[2018 Edition] Information on Best Times to Visit and Illumination Events! Top 10 Autumn Foliage Spots in Kyoto
The beautiful autumn foliage in Kyoto has been captivating people since ancient times. However, if you go to Kyoto, it would be such a waste if you only view the leaves from the bottom or from under the trees! This article will introduce 10 recommended spots in Kyoto where you can enjoy the autumn foliage in various ways, such as reflected on the surface of a pond, or contrasted with green moss. The best times to visit will also be covered, so keep reading to find out more!
1. Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
At Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, the Momiji-en garden that houses about 350 maple trees is illuminated during the autumn foliage season. The best leaves to see here are those over the vermilion-lacquered arched bridge called Uguisu-bashi, and the countless fallen leaves at Kamiyagawa River under the bridge. The admission fee also includes a teacake that is associated with Sen no Rikyu (the founder of the tea ceremony).
Momiji-en Garden details:
[Opening period/schedule] Late October - early December, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
[Best time to see autumn foliage] Late November - early December
[Illumination] Mid-November - early December, sunset - 8:00 pm
[Admission fee] Adult: 700 JPY, Child: 350 JPY
2. Daikakuji Temple
At Daikakuji Temple, the illumination event is called Shinku no Mizu-kagami (deep crimson reflections on water). The autumn leaves that are reflected on the surface of the still-as-a-mirror Osawa Pond create a truly magical sight. You will also see the reflection of Shingyohoto Pagoda floating in splendor on the surface of the water at Hojochi Pond, which is right beside Osawa Pond.
[Best time to see/schedule] Late November - early December, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm (entrance cut-off time)
[Illumination] November 9th (Fri.) – December 2nd (Sun.), 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm (entrance cut-off time)
[Admission fee] Adult: 500 JPY, Child: 300 JPY
* Even guests who come during the day will need to pay the admission fee again for the illumination event
3. Genko-an Temple
Genko-an Temple is known for having two windows that have significant meanings to Buddhism. The square window called Mayoi no Mado (Window of Confusion) represents inevitable sufferings in life, while the round window called Satori no Mado (Window of Enlightenment) represents Zen and Entsu (attaining enlightenment through wisdom). This temple is crowded during autumn foliage season, so there are times when visitors will be prohibited from standing in front of these windows. When that happens, it will give you the chance to capture a photo with nobody in it - only the view. Make sure to check future information concerning regulations set to be enforced in 2018.
[Best time to see/schedule] Mid-November, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm (entrance cut-off time)
[Admission fee] 500 JPY during autumn foliage season (400 JPY on regular days)
4. Ohara Sanzen-in
Ohara Sanzen-in is famous for its beautiful moss, and during autumn, the moss is covered in falling deep-red leaves. If you want to take a photo, you should not limit yourself to Shuheki-en Garden, and should also check out the front of the Shinden (Emperor’s Residence) and Yusei-en Garden. You should take a shot of the landscape with the structures from far away, of course, but note that a close-up shot of the moss and autumn leaves together is also wonderful.
[Best time to see/schedule] Mid- to late November, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm (entrance cut-off time) (schedule until December 7th)
[Admission fee] Adult: 700 JPY, Junior high school/high school students: 400 JPY, Elementary school students: 150 JPY
5. Tofukuji Temple
At Tofukuji Temple, you will see autumn leaves spreading in front of your eyes from Tsutenkyo Bridge, which connects the Hondo (main temple) and Kaisando (Founder’s Hall). The maple trees at this temple that turn golden in color during autumn are so beautiful that they are just like the setting sun. Due to safety reasons, taking photos is prohibited at Tsutenkyo and Gaunkyo bridges from the middle to the end of November, when the temple is usually very crowded. However, the view of the autumn foliage from the railings is still definitely worth seeing!
