Kyoto Gyoen National Garden

Experience rituals and festivals that encapsulate Japanese culture

Rituals and festivals are not only spectacular to watch, they can also immerse the viewer in ancient customs and culture. Experience them firsthand and travel back in time.

Aoi Matsuri (Hollyhock Festival)

The Aoi Matsuri, held on May 15 every year, is the annual festival of Kamomioya Jinja shinto Shrine (Shimogamo Jinja Shrine) and Kamo-wake-ikazuchi Jinja Shrine (Kamigamo Jinja Shrine). It is one of the three major festivals in Kyoto, along with the Gion Festival and Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages).

Date: May 15
Postponed in case of rain (decision made early in the morning on May 15)

Place and time at which the front of the procession passes:
Kyoto Gyoen (south side in front of Kenreimon Gate), around 10:30 a.m.

Jidai Matsuri (Festival of the Ages)

The Jidai Matsuri, which started in 1895 to commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of the relocation of the capital to Heiankyo, is a major festival of Heian Jingu Shrine. The highlight is a procession down the streets of Kyoto of about 2,000 local residents dressed in costumes of each era from the Meiji Restoration in the mid-nineteenth century, all the way back to the Enryaku period (782–806) when Heiankyo was built.

Date: October 22
Postponed in case of rain (decision made early in the morning on October 22)

Daimonji ceremonial bonfire

The mountainsides surrounding Kyoto City are lit with bonfires. Four are in the shape of characters—two giant “dai” (大) (daimonji-yama and hidari daimonji-yama) as well as “myo” (妙) and “ho” (法), which together mean “supreme law of the Buddha.” Two are in the shape of a boat and torii gate. The path running in front of Kenreimon Gate (from Hamaguri Gomon Gate, past Kenreimon Gate, to Seiwain Gomon Gate) offers views of the bonfire. Streetlights along the path are turned off while the mountains are lit.

Date and Time: August 16, 8:00 p.m. for approx. 1 hour