Most Popular Kyoto Winter Events and Festivals 2018/2019



Having your trip planned yet? If you are wondering which prefecture to visit during the winter, you should come to Kyoto. As many people know that Kyoto is the place where you can experience real Japanese and learn history at a deep level. There is no reason for you to miss this magnificent prefecture from your trip list. Visiting Kyoto during the winter gives you some advantage as there are fewer tourists during this season, so you do not need to be in a long line for whatever you do or wherever you go in this period of time. Just bring a warm jacket and inner shirt, and you will be fine.

As Kyoto is the most famous ancient city in Japan, you will enjoy exploring many historical spots and culture events while you are there. Don’t forget that Kyoto is ranked in the 1st city among Japanese cities that tourist want to visit as well. Feeling like checking out what is going on in Kyoto? In this article, I picked up the most popular and existing events for you to join in each month of winter 2018-2019.


December Kyoto Events and Festivals
January Kyoto Events and Festivals
February Kyoto Events and Festivals

December Kyoto Events and Festivals

There are many temples and shrines in Kyoto. This historic city where you can feel the tradition and old times of Japan gets busy through the year. Many tourists from all over the world come and visit there to grasp the history of Japan. December is actually the busiest time of the year for Kyoto as people rush to enjoy the city before it gets cold or snowy. It would be good to walk around the city or try Japanese traditional Tofu dishes while you visit Kyoto in December. Let’s take a closer look at some festivals and events!

Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro (Dec 7th –17th, 2018)

Arashiyama is one of the famous tourist spots in Kyoto. This place shows different faces in each season with cherry blossoms in spring, fresh green mountains in the summer and autumn leaves in the fall. Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro is 10 days event that lights up this beautiful town with lanterns. Those lanterns illuminate from the bottom of the mountain to Katsura River. It looks pretty majestic and mysterious. The recommended course for this light up is from Arashiyama station to Nisonin (Nison Temple). You will come across extraordinary scenery while you walk through the course. If you would like to know more about this event, please check the following article,


Bamboo Forests in Sagano(Dec8h-17th, 2018)

People say that the best season to visit the bamboo forest in Sagano is the summer. It has cool air and the color of the fresh green make you totally relax. Sure, it is true. But you do not get to see anything or walk through the site as it is super packed during the summer. Actually, the best season to visit there is in winter. Bamboo forests in Sagano get lit up during Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatoro from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and it shows totally different face of the place. It is quiet and quaint. Since it gets a lot colder in the area during this time, you can enjoy walking in the mysterious space. For more information on this event, please click on the following link: (only Japanese)

Hari Kuyo at Horin Temple (Dec 8th, 2018)

Image courtesy of Karesansui

Hari Kuyo is a requiem service for broken needles. It is the winter tradition in Kyoto. It is said that there are not many people who use needles to make clothe or crafts but actually young people in Japan are more interested in making craft ever. People bring their old broken needles and stub it in big konjac in front of them while monks chant in front of the god statue. The warm sweet sake will be served at the site. You can stroll around the ground of the temple after the ceremony. I think you find this ceremony interesting. If you would like to know more about this event, please check the following article,


Hyakumanben Tedukuri Flea Market (Dec 15th, 2018)

Image courtesy of sfotakayoshi

This Flea Market takes place every 15th of each month at the main site of Chion Temple. The first time they had this market was about 20 years ago. Since that time, this market is loved by local people in Kyoto. Now it became one of the famous events. You need to be selected by the lottery in order to sell your craft at the market. There will be over 450 shops filled with original craft. I am pretty sure you can find something that you really love at this market. For more about this event, please click the link here:

Kos Joy (Dec 15th, 2018)

Image courtesy of 珈琲ルンバ

Osaka and Tokyo are not the only places where you can enjoy cosplay. As you may know, Japan is a country full of rich culture. And manga, anime, and computer games are now a part of a subculture that represents Japan. This Kos Joy is one of the famous events for those Japanese subculture lovers. It takes place at the Kyoto International Manga Museum where stocks over 300,000 manga if you are interested in cosplay, this festival is something you should check out. Here is the link to the official website: (Only in Japanese)

