Kyoto is home to countless festivals and events throughout the year. Every March, the already gorgeous streets of the Higashiyama district are illuminated with lanterns and there are a series of events based around the theme of ‘flowers and lights’ that take place throughout the area.
This series of events is called Hanatouro (花灯路). The events are fairly recent, having only started in the Spring of 2003, but has since become a new tradition to welcome spring into Kyoto. Kyoto-ites have welcomed it into their normal culture and flock to the street of Higashiyama and Gion every spring to catch a glimpse of these gorgeous illuminations!
You will find that most of the famous temples and shrines located within the district are illuminated during the event’s period and many of them even extend their normal viewing hours to allow people to take in the extremely beautiful side of traditional Kyoto.
The events of Hanatouro are quite long, lasting for around nine days in mid-March. The 2020 Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatouro illumination will take place Friday, March 6th to Sunday, March 15th. The hours of the illumination are 18:00 to 21:30.
Where to go and what to see:
ROHM Co.’s “Light and Blossoms Pathway”: This is the main highlight of Hanatouro. There are roughly 2500 lanterns that adorn the 5 kilometer path leading to the base of Higashiyama Mountain. The path branches off to various attractions and events during the Hanatouro period. This gorgeous walking path is taken to the next level during the illuminations, allowing visitors to enjoy the Kyoto streets to their fullest extent.
The pathway is also adorned with our next highlighted event, the Ikebana Promenade and various Ikebana arrangements, which make the pathway all the more breathtaking and stunning.
The Ikebana Promenade: In this event, Ikebana, or traditional Japanese flower arrangement, are on display in various locations in the Higashiyama district, including the main pathway. This particular event is possible due to the collaboration of the Kyoto Ikebana Association and all of its wonderful artists, who provide the majority of ikebana artwork for the event.
Contemporary Ikebana Exhibits: In addition to the Promenade, there is also a large-scale flower arrangement competition held in Maruyama Park. These displays of flower arrangements are truly a work of art and not one to be missed out on! The park itself is a must-see for any visitor to Kyoto on a normal day, but during the Hanatouro event it is absolutely breathtaking! The Ikebana exhibits previously mentioned are primarily held here, with works from all of the main Ikebana schools in Kyoto taking part. Come check out the pros at work!
Takeakari-Yugennokawa (Bamboo lanterns/Profound Stream): This is a breathtaking sight to behold! There are numerous “Touro” lights, which are intricate light paths, created from young bamboo shoots that are placed on the Yoshimizu Stream. The lights then flow down through Maruyama Park during the illuminations, creating a captivating view.
Yasaka Shrine: One of the most famous shrines in Kyoto, Yasaka Shrine, truly shines during Hanatouro with traditional Japanese performances put on by the local Geisha and Maiko.
Hokan-ji: More commonly referred to as the “Yasaka Pagoda”, this 5-story pagoda is considered to be “the eternal symbol of Kyoto”. The illumination during Hanatouro allows for this temple to appear as though it is glowing from its beauty.
Fire Watch and Ohayashi Music Group: This is a performance put on by the local school children. The children play various instruments, such as wooden clappers, bells and drums, and also sing songs about watching the fire.
All-in-all, Hantouro may be a relatively new tradition in Kyoto but has captured the hearts of both locals and foreigners alike. If you are in Kyoto or the Kansai region during March, be sure to check out Hanatouro to experience traditional Kyoto culture and for the experience of a lifetime!
You can find more details regarding the admissions fees for the temples here (English).
The area outlined in red is the district involved in the Higashiyama Hanatouro.