea service will also be held (13:00-16:00); 1,000 yen; Access: Kyoto City Bus #17, 205, get off at Kawaramachi Shomen; ichihime.net

March's Top-picked Events 3

Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatouro2019
March 8 (Fri.) - 17 (Sun.)
18:00-21:30 (rain-or-shine event)

The Higashiyama area in Kyoto is a tourists’ mecca in all seasons. Furthermore, during the nights of March, the region shows you a different facet thanks to the Higashiyama Hanatouro.

The event invites you to enjoy a relaxing and romantic stroll. Approximately 2,500 lanterns decorate the 5-km walking path leading to the foothills of the Higashiyama Mountain including Shoren-in Temple, Maruyama Park, Yasaka Shrine and Kiyomizu Temple.

Soft lights that reflect off the stone pavement and shimmer amongst the trees are too beautiful to describe. The abundant ikebana arrangements together with paper lanterns welcome you to an enchanting world. Why don't you explore the beauty of Higashiyama at night?

Visit Higashiyama Hanatouro website for the event highlights: www.hanatouro.jp/e/

Until Mar. 22
Weeping Plum Blossoms and Camellia Festival

At Jonan-gu Shrine; In the shrine's vast Rakusui-en garden, more than 150 weeping plum trees create a beautiful contrast of red and white; Also 300 camellia trees will be in bloom.

600 yen; 9:00-16:00; Kyoto City Bus Minami #1, 2, 3 from Subway Karasuma Line, Takeda Stn. to Jonangu Higashi-guchi; www.jonangu.com

Mar. 2 & 3
Washoku Festival

At Nishi Hongan-ji Temple; Designated as the World Heritage, Washoku, or Japanese cuisine is a superb culture of Japan; An array of forms of traditional Japanese dishes from Kyoto and other areas (Awaji, Wakasa and Shima) will come together.

10:00-16:00; A 10-min. walk from Kyoto Station; washoku-kyoto.jp

From Mar. 10
Hozu River Boat Ride

On Hozu River; March 10th is the first day of spring when this exiting river ride restarts; The boat 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 9:00 and 15:30 (7 services).

4,100 yen, 2,700 yen (4-12 years old); An 8-min. walk from the north exit of JR Sagano Line Kameoka Stn.; Hozugawa Yusen Association: www.hozugawakudari.jp

Mar. 1 - April 3
Japanese Doll Exhibition

At Hokyo-ji Temple; A girl's celebration, the Hina Matsuri Ceremony, will be held from 11:00-11:30 on March 1; An array of different kinds of Japanese dolls from different periods and from small sized to life-sized will be displayed.

600 yen; 10:00-16:00 (entry until 15:30; from 12:00 on Mar. 1); Kyoto City Bus #9, get off at Horikawa Teranouchi; www.hokyoji.net

Mar. 2 - May 15
Spring Special Opening ''Flower Ceiling''

At Hiraoka Hachiman-gu Shrine; This shrine was built by Kobo Daishi Kukai in 809 as a guardian deity for the Jingo-ji Temple; The ceiling of the main hall is adorned with 44 colorful flower paintings from the Edo period (1603-1868).

800 yen; 10:00-16:00 (enter by 15:30); JR Bus Hiraoka Hachiman.

Mar. 3, 10, 16, 17, 24, 31
Dance Show by Maiko or Geiko

At Fureaikan Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts; Dance performance by an authentic maiko (apprentice of geiko) or geiko depending on the day; 3 shows at 14:00, 14:30, 15:00 (each show lasts about 15 min.).

Free of charge; Kyoto City Bus #5, #100, get off at Okazakikoen Bijutsukan Heian Jingu-mae; kmtc.jp

Mar. 9
Amagoi Festival

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

At Kifune Shrine; After offering sacred water and food to the deity at 10:00, a Shinto priest will purify the shrine grounds with sacred water; The God of Rain is worshiped and people pray for a good autumn harvest.

Kyoto City Bus #17, get off at Demachiyanagi-eki-mae and take the Eizan Railway to Kibune-guchi Stn. (then walk for 30 min. to the shrine); kifunejinja.jp

Mar. 9 - 17
Plum Viewing Party

At Shozan Resort Kyoto; Shozan Resort is located in the tranquil Takagamine area in the northern part of the city; Special lunch featuring plum blossom, matcha green tea served by maiko (11:00-14:30), and kimono exhibition.

10:30-14:30; From 5,400 yen for lunch courses; From Kitaoji Bus Terminal, take the Kita (north) #1 and get off at Kita Konohanacho; www.shozan.co.jp

Mar. 9 & 23
Sake Tasting Night at Kyomachiya Ryokan Sakura Urushitei/Honganji

The host, Mr. Davidson, will lead participants into the unknown Sake World and share ideas on how to enjoy tasting sake to its utmost.

2,000 yen; 18:00-19:00; Reservation required; 9th at Sakura Urushitei; Email: sakura@urushitei.jp ; 23rd at Sakura Honganji; Email: culture@kyotoryokan-sakura.com

Mar. 10
Geino Jotatsu Kigan Festival

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

At Kokuzo Horin-ji Temple; Special ceremony starts from 13:00; A kyogen theatre performance by the Shigeyama Chuzaburo Family will also be held; The deity of this shrine is the God of Arts and many people visit the temple to pray for the improvement of their art and performance skills.

