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The best things to do in Kyoto at night ( Gion night walk, illuminations, …)

Are you wondering about the best things to do in Kyoto at night? You came to the right place. Here we share some amazing Kyoto night activities. 

After a day of visiting Kyoto’s many temples and shrines, you may be looking forward to that comfortable hotel bed. Many tourists will head back to their hotels after dinner but we hope these activities will convince you to spend a few extra hours in the city. Kyoto becomes magical after dark.

A lot of shrines and temples are illuminated, and you can walk the lantern-lit wooden streets and soak up the mythical atmosphere. You may even spot a geisha in Gion.

For this post, we partnered up with other travel bloggers to share the best things to do in Kyoto at night.

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Japan Essentials 

Kyoto Essentials 

  • The JR Rail Pass is of limited use to travel around Kyoto as there are few JR lines within Kyoto’s city boundaries. If you also plan on visiting Osaka and think of using public transportation a lot, you could purchase this sightseeing pass. If you plan on visiting other parts of the Kansai area such as Nara, Kobe, Himeji, and Osaka and you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass, the JR West Pass might be interesting for you.
  • Gion, Kyoto’s geisha district, is very atmospheric at night. If you want to learn more about geishas and their lifestyle take this guided night walk. If you really want to spoil yourself with a delicious traditional Japanese Kaiseki dinner, this Kyoto Night Food Tour is something for you. 

Is this your first Japan trip and are you feeling a bit overwhelmed about planning this trip, what to see, and what to do in Japan? Check out our Japan travel planner. This document will help you plan your trip smoothly.

The best Kyoto nightlife activities 

Kyoto sunset Kodai-Ji, Japan
Kyoto sunset Kodai-Ji, Japan

1. Enjoy the sunset from Kodai-Ji

Suggested by Emma Jane  from EmmaJaneExplores

There’s nothing more beautiful than a great sunset, and I firmly believe that the best spot to watch the sunset over the temples in Kyoto is from the car park of the temple, Kodai-Ji.

For photographers, the photo opportunities are amazing as you’re able to capture the pagodas with the colored sky behind them.

Even if you’re not interested in snapping away on your camera, the views are wonderful and give you a real appreciation for the beauty and sprawl of Kyoto.

If you turn 180 degrees to face the Buddha statue at the Kodai-Ji, you might also get some fantastic sunset colors coming in over the mountains.

This is one of the best free things to do in Kyoto at night time.

Read Also:

A car park might sound like a very unglamorous place to visit when on holiday, but it’s actually perfect because not a lot of people come up here.

They’re too busy trying to navigate the hordes of tourists in the narrow streets below. You’ll be able to enjoy the sunset all to yourself, accompanied by the sounds of temple bells being run to signify the end of another day.

Once the sun is set, wander back down through the gorgeous Kyoto streets and watch the paper lanterns start to glow in the night.

During the sakura season and in autumn the temple has special night openings. You will find more information about this later on in our section about temple illuminations.

Info icon
Location: Kodai-Ji Zen Temple 526 Shimogawara-cho, Higashiyama-ku Kyoto Prefecture 605-0825.
Event icon
Opening hours: 9 am – 5 pm Gates close at 5u30pm ( Last entry: 5 pm)
600 yen
Kodai-Ji Zen Temple

How to get there

From JR Kyoto Station or Kintetsu Kyoto Station take city bus #206 in the direction of Higashiyama. Get off at Higashiyama Yasui bus stop and walk east for 5 minutes.

From Hankyu Kawaramachi Station or Keihan Shijo Station take city bus #207. Get off at Higashiyama Yasui bus stop and walk east for 5 minutes. 

Kamogawa river Gion, Kyoto
Kamogawa river Gion, Kyoto

2. Go chilling at the Kamogawa river at night

Suggested by Lena from The Social Travel experiment

If you asked me what to do in Kyoto at night, there is only one thing that comes to my mind: Chilling at the Kamogawa.

While I was staying with a host family and studying Japanese at a language school in Kyoto I made a lot of friends (foreigners as well as Japanese) and in the evenings we would all meet up, buy some snacks and drinks at the closest convenience store and sit down at the bank of the Kamogawa, the river flowing through Kyoto.