Joya no Kane (The bell ring on New Year’s Eve at Chionin) (Dec 31st, 2018)

Many Japanese people celebrate New Year’s Eve either at Temple or Shrine. If you plan to be Kyoto at the end of the year, I recommend you to go to Chionin. Chionin is a famous historical Temple in Kyoto. At the New Year’s Eve, the bell will be hit and rang 108 times. Each bell ring represents people’s klesha (evil passions). People let their klesha each time they hear the bell ring. People call this ritual Joya no Kane. In Chionin, you will see 17 monks working together to ring the bell (The bell is huge!) and the way they work on the bell is pretty powerful. Please check the following link for more information: (Only Japanese)

 January Kyoto Events and Festivals

Visiting Kyoto in January can be really cold. It gets snowy depending on the area you go. Kyoto is the basin area where it gets super humid and hot in the summer and gets cold in the winter. The highest temperature is about 9 degrees in Kyoto. Seeing around the center of the city would not be a problem but if you plan to visit the northern part of Kyoto, it is better for you to bring proper winter to clothe that shut out cold wind. Here I search perfects events for you to join in Kyoto during January. Check them out!

Enmusubi Hatsu Taikoku Festival at Jishu Shrine (Jan 1st to 3rd, 2019)

Emnusubi in Japanese means praying for a good relationship and a marriage. This festival takes place at Jishu Shrine located in the northern part of the world famous Kiyomizu shrine. The priest of the shrine prays for visitor’s good relationship and luck for the new year at this festival with playing stone whistle. The small mallets will be provided for free to the visitors after the ceremony. There will be many women participating in this event every year. You may find someone attractive while you attend this festival. Who knows? Here is the official page of the event: (Only in Japanese)

Kemari Hajime at Shimogamo Shrine (Jan 4th, 2019)

Image courtesy of juraihelm

This festival takes place 4th of January every year. Kemari was a popular sport among noble people back in Eian Era. Kemari is a ball that people traditionally made of deer’s skin. Players kick that ball and pass it in the air. You can imagine something like football juggling. In this festival, people dress in traditional clothing from the Heian period. The outfit is pretty colorful and beautiful. Looking at players in this costume amazes you enough. The site gets very crowded as it is a popular festival. Be careful when you walk around the venue. Here is the webpage of the festival for your information: (Only Japanese)

Toka Ebisu Festival at Ebisu Shrine (Jan 8th to 12th, 2019)

This festival is a 5 days event. It takes place at Ebisu Shrine in Gion district in Kyoto. This is full of a traditional and ritual type of festival. The main event during this festival is Toka Festival on 10th. Toka comes from “10th day of the month” in Japanese. Ebisu is one of the 7 lucky gods and he represents wealth and money. Many people attend this festival pray for the luck and success in their business for coming to New Year. There will be traditional ritual performance, dance and more. You can also enjoy Japanese festival food at the vendors lined up on the street to the shrine. For more information about this festival, please visit the website:

Toshiya in Sanjusangendo Temple (Jan 13th 2019)

Image courtesy of juraihelm

Toshiya takes place on the third Sunday of January in every year at Sanjusangendo Temple. It has a long history which started in the 16th century. Toshiya is one of Japanese archery. In this festival, young girls and guys dressed in kimono and hakama (traditional archery outfit from Edo period) shoot an arrow from one end of the building to the target which is 120 meters away. The highlight of this festival is Oomato competition originated from archery competition in the Edo period. Glade holders shoot archeries and it looks brilliant. If you would like to know more about this event, please check the following article,


Okayu Festival at Shimogamo Shrine (Jan 15th, 2019)

