Garden of the Tentoku-ji Temple

Contrary to the cherry blossoms that lasts only for a few days a year in April, the Autumn foliage lasts almost two months. The color of the leaves usually starts to change around the end of October, and one can still enjoy beautiful scenes up to mid-December.  But the best period to enjoy these amazing scenery is without doubt around mid-November, and this is when numerous temples around the city open their garden for special evening openings for which they provide illumination.  Here is a list of some of this year’s light ups around Kyoto,  together with the dates and opening time.

Be aware that some of these events are extremely popular and it is not rare to see a long line of people waiting to get their ticket. One option is to come late, only about one hour before the closing time.  While this is not a full-proof solution, we were able to significantly cut down on waiting time like this.  Also, as people leave the temple and the garden to go for their dinner, being among the last visitors present also has its benefit. 

South, near Tofukuji Temple

Tentoku-In

One of Tofuku-Ji sub-temples

Dates: Nov 16th to Dec 12th
Opening time: 17:00 – 20:30
Entrance:  500円

The garden of Tentoku-In Temple, Tofukuji
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This temple is nicknamed the “bell-flower temple” for its moss garden has a large number of purple and white Chinese bell flowers blooming in early autumn. The well-known “inverted bell” window shape comes in fact from the shape of these flowers.

Our comment

This is definitely not a large temple. It has one main moss garden of the “Karesansui” type (dry landscape). A beautiful moss covers the grounds, with satsuki rhododendrons and a few rocks here and there. A few trees nicely lock the perspective to make the place more… Zen. This garden can usually only be seen in early autumn. The photo with the “inverted bell” window, the stone lantern and the flowers is considered a classic.

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The Temple is located about 7-min. walk from JR Nara Line or Keihan Train Tofukuji Station.

You can also take Kyoto City Bus #208 and get off at Tofukuji;

Tel: 075-561-5239;

Website:  www.tentokuin.jp/tera/

Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/g8erPQzJPCq

Unryū-in

a sub-temple of Sennyū-ji 

Dates: Nov 19th to 27th
Opening time: from Sunset to 20:30
Entrance:  400円

Click here for more info. 

The garden of Unryu-In Temple, Sennyu-Ji
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Unryū-in is a sub-temple of the large Sennyū-ji Temple, located just north of Tofukuji Temple in the Southern part of the Higashiyama District. Founded in 1372, it was rebuilt after destruction in the Ōnin War. The Hondō of 1646 is an Important Cultural Property. The Hōjō or abbot’s quarters also date from the Edo period. 

Our comment: 

We have not yet had a chance to see the light-up of this garden, but we are looking forward to as we have heard and read good things.  

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The Temple is located about 15 min. walk from JR Nara Line or Keihan Train Tofukuji Station.

You can also take Kyoto City Bus #208 and get off at Tofukuji;

Tel: 075-561-5239;

Website:  www.tentokuin.jp/tera/

See directions from Tofukuji Station to Unryuin ( https://goo.gl/maps/rjjGccaRBu92 ) in Google Maps.

Higashiyama District

Kiyomizu Dera Temple

Dates: Nov 12th to Dec 4th
Opening time: 18:00 – 21:00
Entrance:  400円

Light-Up at Kiyomizu Dera temple
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There is no real need to present this temple as it is without doubt the most popular one in Kyoto.  Go to our other web page for more information: http://mykyotomachiya.wpengine.com/kiyomizu-dera/

Our comment: 

During the peak touristic season, the access road to this temple becomes crowded beyond imagination. We highly suggest you go there late, say around 8PM to avoid the crowd.  

We also recommend you to arrive via the Chawan-Zaka street, from the south of the temple, instead of the more popular Matsubara Dori or Kiyomizu-Zaka you reach if you follw the Ninen=Zaka / Sannei-Zaka route…  

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The temple is about 10min walk from Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi Bus Stop, Kyoto City Bus 100 or 206 from Kyoto Station.

