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Five Things to Do in Kyoto in the Spring

There are events and functions that take place in Kyoto in the spring, when the cherry blossoms start to bloom. Here are some recommended events to check out.

1. Hanami

In Japan, spring means cherry blossoms, and cherry blossoms means "hanami," cherry blossom viewing. There are many famous places to view cherry blossoms in Kyoto, and they are crowded with tourists every year. You can enjoy the cherry blossoms at temples and gardens such as Kiyomizu-dera, Daigo-ji, and Ninna-ji; savor them while strolling in Philosopher's Walk with its cherry blossom tunnels, the streets of Gion Shirakawa with Machiya-style houses and cobblestone streets, or the pedestrian paths of Keage Incline; or appreciate them with a picnic at the Kyoto Botanical Garden or Kameyama and Nakanojima parks in Arashiyama. There are many ways to see the cherry blossoms in a limited amount of time. Try visiting a variety of places to find your favorite cherry blossoms.

*It is crowded everywhere during the cherry blossom season, so be sure to give yourself extra time.

Cherry blossoms at Gion Shirakawa

Cherry blossoms at Keage Incline

2. Go to See Miyako Odori

This is a dance performance held at Gion Kobu Kaburenjo that is a cultural event signaling the arrival of spring at the geisha district. It was originally held for entertainment at the first Kyoto Exposition of 1872 and features dancing and nagauta singing about Kyoto's seasons by geisha (traditional Japanese female entertainers who sing, dance and play shamisen at banquets) and maiko (young girls training to become geisha) of Gion Kobu. The stage filled with beguiling dancers in beautiful costumes is a site to behold! A tea ceremony is held before the dance so you can see geisha serving tea up close. Don't miss this once in a year opportunity to casually experience the traditional performing art of geisha!

Performance schedule: April 1, 2017 - April 23, 2017
Ticket price: 4,600 JPY (special seats with tea/incl. tax), 3,500 JPY (first class seats/incl. tax)

*Tickets may sell out, so reserve in advance to make sure you can see the show.

*The 2017 performance will be held at Kyoto Art Theater “Shunjuza” due to earthquake resistance construction at Gion Kobu Kaburenjo.

2. Go to See Miyako Odori

570-2 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

3. Go to Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatouro

This is an event that began in 2003 to mark the coming of spring in Kyoto by dressing up Kyoto's historic Cultural Heritage sites and streets with lights and flowers. During the period of this event, a path that spans approximately 4.6km from Shoren-in Temple at the foot of Mt. Higashiyama to Kiyomizu-dera Temple is lit up with approximately 2,500 lanterns and decorated with large ikebana exhibits. In addition, temples and shrines in the area are illuminated and have special nighttime hours so that tourists can enjoy walking around Kyoto in the evening. The cobblestone streets in the faint light of the lanterns creates a dreamy atmosphere that will make you want to keep walking.

Event schedule: March 3, 2017 - March 12, 2017
Illumination hours: 6:00 pm - 9:30 pm

3. Go to Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatouro

1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

4. Go to Limited Time Events at Shrines and Temples

In the spring in Kyoto, many shrines and temples open up visits to cultural properties that are usually closed to the public, open in the evenings, and light up their buildings and gardens. To-ji, with the five-story pagoda that is symbolic of Kyoto, and Daikaku-ji, which has close connections with the Imperial Family, are two such temples, but the recommended one to visit is Kodai-ji, famous for its Kodai-ji Makie (technique of drawing pictures and patterns with lacquer and sprinkling gold and/or silver powder on while the lacquer is still wet) that represents the resplendent art of the Momoyama Period. In addition to making the temple's numerous treasures open to the public, the temple holds the auspicious ”Kitsune-no Yomeiri Junko" (a parade of rickshaws with brides with fox masks) in time with the Kyoto Higashiyama Hanatouro as well as projection mapping in the garden.

*Please refer to the official homepage for the latest information.

Kodai-ji illuminations at night


4. Go to Limited Time Events at Shrines and Temples

526 Kodaiji Shimokawara-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

5. Enjoy Spring Flavors with Bamboo Shoot Dishes

There are many tasty vegetables that are seasonal in the spring, but takenoko bamboo shoots are particularly popular as a vegetable that represents spring flavors. Takenoko is the sprout of bamboo picked within 10 days of sprouting. Kyoto has long been a famous producer of takenoko and is highly praised as producing the best takenoko in terms of size, softness and fragrance. In particular, takenoko harvested that day in the morning is outstanding and can be sliced thinly and eaten raw. Some representative takenoko dishes include whole grills with the skin, "tosani" simmered in bonito stock, and "wakatakeni" simmered with wakame seaweed, but if you want to enjoy the fragrance and texture, takenoko rice is recommended. Please enjoy tasty takenoko dishes in Kyoto.

Kyoto in the spring not only has beautiful scenery, but also has many fun events. Be sure to research them in advance and have a wonderful time.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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