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Kyoto Events

Miyako Odori (Cherry Blossom Dances)

The geisha and maiko (apprentices) of the Gion Kobu district still perform traditional spring dances with live musical accompaniment. Taking place throughout April each year, these highly popular performances celebrate the coming of the cherry blossom season.

Date: 01 April 2019 - 27 April 2019
Venue: Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theatre


Aoi Matsuri (Hollyhock Festival)

The festival's main event features a procession of beautifully outfitted ox-carts accompanied by 400 people in Heian-period dress. Leaving the Old Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho) in the morning, the procession winds its way north, stopping around noon at Shimogamo Shrine and then heading on to arrive late in the afternoon at the Kamigamo Shrine. The Hollyhock festival is one of Kyoto's three major annual events. It dates back to the sixth century, when the hollyhock was believed to have the power to ward off lightning and earthquakes.

Date: 15 May 2019 - 15 May 2019
Venue: Kyoto Imperial Palace to Kamigamo and Shimogamo shrines.


Mifune Matsuri (Boating Festival)

Kyoto’s Boating Festival is an annual re-enactment on the Oi River of an imperial boating party held in the Heian period when Kyoto first became the capital of Japan. Two dozen boats loaded with courtiers, Noh actors, musicians and dancers take part in the spectacular event. It's worth arriving early to see the participants proceeding from Kurumazaki Shrine down to the river in their gorgeous costumes. Visitors can watch the event on Arashiyama's famous Togetsu Bridge or from the broad banks of the river, but for a closer view it's worth hiring a rowing boat or booking a seat on a sightseeing barge.

Date: 19 May 2019 - 19 May 2019
Venue: Arashiyama


Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival)

Japan's most famous festival takes place in downtown Kyoto, lasts for a month and includes two processions of parade floats on 17th and 24th respectively. Prior to each main float procession, there are three nights of street parties taking place.

Date: 01 July 2019 - 31 July 2019
Venue: Yasaka Shrine and Shijo-dori area.


Daimonji Gozan Okuribi (Bonfire Festival)

Massive bonfires in the shape of Chinese characters and other forms are lit on five hills surrounding Kyoto, to bid farewell the ancestral spirits. The largest is in northeastern Kyoto and can be seen from all over the city when it gets dark. Also called Gozan Okuribi, Kyoto’s bonfires are associated with the Buddhist summer festival of Obon, which is celebrated throughout Japan.

Date: 16 August 2019 - 16 August 2019
Venue: Hills around Kyoto.


Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages)

Kyoto's Jidai Matsuri is a glorious opportunity to see the history of the country brought to life. Some 2,000 people wear authentic costumes from each period in Japanese history and walk in a 2km-long (1.4 mile) parade. The festival only began in 1895, but it commemorates Kyoto's position as the capital of Japan and residence of successive emperors from 794 to 1868. The procession is led by a band impersonating the fife and drum corps of the Meiji Restoration Royal Army and takes spectators from the grandeur of the Meiji era, through the fierce samurai and elegant geisha of the shogunate, to the elegant costumes of the Heian period when Kyoto was first established.

Date: 22 October 2019 - 22 October 2019
Venue: Kyoto Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine.

Free except for spectator seats in Imperial Palace Park.

Okera Mairi

On Okera Mairi, it is traditional to visit Kyoto’s Yasaka Shrine to obtain the sacred flame of okera, a medicinal herb. The roots of the herb are lit and then carried back home to start fires on which the first meal of the New Year is cooked. The herb is used to cleanse the evil forces and energies of the previous year.

Date: 31 December 2019 - 01 January 2019
Venue: Yasaka Jinja Shrine.


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