May Event Highlights
*Time, dates and information of the events are subject to change.
An elegant procession from the picturesque Heian period
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 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.
*The festival will be postponed in the case of rain.
Important Pre-festival Events
Kurabe Uma-e Ashizoroe Ceremony
May 1; Kamigamo Shrine
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.
May 3; Shimogamo Shrine
From 13:00, riders dressed in traditional costumes shoot arrows at a traget while galloping at full speed.
Saio-dai Misogi Purification Ritual
May 4; Shimogamo Shrine
From 10:00, the Saio-dai (reigning festival queen) is chosen, and then she and her 50 servants will have a sacred purification ritual.
May 5; Shimogamo Shrine
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.
Kamo Kurabe Uma
May 5; Kamigamo Shrine
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.
May 12; Shimogamo Shrine
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.
Mar. 30-May 6
Okazaki Cherry Blossom Viewing Boat Ride
This traditional water tour, on one of two small boats, will take visitors along a canal route that is famous for cherry blossom 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 30 min.); 1,000 yen; Access: Tozai subway line, Keage Stn.; Tel: 075-321-7696; kyoto-tabi.or.jp/jikkokufune.html
Until May 12
Ohara-me Festival in the Ohara Area
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; Free of charge; 10:00-14:00): May 11: Ohara-me procession: 13:00-15:00 (postponed until May 12, in the case of rain); Access: Kyoto Bus #17, 18, get off at Ohara; Ohara Hosho-kai: Tel: 075-744-2148; kyoto-ohara-kankouhosyoukai.net/
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; 8,400 yen (lecture and machiya visit + special meal + tea ceremony), 3,150 yen (lecture and machiya visit + tea ceremony) and other plans are available; 11:00-13:00; Access: Kyoto City Bus #9, get off at Ichijo Modoribashi; Tel: 075-432-6701; www.tondaya.co.jp/
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/
Shinsen-en Kyogen at Shinsen-en Temple
The kyogen plays performed at Shinsen-en Temple are based on the Mibu kyogen style; Different play, from around 30 plays in total, will be performed each day; May 1st & 2nd: from 13:30 to 18:00; May 3rd & 4th: from 13:30 to 18:00, from 19:00 to 21:30; Access: Kyoto City Bus #9, 50, get off at Horikawa Oike, subway Tozai line, Nijojo-mae Stn.; Tel: 075-821-1466; www.shinsenen.org
Senbon Enma-do Nenbutsu Kyogen at Senbon Enma-do Temple
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; Admission free; May 1st & 2nd from 19:00; May 3rd & 4th from 13:00, and from 18:00; Access: Kyoto City Bus #206, get off at Senbon Kuramaguchi; Tel: 075-462-3332; yenmado.jp/
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); Access: Kyoto City Bus #5, get off at Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae; Kyoto Antique Book Association: Tel: 075-231-2971; www1.kcn.ne.jp/~kosho/koshoken/
Fujinomori Festival at Fujinomori Shrine
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; Access: JR Nara line, Fujinomori Stn.; Tel: 075-641-1045; www.fujinomorijinjya.or.jp/
Kamogawa Odori at Pontocho Kaburenjo Theatre
The maiko and geiko of Pontocho will perform their annual elegant spring dance and show; Tickets: \4,500 (special seats with tea service), 4,000 yen (special seats), 2,000 yen (general seats); Show times: 12:30, 14:20, 16:10; Access: Kyoto City Bus #205, get off at Kawaramachi Sanjo; Pontocho Kabu-kai: Tel: 075-221-2025; www1.odn.ne.jp/~adw58490/
Inari Festival at Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine
The shrine's mikoshi portable shrine is carried from the otabisho near Nishikujo back to 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; Access: JR Inari Stn. or Keihan Fushimi Inari Stn.; Tel: 075-641-7331; inari.jp
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 sencha green tea as well as the Ninomaru Palace (National Treasure) and garden; 2,000 yen (entry to the castle and tea ceremony); 8:45-17:00; Access: Kyoto City Bus #9, get off at Nijojo-mae or subway Nijojo-mae Stn.; Tel: 075-841-0096; www.city.kyoto.jp/bunshi/nijojo/
English Rakugo by Sayohime
Rakugo is a 400-year-old form of comedic Japanese storytelling that is still popular today; Sayohime will present a fun and interesting Rakugo performance in English, as well as an introduction to Rakugo and a workshop; 1,000 yen; 14:00-15:00 at Shijo Kyomachiya; Reservations recommended: email@example.com; www.ac.auone-net.jp/~sayohime/
Kanko Festival at Matsuno-o Grand Shrine
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 18:00); Access: Kyoto City Bus #28, get off at Matsuno-o Taisha-mae; Tel: 075-871-5016; www.matsunoo.or.jp/
Mifune Festival in Arashiyama
At 14:00 on this day, 30 boats carrying imperial costumed participants move up the Oi River; This is the annual festival of Kurumazaki Shrine; It started about 1,100 years ago when Emperor Uda staged luxurious boat outings in this area; Shinko Festival at Kurumazaki Shrine at 12:00; The procession begins at 13:00; Boat entertainment: 14:00-15:30; Access: Kyoto City Bus #28, get off at Nakanoshima-koen, Kyoto Bus #71, 72, 73, get off at Kurumazaki-jinja-mae; Tel: 075-861-0039; www.kurumazakijinja.or.jp/
May 19 & 26
Saga Festival at Nonomiya Shrine & Atago Shrine
On the 19th, mikoshi portable shrines are lined up in the precinct of Seiryo-ji Temple; On the 26th, 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); Access to the Otabisho: Kyoto City Bus #28, get off at Saga Shakado-mae; Tel: 090-6240-7000 (Saga Festival Association); www.nonomiya.com/
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; Access: Eizan Kurama Stn.; Tel: 075-741-2003.
June 1 & 2
Takigi Noh Night-time Performance at Heian Shrine
Kyoto's Takigi Noh theatre performances are one of the city's most popular events; On both days, three major Noh schools (Kanze, Kongo, Okura) will perform these slow-moving, mysterious plays on a special fire-lit, outdoor stage set up in Heian Shrine; Tickets: 4,000 yen; From 17:30 (the gates open from 16:30); The event will be postponed in the case of rain; Access: Kyoto City Bus #5, get off at Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae; Tel: 075-771-6114 (Kyoto Takigi Noh Office).
Temple & Shrine Flea Markets
May 5, 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.
Kyoto City Hall: A big public flea market; 10:00-17:00.
May 8, Wed.
Toyokuni Shrine: A very small market of local products; 10:00-15:00.
May 12, Sun.
Bishamon-do in Kennin-ji Temple: Known as Tora-ichi, this market specializes in handicrafts & arts; 10:00-16:00.
May 15, Wed.
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, Tues.
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 25, Sat.
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 26, Sun
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.