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Cherry blossoms aren’t the only seasonal sight worth coming out to see. As the summer heat cools down, the gardens of many of Kyoto’s temples and shrines come ablaze with the radiant red and yellow of autumn maple leaves. Several temples also put on special seasonal events, including light-ups and illuminations of the colorful autumn leaves, and special openings of parts of the temples that are usually closed to the public.
See below for a few of these events and locations to take in the beauty of autumn in Kyoto!
Special Opening Dates: November 9 (Fri) – December 2 (Sun), Reception: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
*Depending on the day and time, access even to opened portions of the temple may be restricted due to Buddhist ceremonies.
Konkai Komyo-ji Temple is located just off the Philosopher’s Walk, a larger temple hidden in plain sight. The temple garden features some lovely red maple trees that reflect off the mirror-like surface of a temple pond during night-time illuminations. The fall foliage also looks incredibly festive around the temple’s grand, two-storey gate.
During this temple’s special autumn opening, the temple’s back garden will be opened to the public, in addition to a folding screen painted by Ito Jakuchu, and the upper story of the temple gate, wherein some of its Buddhist statuary is displayed. Visitors can also catch panoramic views of the city from atop the temple gate.
Konkai Komyo-ji Temple also features a very unique statue of Amida Buddha: this buddha’s head of tight curls—a feature often seen on representations of the Buddha—is voluminous enough to look like an afro. This unusual figure with its afro-like hair is a unique feature of the temple: see if you can find it on your visit!
Ⓒ Photo by Mai Narita
Special Opening Dates: November 17 (Sat) – December 2 (Sun), Reception: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
This ancient temple is located nearby the “Moss Temple” Koke-dera, and is particularly striking in autumn for the carpet of red leaves that falls across the steps leading up to the temple, where visitors can pass through a tunnel of colorful autumn trees.
During this event, the “hojo” hall will be opened to the public. This building, now reconstructed, was the early childhood residence of the Sendai Domain’s 4th daimyo, and it retains historical touches, like the hidden wallspace meant to conceal a guard during a period of particular political tension. In addition, the temple’s pond, constructed in the Muromachi Period (1336-1573), and a folding screen featuring a dragon painted by Kano Eigaku will be on display.
Special Opening Dates: November 17 (Sat) – December 2 (Sun), Reception: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Reikan-ji Temple is located on the eastern side of the Philosopher’s Walk, opposite Kurodani Konkai Komyo-ji Temple. Reikan-ji Temple is open to the public only twice a year—for two weeks in April, and two weeks in November–so autumn is the perfect chance to catch a rare glimpse of the temple interior, all alight with the brilliant red of autumn leaves in its gardens. A number of paintings will also be put on special display during this event.
Special Opening Dates: November 23 (Fri, national holiday) – December 2 (Sun), Reception: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Wachu-an was once the residence of a merchant from Omi (modern-day Shiga Prefecture, just east of Kyoto), and currently occupies a portion of the Notre Dame Jogakuin Junior and Senior High School campus. The unique, Western-style building was renovated in 2015, and features both Spanish and Japanese-style architectural elements. The residence also includes a large garden with colorful maple trees, which will also be specially open to the public during this time.
Special Opening Dates: November 1 (Thu) – 30 (Fri)、Reception: 10:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Hokyo-ji is also known as the “Doll Temple,” and, true to its nickname, the temple will display a number of historically important dolls during this special exhibition. Hokyo-ji is also a “monzeki” temple, meaning that it was served by members of the imperial family. At this particular temple, imperial princesses historically served as head priestesses.
In addition to the temple’s remarkable display of dolls, its garden, complete with bright autumn colors, will also be open to visitors.
Special Opening Dates: November 15 (Thu) – December 4 (Tue), Reception: 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
As its name indicates, the Old Mitsui Family Shimogamo Villa is not a temple, but the former residence of the Mitsui Family. Construction on this elegant building was completed in 1925, and it is registered as an Important Cultural Property today. Though the villa’s entryway, main room, and garden are typically open to visitors, the villa’s second floor will be specially opened during this event, offering a special view of the gardens in all their autumnal glory.
As the temperatures cool down and the colors light up, autumn events start rolling out in full force. Like the cherry blossoms in the springtime, these leaves are best viewed not just during the daytime, but also at night, during special temple openings that illuminate the multicolored leaves from below, to their best advantage. To see this years’ events, check out our event search page!