Top 5 Autumn Illuminations: Kyoto

Japan is one of the countries that four beautiful seasons, all unique with different scenery and foods to go along with each. Personally, my favourite season in Japan is autumn because all covered leaves are absolutely stunning! There are many places in Japan to view these coloured leaves, but the old capital of Kyoto is one of the best places to go to if you want to see some gorgeous autumn foliage.

A unique way to view the autumn foliage is to experience the many illumination events. Illumination events occur all throughout the year, but the autumn illumination is hands down one of the best ones to see! As Kyoto is home to various temples, shrines, and lush forestry, the city puts on various illuminations (or “light app” as they like to call it in Japanese) during the autumn when the leaves turn gorgeous shades of colours.

For your enjoyment, below are the top 5 illuminations taking place in Kyoto in no particular order:


November 11th to December 4th; 17:30 to 20:00

One of my all-time favourite temples in Kyoto an absolutely stunning bring the light-ups, Eikando Zenrinji is one of the most famous spots to visit for autumn leaves. If you want to see some amazing colours and scenery, this is the place to be! It also is home to a very famous wooden sculpture of Amida-nyorai, the Buddha of eternal light and life.

The cost to enter is ¥600.


November 12th to December 4th; 18:30 to 21:30

One of the most famous temples in Japan, Kiyomizu-dera puts on an amazing illumination each year. The temple is in the south-eastern part of Kyoto called Higashiyama, amongst the mountain foliage, which gives it a breath-taking view and serene atmosphere all year round. The scenery of the temple changes throughout the year; from cherry blossoms in spring, azaleas and hydrangeas in summer, maple leaves in the autumn, and a stunning snowscape in winter. The temple also boasts a wonderful view of the cityscape against a backdrop of the lit-up leaves. Be warned though—the temple gets very crowded due to how famous it is!

The cost to enter is ¥400.


October 21th ~ December 11th; From sunset to 21:30

Nene, the wife of one of Japan’s greatest military generals, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, founded this temple in remembrance of her husband upon his death. It is designed to be a serene environment with a beautiful garden in which visitors can relax. Throughout the years, much of the original architecture has survived, which makes it a great place to enjoy the local history.

The cost to enter is ¥600.


October 28th to December 4th; 18:00 to 21:30

Shoren-in is well known for the head priests Descending from the Japanese Royal family for generations. It is also quite famous for the statue of Fudomyo-o, which is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of the Heian era. The light up at Shoren-in is spectacular, with the moss gardens lit up with small blue LED lights, which gives off the feeling of looking up into a starry sky.

The cost to enter is ¥800.


November 11th to December 4th; 17:30 to 20:00

Daikaku-ji was built in the early 800’s, as the detached palace of Emperor Saga. Emperor Saga was well known for enjoying spending his time in nature. Inside the temple is the Osawa Pond, a 1200-year-old manmade pond, right next to the main temple. It is the oldest and last surviving example of the traditional Shinden style garden.

The cost to enter is ¥500.

Whether you are only in Kyoto for a short time or a local, these 5 autumn light apps are a must see! Be sure to check the times these will run for, as most will be gone the last weekend of December.

Article originally published on Izanau, Dec 4, 2016. Edited from original version.


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