Tel: 075-551-1234

Website:  http://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/

See directions from Gojo-Zakaor Kiyomizu-michi bus stop to the temple, following the Gojo-zaka street, then taking a right at the Chawan-Zaka street up to the temple:  ( https://goo.gl/maps/xkF1zTF6bW12 ) in Google Maps.

Chion-In Temple

Dates: Nov 3rd to Dec 4th
Opening time: 18:00 – 21:00 
Entrance:  800円

The large Sanmon Gate of the Chion-In Temple
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Chion-In massive Sanmon gate is located just north of the Maruyama park. The Temple and the garden are located behind it at the foot of Kachōzan, one of the mountains in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district. This is a very large temple complexe with numerous buildings that make up the Chion-in, the head temple of the Jōdo Shū (Pure Land Sect). 

The Sanmon (Main Gate) (National Treasure) is illuminated in the evening and is one of the largest wooden tower gates in existence in Japan. It is magnificent.

Our comment: 

While this is without doubt a beautiful temple with a nice light-up, with limited time available, we prefer to concentrate on Shoren In which is located a few minutes away. One suggestion is to arrive either on foot or by taxi in front of this Sanmon gate, enjoy the awesome view, and then walk on to the next temple going north.  

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By Bus: The temple is about 5 min walk from Chion-in-mae Bus Stop, Kyoto City Bus #206 from Kyoto Station (or from many of our machiya).

By train, Keihan Railway:  Chion-in is a ten minute walk from Gion-Shijo Station.

Tel: 075-531-2111

Website: http://www.chion-in.or.jp/e/

See directions from Chion-In Mae Bus Stop (#206) ( https://goo.gl/maps/dV2QRBS4dTE2 ) in Google Maps.

Shoren-In Temple

Dates: Oct 28th to Dec 4th
Opening time: 18:00 – 22:00 (last entry at 21:30)
Entrance:  800円

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The Shoren-in temple holds special night visits and light shows every year in spring and autumn. The scenic light show is artistically elaborated with various lighting implements. At the light show, you will be able to see the relics of the graceful and elegant history of the temple. The circular pond garden, which is known for its elegance, is magnificently lit up.
During the show, one can also visit the interiors of the temple, followed by a leisurely walk in the lit-up garden.

From their web site:  At night, during the light show, the place appears to transform into a mysterious world—trees and flowers fading in the darkness, the five grand camphor trees (national natural monuments) majestically lit up, and a mandala of light, projected on the moss garden.  It appears as if the pure and sacred land comes to life.

Our comment: 

This is probably one of the best light-up we’ve seen in Kyoto.  It is extremely well done, without the excesses of Kodai-Ji Temple (which are also enjoyable and fun in their own way). The temple is not very large and if you’re lucky enough to not have too many visitors at the same time you are there, it is a great way to finish the evening.

Like for the other light-up, we suggest going there about one hour before the closing time to avoid the eventual crowd. 

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By bus:  3 min walk from Jingu-michi Bus Stop, Kyoto City Bus #5, #46, or #100 from Kyoto Station
By Subway: 5 min walk from Higashiyama Station, Tozai subway line

Tel: 075-561-2345

Website: http://www.shorenin.com/english/index.html

See directions from Jingu-Michi Bus Stop ( https://goo.gl/maps/Mmo5x6Ku3wM2 ) or from Chion-In Sanmon gate in Google Maps.

Entokuin (Kodaiji) Temple

Dates: Oct 21st to Dec 11th
Opening time: 17:00 – 21:30 
Entrance:  500円

Entokuin garden entrance
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Entokuin was built by Nene, the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, to mourn for her husband’s death in 1605. It is a sub-temple of Kodai-ji Temple, which sits just up the hill across Nene-no-Michi. Its garden is one of Kyoto’s finest.

The light-up ticket can be purchased together with the one for Kodai-ji.  Both light-ups are different in style and scale, and both are nice. 

