Kyoto in Winter
A quiet but beautiful and busy period
Winter is probably not the most touristic season to visit Kyoto. First, it’s cold, but in a way that is rather unpleasant. This is probably due to the fact that so many buildings in Kyoto were built for the Summer weather conditions rather than the Winter. And this is, in particular, completely true for all the machiya, the wooden townhouses. The first thing we did when planning the various renovation works for our houses was to include proper heating (floor heating, radiators, air conditioning) for optimum comfort, all year round.
Yes, Kyoto is rather quiet during the Winter’s months, but this doesn’t mean that the city is sleeping. On the contrary! While it is usualy cold, the weather is usually quite clear, with little rain and many sunny days. And of course, if you’re lucky and the city gets covered with snow, then you’re in for a special treat – the various temples and shrines under a blanket of snow — the dream of any photographer! There are quite a few events and festivals taking place during this period. And quite a few places feature special opening periods enabling us to see national and secret treasures. And let’s not forget the special dishes only available in Winter, such as the king crab, etc.
Here are a few suggestions for the Winter.
If you walked around one of Kyoto’s Hanamachi (flower town or Geisha District), early January, you may have seen Maiko and Geiko beautifully dressed in their formal black “Kuromontsuki” kimono, and wearing a real rice stalk “kanzashi” or ornamental hairpin.
“Light and Blossoms Pathway” is the way this year’s illumination of the whole area of Arashiyama is called. Hundreds of lanterns placed along the way, inside temples and gardens, and mainly along the famous Bamboo Grove, make it easy to move around.
After a rather warm Autumn, we’re now in Winter and snow has fallen over the city. If you happen to be in Kyoto, know that this is a rare treat! Nothing is more beautiful than some of the city temples or shrines covered with a white carpet.
Now, for something different, only available during the cold winter months. . . Snow Crab. From Shijo Kawaramachi Crossing, walk South on the Kawaramachi dori street for five minutes — you find this restaurant with a large crab hanging on the face of the building.
Toward the end of the year through the New Year’s season, Kyoto offers many traditional events to be experienced. One of the biggest Buddhist ceremonies is “Joya no Kane”, or the tolling of temple bells at midnight. A unique and very intense spiritual experience.
Hina Matsuri, also called Doll’s Day or Girls’ Day, is a special day celebrated each year on March 3 in Japan. Platforms covered with a red carpet are used to display a set of ornamental dolls (Hina-Ningyō) representing the Emperor, Empress, …
As our architect and friend, Mr. Y participated to this year marathon, we decided to go to support him. The meeting spot (with other friends) was set at kilometer 30 along the Kamogawa river.
Waking up early on Sunday, we discovered the city under snow. This doesn’t happen so often in Kyoto so no hesitation — we called a taxi and went to visit various temples, South (Fushimi Inari Taisha, To-Ji), North-West (Kinkaku-Ji, Genko-An) and North-East (Ginkaku-Ji).
Sanjūsangen-dō Temple in Kyoto has always attracted Kyudo (Japanese archery) enthusiasts. The original competition, called Tōshiya, started in 1606 and since this, an annual Kyudo contest has been held at the Temple.
Like in any other country in the world, December 31st is a special day in Japan. Lots of things happen from Midnight on, as the Japanese people observe the O-Shogatsu.
At the end of the year 2010, we had the chance to wake up in the morning and discover the city under snow. We rushed to various temples as it was a unique opportunity to see them covered with a fresh white carpet of snow.