Image courtesy of sfotakayoshi

Okayu Festival takes place at Shimogamo Shrine on January 15th of every year. This date January 15th is called Ko-shogatsu meaning small New Year. On this day, Japanese people have dondo fire and through old charms and bamboo into the fire and eat Okayu(Japanese porridge) with beans. Temples and shrines in Kyoto get busy with this customs during Ko-shogatsu. In this festival, warm and sweet red bean porridge will be served with soft mochi around 1:00 a.m. One bowl of porridge costs 300 yen. Get warm and enjoy Ko-shogatsu at the shrine with local people. For more information about this festival, go to the website:

Yakuyoke Festival at Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine (Jan 15th to 19th, 2019)

This is the biggest Yakuyoke (warding off the evil) festival in Japan that takes place for 5 days at Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine. The shrine locates southern part of Kyoto where you can access within an hour from the center of Kyoto. Although this festival goes on for 5 days, what you cannot miss is the event on the last day of the festival. The ritual called “Shono shinji” will be performed. During this event, old charms and talisman will be burnt in the big fire. The rice cake baked in that fire will be provided to the visitors after the event. After having this mocha you are purified and get ready to move on to the New Year with your life. For more information, please visit the official website of the event: (Only Japanese)

February Kyoto Events and Festivals

February in Kyoto can be really cold. But it is also a good time to visit there as you will get sunny days most of the time and the air is dry. On top of it, there are fewer tourists in Kyoto around this season so you do not need to be in line when you visit some tourist sites. Please remember the day will be shorter than spring and summer so you have to plan your day efficiently. Since Kyoto is the historical center of Japan, there are so many things to see and enjoy regardless of the weather. Do not worry you will have fun anyways. Here are some festivals and events you can check in February.

Setsubun Festival at Yasaka Shrine (Feb 2nd to 3rd, 2019)

Image courtesy of どらどら

Yasaka Shrine is probably the most famous shrine in Gion area of Kyoto. This festival takes place at this famous shrine from February 2nd to the 3rd for two days. Setsubun is a Japanese traditional custom to vanish the evils. There are many festivals relates to Setsubun all over Japan during the same time. What differs from this festival from among all other ones, you will see Maiko dancing on the stage. It is so Kyoto like! There also will be lucky beans with a lottery and eat sweet red beans soup called zenzai at the venue. Do not miss this the most Japanese experience at Setsubun! For more information, please check the following link: (Japanese Only)

Kyoto Marathon (Feb 17th, 2019)

Are you into running or jogging? If so, you may consider joining this Kyoto Marathon. This is one of the big marathon events which started in 2012. Every year around 16,000 runners and 15,000 volunteers join this marathon and warm up the event. As you know Kyoto is full of many world heritages, you can enjoy those gorgeous historical sites while you run through the course. This event is not only popular among Japanese people but also visitors from abroad. There are over 2000 people from abroad join this marathon. Why don’t you join this event and make your trip really memorable? You can check this website for registration and details:

Kyoto Restaurant Winter Special (Feb 1st to 28th, 2019)

One of the exciting things to do while you travel in abroad is tasting local food. This Kyoto Restaurant Winter Special definitely satisfies your tongue and curiosity with traditional Kyoto food. There will be over 200 famous restaurants in Kyoto gather to this event and offer various dishes including Kyoto Cuisine, Kyoto traditional Tofu dishes, Japanese Cuisine, and even European ones! The date for 2019 is not fixed yet but if you want to try traditional Kyoto dish, this is the event for you to go. Without walking around Kyoto, you can try local traditional food in Kyoto area at this event! Here is the official website of the Kyoto Restaurant Winter Special from 2018, will be updated once the date is fixed for 2019:

Kobo-ichi Flea Market in Toji Temple (Feb 21st, 2019)