For more information about Kodai-Ji, check out our other web page: http://mykyotomachiya.wpengine.com/kodai-ji-temple/

Our comment: 

While Kodai-Ji Temple, its garden and its light-up are big in scale and extremely popular (and crowded), Entoku-In is smaller and quieter, hence can be more enjoyable.  The former offers a Disneyworld like light show, a large garden to walk around, a beautifully lit bamboo grove.  The later is a more intimate, smaller  and quieter place, with one of Kyoto most beautiful garden.  In addition, the place is full of beautiful paintings.   

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By bus: 5 min walk from Higashiyama Yasui Bus Stop, Kyoto City Bus #206 from Kyoto Station or several of our machiya.

Tel: 075-525-0101

Website: http://www.kodaiji.com/entoku-in/pdf/entokuin_e.pdf

See directions from Higashiyama Yasui Bus Stop ( https://goo.gl/maps/HiRVHvAD6FE2 ) in Google Maps.

Around Nanzen-Ji — Northern Higashiyama District

Tenjuan (Nanzen-Ji) Temple

Dates: Nov 15th to 30th
Opening time: 17:30 – 20:45 
Entrance:  500円

Light up at the Tenjuan garden
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Tenju-an is one of Nanzen-ji Temple’s Sub-temple in Northern Higashiyama. Its garden is superb, and it’s surprising how few people actually visit this temple.

Our comment: 

We have not yet been to the Tenju-An ligth up, but considering that this is one of our all time favorite garden — it is spectacular in daylight during the Kôyô (Autumn) season, we will definitely go there this year. We’re expecting a totally different atmosphere with the illuminated leaves against the night sky. 

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By subway: 5 min walk from Keage Station, Tozai subway line

By Bus: about 10 min from Heian Jingu Shrine (Bus #100)

Tel:  075-771-0744

See directions from Keage Subway station ( https://goo.gl/maps/FuuAshNS1HJ2 ) in Google Maps.

Eikandô Temple

Dates: Nov 8th to Dec 4th
Opening time: 17:30 – 20:30 
Entrance:  600円

Light up at Eikandô Temple
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Eikando, formally known as Zenrin-ji Temple, belongs to the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism. Located just north of the large temple complex of Nanzen-ji, Eikando is a prime site for its autumn colors. Needless to say, its evening illumination taking place in fall is one of the most popular of them all.

Our comment: 

Probably our main recommendation for light up during the Fall or Kôyô season. The place is extremely popular during this period and it is not rare to see a very long line of people waiting to get in right at the beginning of the night opening. The pond garden is rather large so the place can accommodate a lot of people, thought. As with other places, we suggest you go there about one hour before the closing time to avoid the crowd. 

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The temple is located just north of of the Nanzen-Ji temple and can easily be reached on foot from there.

Tel: 075-761-0007

Website: http://www.eikando.or.jp/English/index_eng.html

See location ( https://goo.gl/maps/uGqPcRJZdtC2 ) in Google Maps.

Around the Arashiyama District

Hôgon-in Temple

Dates: Nov 11th to Dec 4th
Opening time: 17:30 – 20:15 
Entrance:  600円

Light up at Hogon In
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Hôgon-In is another one of our favorite gardens, mainly during the Fall. It is a sub-temple of Tenryu-ji temple in Arashiyama. The temple large zen garden, called “the garden of the lion’s roar”, is only open to the public in spring and autumn..

Our comment: 

We have not yet seen the light up of this garden, but our expectations are pretty high.  Indeed, we’ve seen the most incredible red colors during the day in this garden, so the place must be amazing by night with the proper illumination.

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The temple is located in Arashiyama, right next to the famous Tenryu-Ji Temple. It is about 15min walk from JR Saga Arashiyama Train Station

Tel: 075-861-0091

See location ( https://goo.gl/maps/T1zH44AuWer ) in Google Maps.  

