15 Traditional Events in Kyoto! Must-see for travelers, feel Japanese culture


【January】Kemari Hajime(traditional Japanese foot ball game)
Shimogamo shrine


Date: January 4 every year


A traditional Japanese foot ball game of Kemari, is dedicated at Shimogamo Shrine, which is registered as a World Heritage site.
Kemari is a game of kickball played by a team of four to eight players, and was introduced from China about 1,400 years ago.
The traditional aristocratic costume of suikan, hakama, and eboshi hat is worn by the players, and their splendid footwork is superb as they pass the ball around without letting it fall to the ground!
Paid seats for spectators are also available.



59, Shimogamo-Izumigawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


Take the Kyoto city bus from Hankyu Kyoto Line Kyoto-kawaramachi Station
and alight at ShimogamoJinja-mae.
It's a short walk away.

【February】Setsubun Festival
Temples and shrines in Kyoto City


Date: Several days around February 3 every year


Setsubun Festival is held to purify evil demons by sprinkling lucky beans to pray for good luck and recovery from bad luck and illness. At temples and shrines, “Tsuina Ceremony” is held to bring in good luck for the New Year, and it is characterized by a wide variety of events.
For example, the ‘Tsuina Ceremony’ at Yoshida Shrine is a story of rampaging ogres, which are driven out by officials wearing golden four-eyed masks. Rozanji Temple is famous for its “Oni-odori”, in which red, blue and black demons appear. Mibu Kyogen, a silent drama without dialogue performed at Mibudera Temple, is also a must-see!

【February】Hari-kuyo(requiem services for broken needles)
Horinji temple


Date: February 8 and December 8 every year


Many Japanese people are unaware of the event called Hari-kuyo” which is to give thanks for needles.

Konjac is offered on the altar, and needles are inserted into the Konjac to express gratitude for the needles and to pray for the improvement of skills and family happiness.

The ceremony is held twice a year at Horinji Temple, once in December to close out the year and once in February when the sewing industry is busy tailoring wedding kimonos and the work settles down.


Also known as Konnyaku or Devil’s tongue, is a traditional Japanese food and is made from Konjac. Konjac is mainly grown in China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and southeast Asian countries. It’s kind of rubbery but very healthy.



Arashiyama Kokuzozan-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


8-minute walk from Hankyu Arashiyama Line Arashiyama Station

【March】Spring Doll Exhibition
The former Dodo Imperial palace Hokyoji temple


Pphoto provided:Ruins of Hokyoji Temple

Date: One month from March 1 each year


Hokyoji Temple is known as the “temple of dolls”. The temple has a large collection of prestigious dolls, including dolls that were treasured by the emperor.

At the doll exhibition held in spring, Hina-ningyo(Special doll wearing a traditional Japanese costume for Doll’s festival) and other Kyoto dolls are displayed.


*The dolls in this photo may not always be displayed. Thank you for your understanding.



547, Hyakuromachi, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto [MAP]


Take Kyoto City Bus from Hankyu Kyoto Line Karasuma Station
and alight at Horikawa-teranouchi.
It's a 1-minute walk from there.

【March】Eieitou-no-Hinamatsuri(Doll Fastival)
Hirano-no-ie Waza Eieitou


Date: Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from late February to late March every year


Hinamatsuri(Doll Festival) is an event to wish for the healthy growth of girls, and it is customary to display hina-ningyo in households with girls.

Hirano-no-ie Waza Eieitou is a renovated traditional wooden house built in 1926 as a residence and studio of a Japanese-style painter. During Hinamatsuri, various dolls from the Edo period to the present day from the collection are displayed in the tatami room of the sukiya-style building. Admission charged.



11, Kitano Higashi Koume-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


Take Kyoto City Bus from Hankyu Kyoto Line Saiin Station
and alight at Kinugasako-mae.
It's a 3-minute walk from there.

【April】Miyako Odori
The Gion Kaburenjo Theater


Date: April 1-30 every year


The Miyako Odori is a traditional Kyoto dance performance that began in 1872. It is a rare opportunity to see the gorgeous dances of geiko and maiko.

On the stage, about 60 geiko and maiko dressed in costumes made by masters of Kyoto yuzen and Nishijin brocade dance on stage amid live shamisen, flutes, drums, and other musical instruments against a backdrop of nearby historic sites and historic monuments. The sight of all the geiko and maiko dancing together in the finale is a sight to behold! Enjoy the world of elegance and splendor.

Admission charged



570-2, Gion-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


10-minute walk from Hankyu Kyoto Line Kyoto-kawaramachi Station

Shimogamo shrine


Date: May 3 every year


The Yabusame (horseback archery) ritual is a precursor to the 1,500-year-old Aoi Matsuri, which is held on May 4. Archers dressed in traditional court nobles’ costumes or hunting costumes ride horses and shoot arrows at three targets made of cedar planks set up in a 500-meter-long stable. From the spectator seats (advance reservations required), visitors can see the powerful performance right in front of their eyes.



59, Shimogamo-Izumigawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


Take the Kyoto city bus from Hankyu Kyoto Line Kyoto-kawaramachi Station
and alight at ShimogamoJinja-mae.
It's a short walk away.

【June】Summer Purification Rites
each shrine


Date: June 30 every year


Summer purification rites is a traditional event held on June 30, the turn of the year, at shrines all over Japan. The “Chinowa” is held to purge away the impurities of the first half of the year and to pray for good health in the second half of the year. There is a manner of going through, and this manner differs from shrine to shrine.
In Kyoto City, the festival is held at Kamigamo Shrine, Heian Shrine, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Matsuo Taisha Shrine, Yasaka Shrine, and other shrines.

