5 ways to enjoy Kyoto in winter   冬に京都を楽しむ

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Kyoto in the snow

Setsubun, the bean throwing festival

Kamigamo jinja in the snow

5 ways to enjoy Kyoto in winter

Winter can be a great season to visit Japan. Generally visited during the spring or fall, Kyoto is also delightful in winter. Here are 5 ways to enjoy a more peaceful and enchanting Kyoto during the winter months!

Kyoto in the snow

Admire the temples under a layer of snow

Enjoying the splendid Buddhist temples and shinto shrines of the city in the snow is a magical experience. The roofs of temples and pagodas are covered with a very atmospheric white coat, which encourages calm and meditation. The gardens change look different too, and the water of the ponds sometimes freezes.

Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) is particularly impressive during the winter when the snow falls.

To discover : The temples and shrines of Kyoto

Kinkakuji in winter

Take part in festivals

Kyoto is home to many festivals during the winter. The most famous are Toshiya, which is held around January 15th, and Setsubun, February 3rd. Toshiya is an archery competition practiced by young women dressed in kimonos when they officially become adults at the age of 20. This ceremony, which takes place every year at City Hall, is an important rite for the people of the city, and is also very beautiful to observe.

Setsubun celebrates the end of winter. In Kyoto, it takes place at Yasaka Shrine in Gion where maiko and geisha throw of dried beans into the crowd, with the aim of chasing evil spirits.

For further reading : Festivals and events in Kyoto

Enjoy an onsen

With the cool temperatures of the winter months and the sometimes icy cold of Japan, it's great to warm up. Kyoto is home to many hot springs (onsen), where you can immerse yourself and relax. This can be a good time to try a ryokan (traditional inn), which often offer onsen to its guests.

In the city center, you'll find many onsen with indoor pools. But it's in Kurama, a small village easily accessible to the north of the city, that you will find Kurama Onsen, which offers the opportunity to bask in the hot water outdoors. You'll enjoy a view of the surrounding mountains, during a moment of relaxation, in sulfuric water with curative properties...

Kurama onsen

Contemplate the plum blossoms (Ume Matsuri)

At the end of February, before the better-known cherry blossoms (hanami), it's the plum trees that bloom. You can admire the delicate flowers, whose color varies from white to deep pink, throughout Kyoto.

The blooms are particularly spectacular at Kitano Tenmangu Temple, home to nearly 2,000 plum trees. In addition, every year, the temple hosts the Baika-sai festival, which includes an outdoor tea ceremony, led by geiko and maiko.

At Kaju-ji, you can admire a very old plum tree and its bright pink flowers, directly transplanted from the Imperial Palace.

To read : Plum Blossom Festivals

See Hanatouro, the festival of lights

Head to Arashiyama, west of the city, to enjoy a splendid winter event: Hanatouro, the festival of lights. During a trip along Togetsukyo Bridge over the Katsura River, nearly 2,500 white or colored lanterns are strung up for a magical atmosphere. The bamboo forest of Arashiyama, which is also illuminated, also offers a most enchanting stroll.

Hanatouro festival, Kyoto

A similar event takes place in March in Higashiyama, east of the city, in traditional Kyoto neighborhoods.

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