By the way, even if you haven’t found any friends yet, a visit to the Kamogawa at night is a super fun activity.

It is a fantastic place to watch other young people, like university students, who also go there to hang out with their friends and to see the amazing performances of people trying to make some money by singing or playing music or doing all kinds of circus-worthy acts.

Read Also:

Our ultimate Japan travel guide where you can find all our Japan articles.

Chilling at the Kamogawa is a great activity not only in summer but also in spring and fall (just make sure to bring a jacket because as soon as the sun has set it gets quite cold).

Only in winter, the banks of the Kamogawa are almost deserted at night, but they still attract visitors on sunny winter days who just enjoy a stroll in the sun.

How to get there

Take the Keihan Railways Main Line to Gion-Shijo station.  Exit 3 or 4 (Shiijo Ohashi) takes you to the Shijoo bridge.  From this bridge, you can descend to the river banks.

Pontocho Alley Kyoto, Japan
Wandering around Pontocho Alley is one of the best things to do in Kyoto at night.

3. Wander around Pontocho Alley

Suggested by Jessica from Uprootedtravel

Welcome to Pontocho Alley, Kyoto’s atmospheric nightlife district for over 500 years, a more polished version of Tokyo’s pre-war alleyways, like Golden Gai or Drunkard’s Alley.

While this street may look relatively mundane in the daylight, it springs to life once dusk settles over the city, with glowing Japanese lanterns illuminating the endless array of tiny bars, restaurants, charming teahouses, and traditional shops.

Despite its nostalgic charm, it is worth noting that a handful of these businesses (primarily teahouses) exclusively cater to longstanding, local clients and will politely turn away all foreign visitors.

However, the vast majority welcome travelers and locals alike to try their goods and services, posting English menus and even plastic replicas of the dishes or drinks on the machiya’s exterior to prepare you for what deliciousness awaits you inside.

Running parallel to the west bank of the Kamo-gawa River for about six city blocks, this is the perfect place to stroll around at night, grab some dinner, have some sake, and, of course, people watch- or potentially, even geisha-watch?

Although your best bet to spot a true geisha is in the Gion district of the city, you may get lucky if you hang around the southern part of Pontocho around dusk on a Friday or Saturday evening and catch a glimpse of a maiko (apprentice geisha) or geiko (geisha) hurrying off to one of the exclusive clubs.

Even if you don’t catch sight of a geisha here, you’ll still feel steeped in Kyoto’s pre-war history and mystical beauty after spending an evening wandering around Pontocho.


Pontocho Dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto

How to get there

From Kyoto Station. Take bus #17 or bus #205  to Shijo Kawaramachi bus stop.

Take the Hankyu Railways Kyoto line to Kawaramachi station. Take the Kiyamachi exit and then take the left passageway for the north side. Walk straight towards the river. Pontocho alley is then on your left.

Take the Keihan Railways Main Line to Gion-Shijo station. Take exit 3 or 4 (Shijo Ohashi) and continue walking across the bridge. You will see a Police station on the other side of the bridge. Turn right at the Police station. Behind it lies Pontocho.

You can take the train back at Sanjo station after you’ve walked the entire length of the alley.  Take a right twice as you exit the alley and cross the Sanjo bridge, the station is right across the bridge.

Geisha Walking, Kyoto, Japan
Gion is the best district to spot a geisha

4. Make a night walk in Gion and spot a geisha

Gion is one of Japan’s last remaining true Geisha districts.

Geishas are companion ladies and their services are typically reserved for the Japanese Elite. 

Their origins go way back to the very early years of Japanese history when poor girls made a living by entertaining wealthy families. 

At the start, they often sold sexual services but gradually the modern Geishas became entertainment ladies that sing and dance for their guests.

Nowadays Geisha’s are well-respected ladies. 

Their number has dropped dramatically, partly due to the years of heavy training that need to be taken before one officially can become a Geisha.

The modern geishas still swear by the traditional standards and art forms and are remarkable appearances in the picturesque streets of the Gion District. 

