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Beautifully Lit Up in the Evening! Five Kyoto Temples and Shrines Famous for Foliage

When fall arrives and the trees start to turn colors, many temples and shrines specially open in the evening and light up their grounds. Here are five spots that are particularly popular for having beautiful foliage.

1. Kodai-ji Zen Temple

Official Name: Jubuzan Kodai-ji
This is a zen temple that was established by Nene, the wife of the famous Sengoku Period warrior lord, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, to mourn her dead husband. It is in Higashiyama, which also hosts the popular tourist destination, Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The highlight is the Garyuchi pond on which colorful trees are reflected. In the evening, the art show that lights up the Hashintei garden in front of the main hall is a must-see. You can also enjoy viewing maples around a garden with a traditional dry landscape in the sub-temple, Entoku-in (entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult). The lights are on from October 21 to December 10 in 2017.

Best time to see the foliage: Mid-November to early December
Entrance fee: 600 JPY/adult, 250 JPY/junior high and high school students *Combined discount ticket for Kodai-ji, Sho Museum, and Entoku-in is 900 JPY.

1. Kodai-ji Zen Temple

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

2. Eikando Zenrin-ji

Official Name: Shojurai-gosan Muryo-juin Zenrin-ji
A temple midway up Higashiyama. A famous spot that is often referred to as the Eikando of Fall Foliage. Particularly famous is the Iwagaki Momiji, which are the Japanese maple trees that grow on rocks that are lined up like a rock fence along the stone stairs that lead up to the Tahoto pagoda at the highest point of the temple precincts. In the evenings, the foliage around the lake in the middle of the precinct is lit up to create a mystic scene. The lights are on from November 7 to December 6 in 2017.

Best time to see the foliage: Mid to late November
Entrance fee: 600 JPY/adult, 400 JPY/elementary, junior high and high school students (excludes when the temple treasures are exhibited)
Special night-time entrance fee: 600 JPY/junior high school and older

2. Eikando Zenrin-ji

48 Eikando-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

3. Daikakuji

Official name: Kyu-Sagagosho Daihonzan Daikakuji
Daikakuji, which is located in the popular tourist destination of Arashiyama, was built on Riku Saga-in, the imperial villa of Emperor Saga that was built more than 1,200 years ago. Osawa-no-Ike Pond, in the eastern part of the temple precinct, is Japan's oldest rinsen-shiki teien (garden with forests and pond) and has approximately 700 cherry and maple trees around it. The foliage there in the fall is beautiful. The lights are on from November 10 to December 3 in 2017.

Best time to see the foliage: Early November to early December
Entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult, 300 JPY/elementary, junior high and high school students (except during special treasure exhibitions)

3. Daikakuji

4 Sagaosawa-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

4. Shoren-in

Official name: Shoren-in
Shoren-in is a Monzeki temple (a temple where members of the imperial family or aristocrats serve as the chief priest) that has long had close connections with the imperial family. It is located northeast of Yasaka (Gion) Shrine. Of the gardens in the precinct, the Garden of Kirishima has particularly beautiful foliage. When the precinct is lit up in the evenings, you can see moss gardens and bamboo forests dyed in mystical blue lights. The lights are on from October 27 to December 3 in 2017.

Best time to see the foliage: Late October to late December
Entrance fee: 500 JPY/adult, 400 JPY/elementary, junior high and high school students
Evening entrance fee: 800 JPY/adult, 400 JPY/elementary, junior high and high school students

4. Shoren-in

69-1 Awataguchi Sanjobo-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

5. Kitano Tenmangu

This is the head shrine of all the tenmangu shrines, of which there is said to be approximately 10,000 around the country. A part of the Odoi, an embankment that was built during the latter half of the 16th century to protect against water, remains on the grounds. The area around it is a Momiji-en garden where approximately 300 Japanese maples are painted in brilliant colors during the fall. The best view is from the vermillion taikobashi (arched bridge) on the river. There are trees that are 400 to 600 years old in the precinct. The lights are on from November 11 to December 3 in 2017.

Best time to see the foliage: Mid November to early December
Momiji-en entrance fee (sweets included): 700 JPY/adult, 350 JPY/child

5. Kitano Tenmangu

Bakuro-cho, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

The hours for the light-up shows depends from place to place, so be sure to check before going!

*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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