[Best time to see/schedule] Late November - early December, 8:30 am – 4:00 pm (November to early December)
[Admission fee] 400 JPY for for adults and 300 JPY for elementary/junior high school students at Tsutenkyo/Kaisando, and 400 JPY for adults and 300 JPY for elementary/junior high school students at Honbo Teien garden
6. Kodaiji Temple
The autumn leaves at Kodaiji Temple are reflected on Garyochi Pond, which is said to be "quiet, with everybody moved beyond words even if it is crowded," according to word of mouth. The projection mapping (spacial augmented reality) show that is held at Hashin-tei Garden has also become a hot topic of conversation in recent years. You will enjoy dynamic images and music with the white sand of the karesansui (dry landscape garden) serving as the canvas.
[Best time to see/schedule] Mid-November - early December, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (entrance cut-off time)
[Illumination] October 19th – December 9th, sunset - 9:30 pm (entrance cut-off time)
[Admission fee] Adult: 600 JPY, Junior high school/high school students: 250 JPY
7. Chion-in Temple
Chion-in Temple’s Sanmon gate is so big that it can be a bit overwhelming. The inside of the Sanmon gate is open for special viewing by the public, so you can admire the autumn leaves from the tower and the statue of Buddha inside. Other highlights at this temple are the Yuzen-en Garden, where a statue of Kannon Bodhisattva towers in the middle of the pond, and the illumination of the Great Bell Tower.
[Best time to see/schedule] Mid-November - early December, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm (entrance cut-off time) (special viewing is from November 1st to 11th at 9:00 am – 4:00 pm (entrance cut-off time))
[Illumination] November 2nd – December 2nd, 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm (entrance cut-off time), fees are 800 JPY for adults and 400 JPY for children
[Admission fee] Free for Chion-in Temple; however, fees are 300 JPY for adults and 150 JPY for children at Yuzen-en, and 400 JPY for adults and 200 JPY for children at Hojo Garden, while the common ticket (for both Yuzen-en and Hojo Garden) is priced at 500 JPY for adults and 250 JPY for children.
8. Kiyomizu Temple
Below the so-called "stage" of Kiyomizu Temple are autumn leaves that are all lit up, while beams of light that represent the mercy and compassion of Kannon Bodhisattva shoot up into the sky. If you want to appreciate the main shrine hall and autumn foliage as they are depicted in photos, then you should head to the area around the nearby Okunoin (inner shrine sanctuary).
[Best time to see/schedule] Late November - early December, 6:00 am – 6:00 pm (entrance cut-off time) (September 1st – November 16th), 6:00 am – 9:00 pm (entrance cut-off time) (November 17th – December 2nd)
[Illumination] November 17th – December 2nd, 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm (entrance cut-off time)
[Admission fee] Adult: 400 JPY, Elementary/junior high school students: 200 JPY
9. Shimogamo Shrine
Shimogamo Shrine is a World Heritage Site. Together with the Romon Gate and the vermilion torii (Shinto arched gates) that are often seen in pictures, you must visit Tadasu no Mori (Forest of Atonement), located near the shrine approach, which has been in existence for over 2,000 years. You will be able to see the trees in various colors and hear the murmuring streams in the same way that people in ancient times did.
[Best time to see/schedule] Early December – mid-December, 6:30 am – 5:00 pm
[Admission fee] Free to go inside the shrine precincts
10. Enkoji Temple
Enkoji Temple is famous for its autumn leaves that paint the green moss in the garden in deep red hues, creating what is known as “chiri momiji/shiki momiji” (falling leaves). You will get to appreciate the foliage not just from inside the structures, but also when you walk in the garden. Also, make sure to check out the suikinkutsu (a water harp chamber, wherein the pot underground is filled with water so that drops of water will create an echo).
[Best time to see/schedule] Mid-November - early December, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
[Admission fee] Adult: 500 JPY, Junior high school/high school students: 400 JPY, Elementary school students: 300 JPY
The autumn foliage can be enjoyed from before the leaves change color until after the leaves have fallen, so these views won't let visitors down. By all means, enjoy the breathtaking beauty at these spots!
*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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