Kyoto City Bus #28, get off at Arashiyama Koen; www.kokuzohourinji.com

Mar. 13
Ogoma Memorial Service

At Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hiei; At Minemichi Square located in the Saito area, a special ceremony to pray for world peace and people's happiness will be held by making a big fire; Sweet sake will be offered free of charge.

10:00-14:00; Take Hiei-zan Drive Bus from Kyoto Stn., Keihan Sanjo or Demachiyanagi, get off at Enryakuji Bus Center; www.hieizan.or.jp

Mar. 14, 15 & April 3
Seiryu-e Dragon Performance

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

At Kiyomizu Temple; Seiryu-e or the Blue Dragon Festival was created to honor Seiryu, one of four divine god beasts said to guard Kyoto's borders against encroaching misfortune and disaster. Seiryu is in charge of the eastern border, and so Kiyomizu-dera, nestled at the base of the eastern Higashiyama mountain range, is considered its base of operations.

Considering Seiryu one of the incarnations of Kannon, people form a dynamic procession with a 18-meter long figure of the blue dragon leading the way that starts out from the temple and parades around the neighborhood praying for regional peace and expelling bad luck. The famous costume designer Emi Wada designed the large, sutracovered dragon that claims the spotlight during this festival.

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

Mar. 15
Saga Dai Nenbutsu Kyogen & Otaimatsu Fire Ritual

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

At Seiryo-ji Temple; Together with the Nehan-e ceremony, a massive otaimatsu torch lighting ritual will be held from around 20:00.

400 yen; Kyoto Bus #71, 72, get off at Saga Shakado-mae; seiryoji.or.jp

Mar. 17

At Daisen-in Temple in Daitoku-ji Temple precincts; A memorial event for the monk Kokei who was a close friend of Sen no Rikyu, the founder of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony; A matcha green tea service (9:30-15:30).

400 yen; (matcha green tea: 1,000 yen); Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Daitokuji-mae; daisen-in.net

Mar. 20 - May 25
Spring Special Opening of Temple Treasure House

At To-ji Temple; Famous temple headquarters exhibits its Mikkyo (esoteric Buddhist) mandala art; Temple’s treasury hall will be open to the public; From Mar. 16 to April 14, special night-time light-up will be held (18:30-21:30).

500 yen (Treasury Hall); 9:00-17:00 (enter by 16:30); Kintetsu Kyoto Line ''To-ji'' or Kyoto City Bus #16, 17, 42, 78, get off at Toji Nanmon-mae; www.toji.or.jp

Mar. 21 - 24
Temple Special Opening

At Rokudo Chinno-ji Temple; One of the temple treasures paintings will be open for viewing by the public for the first time and other valuable treasures will also be exhibited.

600 yen; 9:00-16:00; Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Kiyomizu-michi; www.rokudou.jp

Mar. 21 - April 14
Sakura Festival

At Nijo Castle; Approx. 300 sakura cherry trees of 50 varieties fill the castle site and welcome people almost for a whole month; The castle will be specially opened during the night time and its massive castle structures will be illuminated.

600 yen; Daytime 8:45-16:00, Nighttime 18:00-21:00; Kyoto City Bus #9, 50, 101, get off at Nijojo-mae.

Mar. 25 - April 7
Kitano Odori

At Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theatre; An annual dance performance by the maiko and geiko of the Kamishichiken district.

4,800 yen with matcha green tea, 4,300 yen without tea; From 13:30 & 16:00; Kyoto City Bus #50, 101, get off at Kitano Tenmangu-mae; www.maiko3.com

Mar. 29 - 31
Kyoto Antique Fair

At Pulse Plaza; The largest antique market in western Japan; More than 350 antique dealers will gather from all over Japan offering over 1.5 million Japanese and western antique goods.

10:00-17:00 (until 16:00 on the last day); Take Kyoto City Bus Minami #1, 2, 3 from Subway Takeda Stn. and get off at Pulse Plaza-mae; Free shuttle bus service from Takeda Stn.

Mar. 31
Hanezu Odori Dance and Plum Blossom Viewing

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

At Zuishin-in Temple; This temple is famous for its plum garden; Children in faint pink traditional costumes sing and dance in this celebrated annual performance of the Hanezu Odori.

1,000 yen; Dance from 11:00 (3-4 performances between 11:00 and 16:30); Subway Tozai line, Ono Stn.; www.zuishinin.or.jp

Temple & Shrine Flea Markets


Mar. 3
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.

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

Mar. 15
Chion-ji Temple: Kyoto's biggest handicraft market; An absolutely amazing range of handmade items and incredible prices too!; 8:00-16:00.

Mar. 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; 8:00-16:00.

Mar. 23
Kyoto Okazaki Marche: Strictly selected authentic handmade goods will be sold at the open space of Tsutaya bookshop in the Okazaki area; 11:00-17:00.

Mar. 24
Kamigamo Shrine: Handicrafts, arts, food, and more; 9:00-16:00

Mar. 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.

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