We took a guided tour that led us through the streets and alleys with the highest chance to spot Geishas. 

By the end of the evening, we had seen 3 Geishas, the icing on the cake of a convivial evening in the charming Gion district.

This was one of the best tours we did in Kyoto at night.

More information and booking:
Gion Night Walk

or read here the full story of our Geisha spotting evening in Gion.

How to get there

From Kyoto Station take bus  #100 or #206 and get off at the Gion bus stop.

Take the Keihan Main line to Gion Shijo Station. 

Take the Hankyu Railways Kyoto line to Kawaramachi station and cross the bridge over the Kamo river.

Izakaya Japan
Having a great evening in an Izakaya.

4. Take a Kyoto night tour

One of the most fun things to do in Kyoto by night is to take a guided night tour.

An organized tour saves you time and, moreover, the tour guide will enlighten you about the different sights you visit.

We did a wonderful guided tour in Gion at night ourselves and received information that we would never have known otherwise. You can read everything about our Kyoto night walk here. 

We partnered up with GetYourGuide for these activities.  

GetYourGuide is a reliable platform where you can book thousands of guided tours anywhere in the world.  

They are very flexible and offer free cancellation for most activities when your plans change. 

Here we share 4 of the best tours that you can do in Kyoto at night.

Attend a tea ceremony at night

Kyoto Tea Ceremony
Attending a Tea ceremony is one of the best things to do in Kyoto at night.

Experience Japanese hospitality and get a deeper understanding of Japanese culture while attending a traditional tea ceremony.

Learn the order of movement by a tea master. 

The tea ceremony is accompanied by traditional Japanese sweets.

Although the ceremony is in English this doesn’t reduce the special experience.

For an extra fee, you can rent a kimono to wear during the ceremony.

This is the perfect tour to learn more about the importance of the tea ceremony for the Japanese. It’s also a good moment to relax a bit after a busy day in Kyoto.

Read reviews and book:
Kyoto Tea Ceremony

Go on an Izakaya Food Tour with Local Guide

Japan Food
A traditional Japanese meal

With this tour, you will discover Kyoto’s nightlife like a local while discovering historic districts in Kyoto and visiting several izakayas. 

An Izakaya is a café serving light meals and drinks. They serve traditional Japanese food in a casual atmosphere. The portions are usually not too big, comparable with tapas. 

It’s the perfect tour to learn more about Kyoto and taste food that you never tried before.

Read reviews and book:
Izakaya Food Tour

Join a small walking tour


Immerse yourself in the magic of Kyoto after dark while walking the lantern-lit wooden streets. Spot a geisha in the geisha district and taste traditional Japanese snacks.

This tour is for you if you want to learn more about Kyoto while trying local snacks and street food.

Read reviews and book:
Kyoto Lanes & Lanterns Tour

Japan food
Many things to taste

Enjoy a Kyoto Night Food Tour with a 10-Course Dinner

This walking tour will take you around the historic Gion district where your guide will tell you many interesting stories along the way. 

At the end of the journey, you will enjoy a delicious 10-course Kaiseki, a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner prepared by a chef with seasonal ingredients.

This is the perfect tour for you if you want to discover the Gion district at night and enjoy a traditional Japanese dinner. Although it isn’t a bargain, it’s something typical Japanese that you can only experience in Japan and must definitely try once.

Read reviews and book:
Kaiseki diner

Kyoto train station, Japan
Kyoto train station, Japan

6. Climb to the roof of Kyoto station 

The impressive Kyoto station has a skyway walk at the very top of the station building. 

It is accessible via a flight of escalators at both sides of the station. 

You have beautiful views of Kyoto Tower and the Kyoto night skyline from the Skyway and from the observation platforms at both ends of the walkway.

Every evening the multi-colored LED-lit steps on both sides of the station come to life to create an amazing Instagram-able light show.  The show promotes ongoing festivals and events and changes frequently.

The below picture was taken when the Matsuri festival was being held.

