Autumn night illuminations in Kyoto

The city of Kyoto is a must to visit for firs-timers in Japan. For that reason, it is a perfect blend of tradition and modernity. Located 45 min from Osaka or 2 hours from Tokyo, the city is really accessible and well served by train. As for me, I spent 4 days there when you follow my itinerary here. About duration, I’d say it is a minimum as the city is big and mostly for all the activities it has to offer. If I had stayed 1 or 2 days longer, it wouldn’t bother me. I really really like this city !

It is among the most loved cities of Japan and that is why there will always be people there. I really felt the overpopulated tourists crowds to walk on it there. Besides that, it didn’t take away the charm of Kyoto but sometimes it can feel overwhelming.

Kyoto is a beautiful city but even more by this time of year, in autumn during the month of November. Indeed, at this time maple tree leaves are at their red color peak, Momiji season. And Kyoto itself gathers the best parks of maple trees ! For this event in Japan well known in Asia, the Japanese created a special event on this occasion : Autumn Night Illuminations. It takes places at the end of October until early December. You will have to enquire specifically for each temple.


To admire those red maple trees, temples open at sunset where spot lights have been installed to create a game of lights around these maple leaves. Unfortunately, each temple has its own price and it can quickly be pricey.

Here is the list of the main temples for night illumination for 2018 :

  • Kodaiji Temple 
    Period : from 10/19 to 12/09
    Admission : 800 yens
    Time : sunset - 9:30 pm
  • Kiyomizu Temple
    Period : from 11/17 to 12/02
    Admission : 400 yens
    Time : 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm
  • Entokuin
    Period : from 10/19 to 12/09
    Admission : 500 yens
    Time : sunset - 9:30 pm
  • Shoren-in Monzeki
    Period : from 10/25 to 12/02
    Admission : 800 yens
    Time : 6:00 pm - 9:30 pm
  • Chionnin
    Period : from 10/19 to 12/06
    Admission : 800 yens
    Time : 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm
  • Toji Temple
    Period : from 10/27 to 12/09
    Admission : 800 yens
    Time : 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
  • Kifune Shrine
    Period : from 11/03 to 11/25
    Admission : free
    Time : sunset - 8:30 pm
  • Hosen-in
    Period : from 11/03 to 12/02
    Admission : 800 yens
    Time : 5:45 pm - 8:40 pm
  • Manshuin Temple
    Period : from 11/01 to 11/30
    Admission : 800 yens
    Time : sunset - 7:30 pm
  • Eikando Temple
    Period : from 11/03 to 12/02
    Admission : 800 yens
    Time : 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • Daikakuji Temple
    Period : from 11/09 to 12/02
    Admission : 500 yens
    Time : sunset - 8:00 pm
  • Hogonin Temple
    Period : from 11/09 to 12/02
    Admission : 600 yens
    Time : 5:30 pm - 8:15 pm
  • Kitano Tenmangu
    Period : from 11/10 to 12/02
    Admission : 800 yens
    Time : sunset - 8:00 pm
  • Byodoin
    Period : from 11/17 to 12/02 (Fridays and Saturdays only)
    Admission : 600 yens
    Time : 6:00 pm - 8:15 pm
  • Daigoji Temple
    Period : from 11/16 to 12/02
    Admission : 1000 yens
    Time : 6:00 pm - 8:10 pm
  • Shogunzuka Seiryuden
    Period : from 10/26 to 12/02
    Admission : 500 yens
    Time : 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm

In addition of temples, you can admire fall foliage in a train on a 200 meters stretch called Maple Tree Tunnel. For that, you have to get to Demachiyanagi Station then take an other train of Eizan Railway to Kibune and Kurama. The famous Maple Tree Tunnel is located between Ichihara and Ninose station. The train conductor will slow down to allow you to observe this red leaves tunnel for about 2 minutes

As for me, we choose 2 places. We couldn’t make them all especially because of the price but also the distance between them.

eikando temple
Eikando Temple

We have been recommend Eikando Temple because it concentrates the most maple trees. And it is so popular that we had to queue in line for 40 minutes before admission. Once inside, this is a one way path. The crowd is madness to take picture of those red maple tree leaves. Besides that, it was such a beautiful show to watch !

fall foliage
Fall Foliage

Tips : Don’t do like us, don’t go at the opening ! At this time, all the Chinese touristy buses are arriving ! Go there 1 hour later … when we get out, the queue was shorten.

Then, we headed to Shoren-in Monzeki. It is a different scenery because it is mainly a game of lights, especially in the courtyard with the shades of blue. There was not much crowd, of course, not much maple trees here ! And it was already around 8:00 pm. I found the atmosphere really relaxing !

shoren-in temple
Shoren-in Temple

Maybe might we do more temples ? I don’t know. But it is true that the crowds have surprised me with all the interest for those maple tree leaves that might cooled me down. All those temples are also open during day, the ambiance is different and the price as well. However, by clear blue sky and sunshine, the colors are stunning !

Shoren-in Temple Garden

What’s sure is that I will probably go back to Japan at this period so much I loved this mixing colors ! I advise you to do so as well enjoying the show before it gets more and more crowded !

See you.


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