Home > Kyoto Annual Events - Current Events

May Event Highlights
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

*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 began in the mid-6th century when Emperor Kinmei ordered a ceremonial festival to be held in an attempt to end a serious famine. Aoi are the hollyhock leaves which decorate everything in the procession from the costumes of participants to the oxen 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 Heian period classic costumes parade through the city. The procession consists of over 500 people, about 40 horses, 4 oxen and two oxcarts.

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

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

The Procession Route and Estimated Time

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 is checked and the race line up for the event on the 5th is decided.

© 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 target while galloping at full speed.

© 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 undergo a sacred purification ritual.

© 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)

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 the case of rain.

Pick Up Event 2

Spectacular Festival with Huge 100 Man Mikoshi Parade
Imamiya Shrine's Annual Festival
Imamiya Festival - This is very much a community-based festival in the Nishijin area of the city, held for ten days, starting with the Shinko-sai and ending with the Kanko-sai. The festival's highlight is a spectacular scene of 100 men carrying the mikoshi portable shrine, which is said to be the largest and heaviest in Kyoto. The Nishijin area will be filled with excited locals enjoying the festive atmosphere.

© Imamiya Shrine

Imamiya Shrine is located in Murasakino, in the northwestern part of the city. The shrine is said to have been established even before Kyoto became the national capital in 794. The capital was named Heian-kyo, or ''the capital of eternal peace'' and although the city prospered, many people suffered from diseases and disasters often, too. To keep these bad omen away, special protective rituals or goryo-e were held at various sites in Kyoto, including Yasaka Shrine and Shinsen-en Temple. Imamiya Shrine is one such place to have held goryo-e.

© Imamiya Shrine

In 994, people transferred the spirits of the deity into the two mikoshi portable shrines and enshrined them on Mt. Funaoka in order to pray for the peace of the capital. This is considered the first goryo-e in the Murasakino region, and is the origin of Imamiya Festival today. In 1001, the spirits of the deities were brought back to the original place, where three shrine halls were newly constructed and the finished structures are now known as the Imamiya Shrine.

© Imamiya Shrine

The festival starts with the preparation of the mikoshi portable shrine on May 1st. The Shinko-sai Festival takes place on the 5th; and the Kanko-sai Festival will be held on the closest Sunday to the 15th. The mikoshi portable shrine will be stowed away on the 19th when the festival reaches its end.

Festival Highlight
May 5
Shinko-sai Festival
(Imamiya Shrine>>>Otabisho)

Dynamic mikoshi carrying by men, cow carriage and hoko (float), girl's in traditional costume join the parade.

10:00: Mikoshi will be carried from the front shrine of the Imamiya Shrine; Around 12:00: Girl's traditional dance will be held in front of the main hall of Imamiya Shrine; 13:00: Departing Imamiya Shrine; From Senbon Kitaoji, the parade will head east along Kitaoji; Around 13:30: Mikoshi will make a turn towards the Otabisho at Kitaoji Omiya intersection; 16:00: Mikoshi procession reaches the Otabisho.

May 14
Kanko-sai Festival
(Otabisho>>>Imamiya Shrine) The parade starts at Otabisho and comes back to Imamiya shrine.

11:30: The girl's traditional dance offered to the deity will be held on the Noh stage at Otabisho; Noon: The mikoshi will be carried from main hall at Otabisho; 13:00: Depart Otabisho starting from Omiya Teranouchi, the procession heads back to Imamiya Shrine; 16:30: Kangyo-sai (heading back to the main shrine) ceremony will be held at Goku-sho; 17:30-19:00: Taka-mikoshi passing through Senbon and Omiya-mikoshi passing through Omiya, then procession finally reaches Imamiya Shrine. *The time stated above is when the main parade passes; The procession time may be delayed.