Info icon
Kyoto Station
Higashishiokoji Kamadonocho, Shimogyo-ku
Kyoto Prefecture
Event icon
Opening hours: 24/7
Tickets: Free entrance
Kyoto Station Japan
Neon lighting, Kyoto station, Japan
Neon lighting, Kyoto station, Japan

7. Enjoy the night views from Kyoto Tower

Kyoto Tower is Kyoto’s tallest structure and the landmark of Kyoto.

The tower was built in 1964 withstanding 131 meters tall and from the observation deck located 100 meters above the ground, you can enjoy a 360-degree night view of Kyoto.

Although 100 meters doesn’t sound that high, you can still see quite far since Kyoto doesn’t have many tall buildings. 

Sunset is a beautiful time to head over to the tower and the night views are spectacular as well.

Info icon
Kyoto Tower
721-1 Higashishiokoji-cho, Karasuma-dori Shichijo-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku
Kyoto Prefecture 600-8216
Event icon
Opening hours: 9am-9pm ( last admission 8h40pm)
Tickets: 770 yen (for the viewing platform)
Kyoto tower, Japan

How to get there:

A 2-minute walk from Kyoto Station Karasuma central gate.

Check prices and availability:
Kyoto Tower Tickets

lescamoteur bar Kyoto, Japan
Lescamoteur bar Kyoto, Japan

8. Sip a cocktail at L’ Escamoteur Bar

Suggested by Paul from JourneyCompass

If you like good cocktails and quirky bars, L’Escamoteur Bar is a must-visit during your nights out in Kyoto. It’s a small place with a vibrant and artsy atmosphere, and although the cocktails are a bit pricey (~1300-1500 Yen), the experience is worth it.

You, as I did, may wonder about the name. As it doesn’t sound like a Japanese name. It sounds French, and it is. The owner of the place is French and L’Escamoteur means magician, which was his former occupation…

When you order certain drinks, they actually perform magic tricks for you. Another tricky element of the place is trying to find the secret toilet, a fun, and playful touch 🙂

Two things to note: be sure to come early as this place fills up quickly, and bring cash as they don’t accept cards.

Read Also:

Apart from charming places to spend your nights out, with Kyoto being the heart of traditional Japan you also have the option to choose from many traditional ryokans. 


138-9 Saitocho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 600-8012.

Info icon
L’Escamoteur Bar
Kyoto Prefecture 600-8012
Event icon
Opening hours: 8 pm – 2 am (Closed on Monday))
Tickets: Free entrance
lescamoteur bar Kyoto, Japan

How to get there:

Take the Keihan Main line to Gion Shijo Station. Exit the station at the Southernmost exit (exit 1). Cross the bridge and make a left.  It’s a 2-minute walk from the station entrance. The bar will be on your left. 

Take the Hankyu Railways Kyoto line to Kawaramachi station.  Leave the station at exit 1b and continue southwards keeping the narrow canal on your right. Keep on going straight for about 3 minutes until you see the bar on your left.

9. Admire the illuminated Shrines and temples in Kyoto

Kyoto is literally packed with Shrines and temples.  Several of them change in fairy-tale scenes after sunset.  Wooden and paper lanterns will illuminate the whole temple compounds and the surrounding gardens.

When you visit these Shrines and temples after sunset you will have a completely different experience than during the day.

Here’s a list of all the Illuminated Shrines and Temples that we’re aware of.  Enough to spend several joyful evenings.

Yasaka Shrine Gion, Kyoto, Japan
Yasaka Shrine Gion, Kyoto, Japan

Yasaka Shrine

The Yasaka Shrine is located in Gion and is therefore also often called the Gion Shrine. It is founded more than 1350 years ago. 

At night the lanterns at the Shrine and those along the walkways leading to the Shrine will be lit up, creating a unique atmosphere.

The lanterns at the central stage pictured above carry the names of the sponsors of the Gion festival.

There are also several stalls selling street food at the Shrine’s grounds, perfect to taste some local delicacies such as gyoza and okonomiyaki a sort of Japanese pancake.

Info icon
Yasaka shrine
625 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward
Kyoto Prefecture 605-0073
Event icon
Opening hours: always open
Tickets: Free
Yasaka Shrine Gion Kyoto, Japan

How to get there

From Kyoto Station take bus  #100 or #206 and get off at Gion bus stop.