Togetsukyo Bridge

Dates: Dec 9th to 18th
Opening time: 17:00 – 20:30 
Entrance:  Free

Light up of the Togetsukyo Bridge

Bamboo Grove

Dates: Dec 9th to 18th
Opening time: 17:00 – 20:30 
Entrance:  Free

Light up of the Bamboo Grove

Ôkouchi Sansô

Dates: Dec 9th to 18th
Opening time: 17:00 – 20:30 
Entrance:  yen 1,000

Light up of the Bamboo Grove

Other lights-up around Kyoto

Toji Temple

Dates: Oct 18th to Dec 4th
Opening time: 18:30 – 21:30 
Entrance:  yen 800

Light up of the Toji Temple
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There is no real need to present the Toji Temple — it is one of the UNESCO sites and a landmark of Kyoto, with the tallest five story Pagoda in Japan, its beautiful statues, its monthly flea market and its gorgeous garden. 

Our comment: 

We have not yet seen the Fall light up of this garden, but if it is of the same level as the one in April with the cherry blossoms, then it must be magnificent. We’re patiently waiting for the maple’s leaves to start turning red to go to see this.  

Click for Access Info and Map

The temple is located south of the Kyoto station. It can be reach by train (about 5 min walk from Kintetsu Line Toji Station) or by bus (#207) from several of our machiya. 

Tel: 075-691-3325

Website: http://www.toji.or.jp/en/index.html

See location (https://goo.gl/maps/5ao65auKC7n ) in Google Maps.  

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

Dates: Nov 12th to Dec 4th
Opening time: Sunset – 20:00 
Entrance:  yen 700

Light up of the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
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Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine is a large Shinto shrine that is very popular among students because of the belief that it can help in boosting exam scores. The shrine is famous for its plum garden that is one of the first one to bloom in early March. 

Our comment: 

Again, we have not yet seen the Fall light up of this garden and are looking forward to it this year!

Click for Access Info and Map

The shrine is located north of the Kyoto station, not far from Kinkaku-Ji, the Golden Pavilion.  It can be reached by bus #50 or #101 from Kyoto Station to Kitano-Tenmangu-mae Bus Stop.  

Tel: 075-461-0005

Website: http://kitanotenmangu.or.jp/top_en.php

See location (https://goo.gl/maps/9FUxnByKmsm ) in Google Maps.  

Outside the city – Kibune Shrine

Eizan Densha train ride

Dates: Nov 5th to 27th
Opening time: Sunset – 21:00 
Entrance:  yen 210 (one way)

Light up along the Eizan Densha route

Kibune Shrine

Dates: Nov 5th to 27th
Opening time: Sunset – 20:30 
Entrance:  Free

Click for More Info

The Eizan Line train is a 30-minute scenic train trip out of Kyoto. This is the train one takes to go to Kurama and Kibune. During this short period in the Fall, part of the path is illuminated while the train goes by. It’s quite short, but it’s beautiful.  

Kibune Shrine is a beautiful shrine in the mountain. The stairs leading to it are particularly nice, mainly when they are illuminated. The village is a good place for a quiet dinner in one of the numerous restaurants.  

Our comment: 

You can combine this train ride with a visit to the Kibune Shrine that offers a light up during the same period. It’s a good opportunity to spend a nice evening out of the city looking at something different.    Alternatively, you could go there earlier and visit Kurama Onsen, do the hike between Kurama and Kibune, enjoy the illumination of the shrine, and return by one of the last train offering the light up. 

Click for Access Info and Map

It’s actually pretty easy to catch this train and go to Kibune. You could even combine this with a hike going from Kurama to Kibune. Take the Eizan Line train that leaves from Demachiyanagi Station in Kyoto (which is, in turn, at the northern end of the Keihan Line, the line that runs along the Kamo-gawa River in Kyoto – you can easily get on this line at Tofukuji station, Shichijo station or Kiyomizu-Gojo station from one of our machiya). Ride it all the way to the Kibune-guchi stop (the one before the terminus, Kurama) and get on the bus waiting there to go to the village to visit the Shrine.

Board the same train line at Kibune-guchi Station and take it back to Demachiyanagi Station. 

Tel: 075-702-8111

See location (https://goo.gl/maps/hvDD44YDzBL2 ) in Google Maps.  

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