Fee: Admission free; Access: Kyoto City Bus #46, get off at Imamiya Jinjamae; *Otabisho is located a 3-min. walk from Daitokuji-mae bus stop; Tel: 075-491-0082; www.imamiyajinja.org

Don't forget to try the Aburi-mochi sweet dumpling in front of the Imamiya Shrine!

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 National 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 Boat Ride

© 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 with rapids and 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

April 28 - May 15
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).

Admission free; Access: Kyoto Bus #17, 18, get off at Ohara; Ohara Hosho-kai: Tel: 075-744-2148; kyoto-ohara-kankouhosyoukai.net

Until May 7
Spring Boat Ride in Okazaki

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 park (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 park: Subway Tozai Line, Keage Stn.; Tel: 075-321-7696; kyoto-tabi.or.jp/events/jkkfn/_en

May 1-4
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 originally started as a way of spreading Buddhist teachings to the general public; May 1st & 2nd from 19:00; May 3rd & 4th from 13:00, and from 18:00.

Admission free; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Senbon Kurama-guchi; 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).

Admission free; Access: Kyoto City Bus #5, get off at Okazaki Koen/Bijutsukan Heian Jingu-mae; Kyoto Antique Book Association: Tel: 075-574-1897.

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.

Admission free; 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 2-4
Shinsen-en Kyogen at Shinsen-en Temple

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

Different plays from around 30 plays in total will be performed each day; Buddhist chanting ceremony from 14:00 and Japanese taiko drum ceremony from 19:30 on the 2nd; Japanese traditional gagaku music played on a boat from 16:00 and a traditional dance by women from 18:30 on the 3rd; Japanese Gion Bayashi music played on a boat from 15:00 and from 19:00 at the main hall on the 4th.

Admission free; Access: Kyoto City Bus #9, 50, get off at Horikawa Oike or Tozai Subway Line, Nijojo-mae Stn.; Tel: 075-821-1466; www.shinsenen.org

May 3
Inari Kanko-sai Festival at Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

The shrine's mikoshi portable shrine is carried from the otabisho near Nishikujo back to the Fushimi Inari Taisha 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.

Admission free; Access: JR Inari Stn. or Keihan Fushimi Inari Stn.; Tel: 075-641-7331; inari.jp

May 3-5
Citizen's 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 2 tea ceremonies); 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

May 8
Yamakage Shrine Annual Festival

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

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

Admission free; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Kyo-dai Seimon-mae; Tel: 075-771-3788 (Yoshida Shrine); www.yoshidajinja.com

May 10
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 in southeast Asian Buddhist countries.

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

May 13 & 27
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.

Tickets: 2,000 yen; 18:00-19:00; Reservation required; 13th: at Sakura Urushitei; Email: kyototourlounge@kyotoinnandtour.com ; 27th at Sakura Honganji; Email: culture@kyoto-ryokan-sakura.com

May 14
Kanko-sai Festival at Matsuno-o Taisha 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 proceeds to the main shrine hall (around 19:45).

Admission free; Access: Kyoto City Bus #28, get off at Matsuno-o Taisha-mae; Tel: 075-871-5016; www.matsunoo.or.jp

May 21 & 28
Saga Festival at Nonomiya Shrine & Atago Shrine

© Takayoshi Horiuchi (Staff for one)

On the 21st, mikoshi portable shrines are lined up in the precinct of Seiryo-ji Temple; On the 28th, the mikoshi floats and a children's procession parade through the neighborhood; Departure from the Otabisho (10:00) - Daikaku-ji Temple (12:00) - Arashiyama (14:30) - Otabisho (17:00).

Admission free; Access to the Otabisho: Kyoto City Bus #28, get off at Saga Shakado-mae; Tel: 090-6240-7000 (Saga Festival Association); www.nonomiya.com

Temple & Shrine Flea Markets


May 7
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 7 & 20
Kyoto City Hall: A big public flea market; In case of rain, it will be postponed to April 23; 10:00-17:00.

May 8, 18, 28
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; 8:00-16:00.

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.

May 27
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.

May 28
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.