Home > Kyoto Annual Events - Current Events

May 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 1

An elegant procession from the picturesque Heian period
Aoi Festival
May 15 Sun.
*The festival will be postponed in the case of rain.

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

The Aoi Festival is one of the three largest festivals in Kyoto and is an important annual festival of both Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine. The festival's official name is the Kamo Festival and it was started in the mid 6th century when Emperor Kinmei ordered a ceremonial festival to end a serious famine. Aoi are the hollyhock leaves which decorate everything in the procession from the costumes of participants to the cows pulling the carts.

The highlight of the festival is the huge, elegant procession that departs from the Kyoto Imperial Palace and proceeds to Kamigamo Shrine via Shimogamo Shrine (on May 15th). People dressed in Heianperiod classic costumes parade through the city. The procession consists of over 500 people, about 40 horses, 4 oxen and two oxcarts.

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

Access: Kyoto Imperial Palace: Marutamachi subway station; Shimogamo Shrine: Kyoto City Bus #205, Shimogamojinja-mae; Kamigamo Shrine: Kyoto City Bus #9, Kamigamo Misonobashi.

Kyoto Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho) 10:30-----Marutamachi-dori----- Kawaramachi-dori-----Shimogamo Shrine (Arrival: 11:40; Leaving: 14:20) -----Kamigamo Shrine (Arrival: 15:30) *Time stated above will be sometimes a little behind schedule.

Aoi Festival viewing seat ticket is available at Kyoto Tourist Information Center (KYO Navi & Kyoto City Tourism Association). 2,050 yen for a reserved seat in Kyoto Imperial Park & Shimogamo Shrine. 3,500 yen for a reserved seat with English earphone guide (Imperial Park only); *Ticket is not refundable as the festival is postponed in case of rain.

Important Pre-festival Events

At Kamigamo Shrine
May 1
Kamokurabe Uma-e Ashizoroe

Ceremony: From 13:00, prior to the Kurabe Uma Shinji on the 5th, the condition of the horses are checked and the race line up for the event on the 5th is decided.

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

May 4
Saio-dai Misogi Purification Ritual

From 10:00, the Saio-dai (reigning festival queen) is chosen, and then she and her 50 servants will have a sacred purification ritual.

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

May 5
Kamo Kurabe Uma

From 10:00, this ritual originated in the Imperial court; During the ritual, horses for the festival are purified, and pairs of horses compete for speed.

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

At Shimogamo Shrine
May 3
Yabusame Shinji

From 13:00, riders dressed in traditional costumes shoot arrows at a traget while galloping at full speed.

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

May 5
Busha Shinji

From 11:00, this ancient ritual takes place before the main festival; Priests use bows and arrows to ward off evil spirits; Other arrow shooting rituals are also held.

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

May 12
Mikage Festival

From 9:30, the sacred spirit of this festival is welcomed to Shimogamo Shrine prior to the main festival; At 16:00, elegant Japanese dance and music is performed.

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

Pick Up Event 2

April 28–May 9
Tentative public opening of the Kyoto State Guest House

The Kyoto State Guest House opened its doors in 2005 as a place which welcomes important international guests. Though it is not open to the public in general, the four salons used for official ceremonies and the main garden will be opened to the public tentatively, considering as a highly important contribution for tourism in Japan. The buildings and interior have a sophisticated appearance created by highly skilled traditional artisans representing Kyoto. This will be a special occasion to appreciate an atmosphere filled with supreme Japanese beauty.

*Tickets with entry times printed (admit only one person) will be distributed from 9:00, in front of the West Gate, on a firstcome first-serve basis.
*There will be seven dispatch timings per day: Starts at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00.
*Admission free (age 13 or older)
*Entering with children or pets are not allowed.
*For more info: www8.cao.go.jp/geihinkan/kyoto/koukai-kyoto_e.html
*Due to sudden scheduling of a visit of dignitaries, etc., public openings may be suspended, which will be announced on the home page without delay.

Every Day
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 Sagano Line, Saga Arashiyama Stn.; Sagano Kanko Tetsudo: Tel: 075-861-7444; https://www.sagano-kanko.co.jp/

Every Day
Hozugawa Kudari River Run

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

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 9:00-15:30 (the last boat departs at 15:30). *Operated irregularly on Sat., Sun., National holidays.

Tickets: 4,100 yen, 2,700 yen (4-12 years old); 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

May 1-4
Senbon Enma-do Nenbutsu Kyogen at Senbon Enma-do Temple

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

This is one of the three greatest nenbutsu kyogen performances in Kyoto; Kyogen is a traditional comic play which was originally started as a method of prevailing Buddhist to the public; May 1st & 2nd from 19:00; May 3rd & 4th from 13:00, and from 18:00.

No entry fee; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Senbon Kuramaguchi; Tel: 075-462-3332; yenmado.blogspot.jp

May 1-5
Spring Antique Book Fair at Miyako Messe

This is one of the largest indoor antique book fairs in Japan; All kinds of books (classics, academic books, art books, novels, paperbacks, etc.) will be sold by about 40 book shops from Kyoto, Nara, Osaka and Okayama; 10:00-16:45 (until 16:00 on the last day).

No entry fee; Access: Kyoto City Bus #5, get off at Okazaki Koen/Bijutsukan Heian Jingu-mae; Kyoto Antique Book Association: Tel: 075-231-2971.

May 1-5
Fujinomori Festival at Fujinomori Shrine

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

On the 5th, several traditional events will be held (including a procession featuring traditional costumes); Kake Uma Shinji, held from 13:00 and 15:00, is a great display of acrobatic horse riding techniques that were used in traditional battles.