【July】Gion Matsuri
Yasaka Shrine and Kyoto City


Date: July 1-31 every year


One of the three major festivals in Kyoto, it is a summer tradition!


Check out the article below for more information

<Kyoto>Gion Matsuri (July, 2023)|Highlights of Japan’s Greatest Festival

【July】Mitarashi Festival
Shimogamo shrine


Date: 10 days in late July every year


The Mitarashi Festival, also known as “Ashitsuke Shinji”, is an event in which people take a knee-deep dip in the Mitarashi Pond on the grounds of Shimogamo Shrine to purify themselves of any impurities and pray for good health. It is one of the most popular summer festivals in Kyoto and attracts many visitors. People hold candles in their hands and pray at the Mitarashi Shrine enshrined in the Mitarashi Pond.
On the approach to the shrine, various food stalls are set up, including the Mitarashi-dango(dumplings covered with a sweet soy sauce glaze), a Japanese confectionery that originated at Shimogamo Shrine. It is a scene typical of Japanese summer festivals.



59, Shimogamo-Izumigawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


Take the Kyoto city bus from Hankyu Kyoto Line Kyoto-kawaramachi Station
and alight at ShimogamoJinja-mae.
It's a short walk away.

【August】Kyoto Gozan Okuribi
Kyoto City


(C) Gozan Okuribi Association

Date: August 16 every year


Kyoto Gozan Okuribi is a traditional summer event in Kyoto. It is an event to return the spirits of ancestors who were welcomed during the Bon festival to the underworld. The fire is lit on the fire beds located in the middle of five mountains in Kyoto, and different characters and shapes appear on each fire.

For information on lighting times and viewing locations, please refer to the website below.


【September】Kangetsu-sai (Moon Viewing Festival)
each temple


Date: Mid-September to early October every year


A Shinto ritual held in conjunction with the Harvest moon (mid-September to early October according to the modern calendar), when the moon is considered to be the most beautiful throughout the year. At each temple and shrine, there are moon-viewing parties to admire the moon, offerings of powdered green tea, and orchestral performances. Particularly famous is the “Evening of the Moon” at Daikakuji Temple, one of the three best places in Japan to view the moon. It is a great place to experience Japanese culture!


Check out the article below for more information

The “Kangetsu no Yube” at Daikakuji Temple in Kyoto is impressive! 6 Kangetsusai in Kyoto


【October】Jidai Matsuri Festival
Heian Jingu shrine


Date: October 22 every year


The Jidai Matsuri Festival, one of the three major festivals in Kyoto, is a magnificent festival that has been called a “moving historical genre picture scroll”, and a glance at the Jidai Matsuri provides an understanding of Kyoto’s history and culture.
The 2,000-member, 2-kilometer-long procession, which begins with the Meiji Restoration period and continues through eight different eras, parades around Heian Shrine wearing costumes and ritual implements that symbolize each era.
The costumes and ritual implements are all created based on rigorous period research, which is quite astonishing! This event is the culmination of Kyoto’s world-class traditional craftsmanship.



97, Okazaki Nishitennocho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


Take the Kyoto city bus from Hankyu Kyoto Line Kyoto-kawaramachi Station
and alight at OkazakikoenBijutsukan/Heianjingu-mae.
It's a 5-minute walk from there.

【November】Autumn leaves special exhibition

Date: Early October to early December every year


November is the most visited season of the year when Kyoto is decorated with beautiful autumn leaves. This is the period when temples and shrines throughout Kyoto offer valuable experiences, such as special openings of cultural properties that are normally closed to the public, and special viewing of gardens and buildings.

Ruriko-in, in particular, is very famous for its reflections of autumn leaves on the desk! Advance reservations are required for viewing.


Check out the article below for more information

〈2022〉Best 12 Places to See Autumn Leaves in Japan (Kyoto, Osaka and More)!



55 Higashiyama, Kamikoya, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto [MAP]


From Hankyu Kyoto Line Karasuma Station,
transfer over to the Kyoto Municipal Subway and go to Kokusai Kaikan Station.
Take the Kyoto Bus (for Ohara,Kodeishi) and get off at the Yaseekimae stop.
It's a 5-minute walk from there.

【December】Daikon radish cooking event


Date; December 9 and 10 every year


Daikon-taki(Daikon radish cooking event) is a winter tradition in Kyoto to pray for good health by eating hot daikon radish during the cold season. At Ryotokuji, known as ” Daikon radish cooking temple”, 1,000 daikon radishes produced in Kameoka, Kyoto, are cooked in a large pot and served to visitors. It is believed that eating this roasted daikon will prevent one from getting a midwinter cold, and about 3,000 people visit the temple.



83, Narutaki-honmachi, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto [MAP]

Just by arranging the events of the year in Kyoto in this way, we can see that the Japanese people respect and appreciate the things around them, such as nature, daily tools, and food. I hope you could catch a glimpse of such Japanese people.
I hope you too will participate in these events and enjoy your trip to learn more about Japan!

About the author

Your source for sweets and gourmet information!
Editor and writer in charge of outing information media in Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka area for more than 10 years.
I will introduce you to the most popular stores, talked-about gourmet foods, and sightseeing spots in Japan.



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