Image courtesy of peter-rabbit

This Toji Kobe Flea Market takes place on 21st of every month. Toji is a temple which is famous for 5 story pagoda and it attracts many tourists from Japan and abroad. But what people pay attention more is this huge flea market. There is nothing you cannot find in this market. There will be over 1000 shops selling textiles, antiques, and foods! This event started 700 years ago and still remains one of the popular flea markets among local people. You may find something valuable while you stroll around the market over eating warm Japanese food like Oden or Yakisoba. If you would like to know more about this event, please check the following article,


Godai Rikison Ninno-e Festival at Daigoji Temple (Feb 23rd, 2019)

This festival takes place on February 23rd every year. The main character of this festival is MOCHI!! This festival is famous as a rice cake lifting event. Why do people do that? They do it to pray for health and happiness for the New Year. It is actually a very traditional and historical event. The first one was held in 874 when the temple was founded. In this festival, visitors bring gigantic rice cake which weight 90kg for women and 150kg for men! And they compete for the time they lift those heavy rice cakes. In order to join the competition, you have to get to the venue between 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for registration. Here is the website for detail of the event:

Baikasai (Ume Plum Festival) at Kitano Shrine (Feb 25th, 2019)

Kitano Shrine which is the venue of Baikasai (Ume Plum Festival) was built in 947. This shrine warships Michizane Sugawara who was a scholar and litterateur also a politician back in Heian period. He is perceived as the god of wisdom in Japan. This festival honors him and takes place February 25th every year on the day he passed away. There will be Maiko, Geiko, and Okami to serve you Japanese traditional green tea called matcha in the plum garden. You need to get a ticket to join the event at the office in Kitano Shrine. If you would like to know more about this event, please check the following article,


Closing Remarks

Did you enjoy getting to know about winter festivals and events taking place in Kyoto? It is hard to list everything on this article. There are actually more events and festivals you can go to Kyoto during this season. If you cannot find the events and festivals you want to go, you may search for other events on Festival Go. Kyoto is the best prefecture that you can experience true Japanese culture and history. Kyoto never gets you disappointed or discouraged. That is why people from Japan and abroad keep coming back to Kyoto through the year. If you would like a local guide to spend a day with you or take you to a festival and tell you even more information, please check the banner below!

An Ultimate Idea Source for Your Kyoto Stay!

Kyoto is an old capital of Japan and a cultural and historical mecca for everyone who visits this country. It is the most popular city among tourists and a must-see destination indeed. Kyoto boasts over 4000 historical places including shrines, temples, and attracts visitors with its charming atmosphere of an ancient city. This city is great for shopping, bicycling, hiking, museums, galleries, green spaces, and features many famous festivals. In the following article, you will find 100 things and many ideas on how to spend your time in Kyoto! Please, have a look, URL:

The Real Kyoto Gion Festival

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Of course, Kyoto boasts many outstanding events to watch and participate, and you should do it when you have a chance! However, the original Gion festival with much bigger floats takes place every year in Kyoto in July. I am sure you will enjoy one of the most popular Gion festivals in Japan! For more information about Kyoto`s Gion Matsuri click on the link below!

Would You Like to Know How to Enjoy a Japanese Festival Even More?

A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!


Enjoy Sakura in Japan!

Cherry blossoms are an essential part of Japanese culture. And, viewing cherry blossoms (Hanami) is very popular in Japan during the spring. This is because cherry blossoms, which the Japanese call “Sakura” are stunning at this season.

If you are planning to visit Japan this spring and want to discover more cherry blossoms spots in Kyoto area, please check the following article. It’s covering the best Hanami spots in the old capital and provides you with the essential information, so you can get the most from your Sakura trip!

Here`s the link. URL: 

Kyoto has many beautiful spots to see Cherry blossoms. However, other areas also have excellent places for hanami. Tokyo features many of those spots as well! If you are in Tokyo around spring and looking for a place to see cherry blossoms, Why don’t you check the following article?



Yogi and Snowboarder. Love to explore nature and to meet new people. Currently, residing in the Kansai area in Japan.

Written on

Other Events You May Like