Take the Keihan Main line to Gion Shijo Station. Take exit 6 or 7 and walk up Shijo-Dori street to the Shrine. 

Take the Hankyu Railways Kyoto line to Kawaramachi station and cross the bridge over the Kamo river.  Continue straight, Shijo-Dori street will take you straight to the Shrine.

Kyoto By Night, Japan
Kyoto By Night

The Hokanji Temple also called Yasaka Pagoda

This beautiful 46-meter tall wooden pagoda is located in the residential area that borders the Yasaka Shrine.  The name can be a little misleading because the pagoda is not on the Shrine’s grounds. 

You need to walk about ten minutes southwards.  You leave the Shrine’s garden through the Shinto Shrine and continue straight ahead until the end of the street.  Its a lovely street lined by small old wooden houses. 

It may feel like you take a trip back to Japan’s olden days.  At the end of the street, you will see the Pagoda on your left-hand side. 

This area of Gion is crowded during the day but at night you have the streets to yourself offering a good picture opportunity. This is, in fact, one of the non-touristy things to do in Kyoto at night.

Info icon
Hokan-Ji Temple (Yasaka Pagoda)
388 Yasaka Kami-machi, Higashiyama-ku
Kyoto Prefecture 605-0862
Event icon
Opening hours: 10 am – 4 pm
Tickets: 400 yen
Yasaka Pagoda Kyoto by Night

How to get there

From Kyoto station take bus #206 to the Higashiyama Yasui stop. From here it’s a 5 minutes walk.

Or you can follow the directions to the Yasaka Shrine and continue walking from the Shrine to the Pagoda.

Fushimi Inari Kyoto, Japan
Fushimi Inari Kyoto, Japan

Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine

Suggested by Mariza from Hoponworld

Fushimi-Inari Taisha is one of the most iconic sights in Kyoto. And rightly so. Dating back to 711AD, it’s the head shrine dedicated to the deity, Inari (the god of rice) and the most important Shinto shrine in all of Japan – outranking nearly 30,000 other shrines.

With plenty to do, see and love for worshippers and visitors alike, Fushimi-Inari is a must when visiting Kyoto.

Although Fushimi-Inari might be best known for its countless red torii gates lining a 4km trail up Inari Mountain, there are also a number of small temples, the honden (main hall), and some cute fox statues (believed to be the messengers of the Inari).

Fushimi-Inari is a very popular tourist attraction, so be sure to time your visit here. Luckily, the crowds seem to thin out the further you follow the trail along the mountain.

The entire hike up Inari Mountain takes about 2-3 hours and since that the grounds are open 24/7, there’s no need to rush your visit here.

At the entrance, there are a number of food and sweets stalls.

Be sure to sample some of the fox cookies or fortune cookies that are baked daily. And don’t forget to grab an Ema (traditional Japanese wish card) to make a wish on your visit here!

Fushimi-Inari is the perfect spot if you’re looking to add to your list of things to do in Kyoto at night, as the hike up the mountain offers spectacular views of the city!

Info icon
Fushimi Inari Taisha shrines
68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi-ku
, Kyoto Prefecture 612-0882, Japan
Event icon
Opening hours: 24/7
Tickets: Free
Fushimi Inari Kyoto, Japan

How to get there:

Fushimi Inari Shrine is located right next to the JR Inari Station.  This is the second station along the JR Nara Line leaving from Kyoto Station (5 minutes, 140 yen one way from Kyoto Station, not served by rapid trains).

The shrine is also just a short walk away from Fushimi Inari Station along the Keihan Main Line. Take the Southern exit of the station and make a left.  Take a right after you’ve crossed the river.  The Shrine will be on your left side.

10. Seasonal illuminations in Kyoto

The temples and shrines we listed above are open at night all year.

The locations we mention here will extend their opening hours to celebrate special occasions such as the cherry blossoms or the colorful autumn foliage.

Both the cherry blossoms, locally referred to as Sakura, and the changing of the leaves in autumn are very special occasions in Japan.