No entry fee; Access: JR Nara line, Fujinomori Stn.; Tel: 075-641-1045; www.fujinomorijinjya.or.jp

May 1-24
Kamogawa Odori at Pontocho Kaburenjo Theatre

The maiko and geiko of Pontocho will perform their annual elegant spring dance and show; Show times: 12:30, 14:20, 16:10.

Tickets: 4,800 yen (special seats with tea service), 4,200 yen (special seats), 2,300 yen (general seats); Access: Kyoto City Bus #205, get off at Kawaramachi Sanjo; Pontocho Kabu-kai: Tel: 075-221-2025; www.kamogawa-odori.com

May 3
Inari Festival at Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine

The shrine's mikoshi portable shrine is carried from the otabisho near Nishikujo back to the Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine; The procession proceeds along various routes including Omiya, Gojo and Takeda-kaido streets; The Kanko-sai Festival will be held from 16:00, after the mikoshi and procession arrive at the shrine.

No entry fee; Access: JR Inari Stn. or Keihan Fushimi Inari Stn.; Tel: 075-641-7331; inari.jp

May 3-5
Citizen Tea Party at Nijo Castle

In the beautiful Seiryu-en Garden, traditional tea ceremony will be hosted by two different schools; This is a great opportunity to enjoy green tea as well as see the Ninomaru Palace (National Treasure) and garden.

Tickets: 2,000 yen (entry to the castle and tea ceremony); 10:00-15:00; Access: Kyoto City Bus #9, get off at Nijojo-mae or Subway Tozai Line, Nijojo-mae Stn.; Tel: 075-841-0096; www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp/bunshi/nijojo

Until May 8
Okazaki Fresh Greenery Viewing Boat Ride

This traditional water tour, on one of two small boats, will take visitors along a canal route that is famous for fresh greenery viewing; These special tour boats depart from the Nanzen-ji Temple boat pier (in front of Biwako Sosui Memorial Museum); 29 boat tours each day, between 9:30 and 16:30 (boat departs every 15-60 min.).

Tickets: 1,200 yen; Access to the boat pier: Subway Tozai Line, Keage Stn.; Tel: 075-321-7696; kyoto-tabi.or.jp

May 8
Yamakage Shrine Annual Festival

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

Situated in the precinct of Yoshida Shrine, the unusual festival is held to thank the ancestral god of cooking, eating and drinking. The ceremony is very unique that raw fish is cut using only knives and chopsticks (without being directly touched by hand) can be seen.

No entry fee; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Kyo-dai Seimon-mae; Tel: 075-771-3788 (Yoshida Shrine); www.yoshidajinja.com

Until May 8
Ohara-me Festival in the Ohara Area

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

The Ohara-me Festival is held every year in the village of Ohara, a little northeast of Kyoto; The village is intimately connected to classical Japanese history and literature; Ohara-me costume experience (reservations required; kimono dressing; 1,000 yen; 10:00-14:00).

No entry fee; Access: Kyoto Bus #17, 18, get off at Ohara; Ohara Hosho-kai: Tel: 075-744-2148; kyoto-ohara-kankouhosyoukai.net

May 15
Kanko Festival at Matsuno-o Grand Shrine

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

The shrine halls, mikoshi portable shrines and costumes of the shrine priests and other participants will be decorated with aoi (hollyhock) leaves so that this festival is also called ''Aoi Festival in Matsuo''; The 6 mikoshi are carried out from the nearby shrine hall at 12:00 and the procession goes to the main shrine hall (around 19:45).

No entry fee; Access: Kyoto City Bus #28, get off at Matsuo Taisha-mae; Tel: 075-871-5016; www.matsunoo.or.jp

May 15 & 22
Saga Festival at Nonomiya Shrine & Atago Shrine

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

On the 15th, mikoshi portable shrines are lined up in the precinct of Seiryo-ji Temple; On the 22nd, the mikoshi floats, and a child procession parade through the neighborhood; Departure from the Otabisho (10:00) - Daikaku-ji Temple (12:00) - Arashiyama (14:30) - Otabisho (17:00).

No entry fee; Access to the Otabisho: Kyoto City Bus #28, get off at Saga Shakado-mae; Tel: 090-6240-7000 (Saga Festival Association); www.nonomiya.com

May 21
Uesaku Festival at Kurama Temple

On the night of the full moon in May, many Buddhist priests and members of the viewing crowd will pray to the deity for world peace (from 19:00); A number of open-air fires in the precinct create a luminous scene; This festival has been held for many centuries and is similar to certain Himalayan festivals and other special festivals held southeast Asian Buddhist countries.

Entry: 300 yen; Access: Eizan Railways, Kurama Stn.; Tel: 075-741-2003; www.kuramadera.or.jp

Until May 31
Machiya Visit at Tondaya

Tondaya is an exquisite cultural facility where people can learn about and enjoy Kyoto traditional lifestyle forms; May 5th is boy's day, the traditional day to celebrate boy's healthy growth; At Tondaya, traditional samurai dolls for the festival will be displayed in their large historical machiya house.

Entry: 2,000 yen (machiya visit and instruction; tax not included); Reservations required; 10:00-17:00; many other plans available; Access: Kyoto City Bus #9, get off at Ichijo Modoribashi/Seimei Jinja-mae; Tel: 075-432-6701; www.tondaya.co.jp

Temple & Shrine Flea Markets

May 1
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.

May 8
Bishamon-do in Kennin-ji Temple: Known as Tora-ichi, this market specializes in handicrafts & arts; 10:00-16:00.

May 8, 18, 2
Toyokuni Shrine: A very small market of local products; 10:00-15:00.

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

May 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.

May 22
Kamigamo Shrine: Handicrafts, arts, food, and more; 9:00-16:00.

May 22
Kyoto City Hall: A big public flea market; 10:00-17:00; In case of rain, it will be postponed to Feb. 14.

May 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.