Miyako Light Event 2018 – Three Nights When Kyoto Becomes a Lantern Town



Miyako Light (都ライト) is a local light up event in Kyoto held in November or December depending on the year. Only for three nights, the residential area turns into the town of lanterns. This year is the 14th anniversary. The event will last from November 9th (Fri) to 11th (Sun).
At this event, you can walk around the town lighted up by a lot of beautiful lanterns. Of course, you can take photographs of this graceful scenery with your own camera and walk around the special exhibitions and stages with traditional performances in Kyoto. On the streets, some food stands also wait for you. Let’s go and feel Japanese traditional nights!


How Did This Unique Event Start?

Since 2005, college and university students in Kyoto hold Miyako Light event every late autumn or early winter. The event area is filled with Japanese traditional architecture called “Machiya (町家)”. It is a characteristic of its long and narrow buildings design. For many years, merchants and craftsmen had used the rear part of the space in a Machiya for stores or atelier space, and the inner part as a living space. However, this kind of houses is decreasing because of the dynamic changes in our lifestyle. Today it is said that Kyoto still has about 50,000 Machiyas, but a reasonable number of them are empty houses.
To improve the situation, students began this event. Their intention is to tell how fantastic Machiyas and Machiya life is, and to save the houses them from extinction.

What Will Happen at This Event?

The venue for this event is a quiet residential area. There are a lot of traditional things such as Machiya, so the atmosphere has a taste.
The sun sinks around 5 p.m., then the event starts. Lights appear one after another. Inside a room, inside a lantern, through a Shoji (障子, a sliding door with lattice and traditional Japanese paper – washi). You will see lights in various ways.
Moreover, you can walk around the event area freely.

Check Out the Broad Ways of Using Washi!

At this event, a traditional Japanese paper – washi plays a significant role.
Washi has a history of 400 years. The feature of this material is its thinness, durability, and long-lasting term of use. This hand-made paper is evaluated by UNESCO and registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
It has various uses: from small items (like a letter set or wrapping paper) to interior use (such as sliding doors and wallpapers.) At Miyako Light event, you can find it in many forms – lantern covers, shoji, and umbrellas.

Join a Memorial “Stamp Rally” Game!

Do you know a “stamp rally” game? It is widely known in Japan and some other Asian countries. The rules are simple – you collect a series of stamps and can get a novelty.
In the case of Miyako Light, the stamp is a photograph taken in a certain place. For example, here is a picture of the spot in 2017.

Two charming rabbits are making rice cakes on the Moon. This spot is a textile atelier named “Daikon-ya” or “a RADISH store” in English (sorry, I don’t know why such strange name this atelier has.)
After collecting all stamps, you can get a memorial clear file as a sign of completion.
On the route of Miyako Light event, there are many photogenic spots!

Machiya on Jofuku-ji St.

The first one is a typical Machiya, located on Jofuku-ji St.
This spot is used as the main visual spot of the event. Walk across this Machiya and become a part of a photogenic picture like this!

A Lantern Park

When you turn around at the first spot, you will find a lot of lights. This is the second photogenic spot. These lanterns are handmade. Its soft lights will wrap and heal you.
There is also a performance stage so you can enjoy live music, magic shows, and so on.

Umbrellas Beside the Street

Along Gotsuji St., four unique umbrellas are lined up in front of Hotel Hana Nishijin.
This kind of umbrellas is called “Janome” because the print pattern is like the eyes of snakes. It is like bull’s eyes design in the Western world.
The origin of that is said to be at the end of 17th Century. Primarily, it is made of paper and wooden sticks. Even today, Janome is used as a fashion item, and people sometimes use it when wearing a kimono. It is one of the most popular souvenirs for tourists in Japan.

Look Around the Limited Exhibitions!

Some exhibitions and stages are open only during the event days. For example, in 2017, you could appreciate “Rakugo” – a traditional Japanese comedy, and “Gagaku” – a Japanese traditional dance program at Matsuhiro Shouten.
Besides, Atelier Haul is a museum of stained glass. At Tengaju art museum you could make a puff with velvet. The exhibitions change every year, so please check it in advance.


Miyako Light Event 2018 Details and Access

Dates: November 9, 10, 11
Time: 5:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.
Place: Around Daikokucho, Jyofukuji St. (大国町、浄福寺通) and Kamishichi-ken St. (上七軒通)
Official Website (Japanese Only):
・Jyofukuji St.
Daikoku-cho, Jyofukuji-agaru, Imadegawa Street, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto City

・Kamishichi-ken St.
Shinseicho, Shichihonmastu-Nishi Iru, Imadegawa Street, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto City


・Jyofukuji St.

City bus (51, 59, 201, 203 lines):

Get off at “Imadegawa Jofukuji(今出川浄福寺)” and walk 5 minutes to the north

Kyoto City Subway Karasuma line:

Get off at Imadegawa station(今出川駅)
Take a City Bus (51,59,201,203 lines) at Karasuma Imadegawa(烏丸今出川)
Get off at “Imadegawa Jofukuji” and walk 5 minutes to the north

・Kamishichi-ken St.

City bus (10, 50, 51, 55, 203 lines)

Get off at “Kamishichi-ken”(上七軒)

Kyoto City Subway Karasuma line:

Get off at Imadegawa station(今出川駅)
Take a  City Bus (51, 203 lines) at Karasuma Imadegawa(烏丸今出川)
Get off at “Kamishichi-ken”

Closing Remarks

The three nights of Miyako Light event give you a special moment. A silent residential area turns to a stage of light and welcomes you. Old and young, men and women, many people visit the place and enjoy this light up event in their own ways. Some use the pictures for Instagram, some feel the depth of Japanese history, or just to walk around after dinner.

Anyway, there is no doubt that it is an excellent opportunity to tell everybody how fantastic scenery of machiyas is. I hope we will be able to see machiyas even after a few decades.
Please come on and feel Kyoto at night with your own eyes. The local guides are here to help! If you need any help and would like a local guide to tell you more about Miyako Light event or even more, please check the banner below! Walk around there with us and find out all the edges of Japanese culture!

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I am a university student in Kyoto, majoring in Japanese art history. I have held international event to learn deep Kyoto together. It’s my pleasure if you read my article and get interested more about our culture.

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