When you are in Kyoto during this time, you should definitely visit some of these colorful illuminated locations.  An evening walk in these fairy-tale settings is a surreal experience and definitely not to be missed.

Some locations also offer late-night openings during summer.  You will find all this information on their website.

The temple’s opening dates may change yearly, for this reason, we advise you to verify the dates before your visit.

Kiyomizu Dera Autumn, Kyoto
Kiyomizu Dera Autumn, Kyoto

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple

This is probably Kyoto’s most commercially-run temple.  They organize special illuminations during the sakura season and autumn foliage.

The shops are also open during the extended opening hours

Keep in mind that this is one of the most popular temples and therefore it can get very crowded.

More information:

Info icon
Kiyomizu Dera Temple
294 Kiyomizu 1-chome, Higashiyama-ku
Kyoto Prefecture 605-0862
Event icon
Daytime Opening hours: 6 am – 6 pm (until 6:30 pm on weekends and holidays from mid-April to July and every day in August and September)
Tickets: 400 yen
Kiyomizu Dera temple, Kyoto

How to get there

Take bus #100 or #206 from Kyoto station to Gojo-Zaka or Kiyomizu-Michi bus stop. Walk 10 minutes uphill to the temple.

Take the Keihan Railway Line to Kiyomizu-Gojo Station. From there it is a 20-minute walk

Nijo Castle Kyoto Japan
Nijo Castle Kyoto Japan

Nijo-jo Castle

This castle dates back to the period that the Tokugawa-shogunate ruled over Japan.  Edo was at that time the capital city but as the Shogunate also spent much time in Kyoto, when visiting the Imperial family, they ordered the construction of a second castle.  

Nijo-jo castle is one of the seventeen world heritage sites that Kyoto has.

It holds night illuminations during the cherry blossom period.

Night openings during the sakura season.

The entrance is free if you wear a Kimono.

More information:


541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward
Kyoto Prefecture 604-8301

How to get there:

Take bus #9, #12, #50, #101 to Nijo-jo-mae station

Take the Tozai Subway Line to Nijo-jo-mae station

Maruyama Park Kyoto
Maruyama Park Kyoto

Maruyama Park

Maruyama Park, the oldest park in Kyoto, is right next to the Yasaka shrine. The park is home to 680 cherry blossoms trees. 

When the cherry blossoms bloom it’s illuminated until midnight. During this time you will also find food stalls in the park. 

Open 24 hours, free entrance

More information:

How to get there

From Kyoto station take bus #100 or #206 and get off at Gion bus stop. From here it’s a 1-minute walk.

Take the Keihan Main line to Gion Shijo Station. Take exit 6 or 7 and walk up Shijo-Dori street to the Yasake Shrine.  Walk straight past the Shrine and this will take you to the park.

Take the Hankyu Railways Kyoto line to Kawaramachi station and cross the bridge over the Kamo river. Continue straight on Shijo-Dori street and walk straight past the Yasaka Shrine, this will take you to the park.

Kodai-ji temple, Kyoto, Japan
Kodai-ji temple, Kyoto, Japan

Kodai-ji Temple

This temple has special evening openings with atmospheric lighting 3 times a year. During the sakura season, the cherry blossoms are illuminated. In autumn the trees around the pond are illuminated.

Additionally, there are 2 weeks in August with late-night openings. 

All the temple buildings that are open in the day can also be visited during extended hours.

What makes their illumination event special is that they hold a different 3D projection mapping show every year. 3D projection mapping is a fairly new technique that brings buildings to life by projecting computer-generated 3D images and videos on them.

More information:



526 Shimogawara-cho, Higashiyama-ku,
Kyoto prefecture 605-0825

How to get there

From JR Kyoto Station or Kintetsu Kyoto Station take city bus #206 in the direction of Higashiyama. Get off at Higashiyama Yasui bus stop.  It’s about a 5 or 10-minute walk to the temple.  The temple is located South of the Yasaka Shrine.

Alternatively, you can take the Keihan Main Line to Gion Shijo Station or the Hankyu Railways Kyoto line to Kawaramachi station.

Kodai-Ji evening garden illuminations
Kodai-Ji evening garden illuminations

Hirano Shrine

The nighttime illumination is held during the Sakura Season from around late March to early April.  It’s part of a larger festival and it’s something really worth going to.

The Shrine is located in a park with about 400 cherry trees and many Japanese people come to this location in the evening to celebrate their Hanami parties with friends and families while they are barbecuing and enjoying a glass of wine.

In addition to the illuminations, there are concerts and several other events.  The cheerful atmosphere that we encountered at this place made it so much more fun to take pictures of the cherry blossoms.

If you get some appetite from seeing and smelling all that food you can get some snacks at the food stalls.

There is a small local night market at the entrance and it’s fun to check out some street food. 

The entrance is free.

More information:


Hirano Shrine
1 Hirano Miyamotocho, Kita-ku,
Kyoto prefecture 603-8322

How to get there

Take bus #205 or #50 at Kyoto Station and get off at Kinugasa Komae.

ChionIn temple Kyoto, Japan
Chion-in temple Kyoto, Japan

Chion-in Temple

The Chion-in Temple organizes special evening illuminations twice a year.  The dates of the Spring illuminations are aligned with the Higashiyama Hanatoro event.

A magical event where the whole Higashiyama ward is lit up by lanterns.

The illuminations are held when the autumn foliage is at its best.

The autumn illuminations are the most spectacular.  The garden of this temple is generally recognized to be one of the most beautiful and the LED lighting gives it an extra mysterious aura.

More information:


Chion-in Temple
400 Rinkacho, Higashiyama Ward
Kyoto Prefecture 605-8686

How to get there

From Kyoto station take #206 to Chionin-mae bus stop. From here it’s a 5-minute walk

From Kyoto station take the Tozai subway line to Higashiyma station. From here it’s a 10 minutes walk

Higashiyama Hanatoro event Kyoto, Japan
Higashiyama Hanatoro event Kyoto, Japan

Higashiyama Hanatoro event

The Higashiyama ward is one of the city’s best-preserved districts.  It’s a maze of narrow alleys lined with authentic or beautifully restored wooden buildings. 

Once a year the district is adorned for the Higashiyama Hanatoro event.  During this event, the streets are illuminated with thousands of wooden and paper lanterns and this makes a walk through the district extra cheerful.

Most of the other popular tourist locations that are located in the district take part in the festivities and have extended opening hours.

Daily events and street performances take place at the Kodai-ji temple (see higher) and the Maruyama Park (see higher).

The Higashiyama Hanatoro event takes place in the first half of March.

A second Hanatoro event is organized yearly in Arashiyama during December.

To-Ji temple Kyoto, Japan
To-Ji temple Kyoto, Japan

To-ji Temple

This temple is especially famous for its 5-story pagoda. During the cherry blossom season, the pagoda and the cherry blossom tree standing in front of it are illuminated at night.

Illuminated at night during the cherry blossom season and during fall

More information:

To-ji Temple
1 Kujocho, Minami Ward
Kyoto Prefecture 601-8473

How to get there:

Take the Kintetsu Line and get off at Toji Station. From here it’s a 10-minute walk

Take the Hachijo exit at Kyoto Station. From here it’s a 15-minute walk

Bus stops : ‘Toji Minamimon-mae’ , ‘Toji Higashimon-mae’ , ‘Kujo Omiya’ and ‘Toji Nishimon-mae’ are all located close to the temple grounds.

Eikan-do temple Kyoto, Japan
Eikan-do temple Kyoto, Japan

Eikan-do Temple

The Eikan-do temple was formerly known as the Zenrin-ji Temple. It is more than 1.100 years old and with over 3.000 maple trees it is famous for its autumn foliage.  The temple is located next to the Nanzen-ji temple at the Southern End of the Philosopher’s Path.

The evening openings are usually around the second half of November when the autumn colors are at their best.

The yearly night illuminations attract huge crowds.

More information:


Eikan-do Temple
4 8 Eikandocho, Sakyo Ward
Kyoto Prefecture 606-8445

How to get there

Take the Tozai subway line to Keage station. From here it’s about a 15 minutes walk

You can also take bus #5 from Kyoto station to the Nanzenji-Eikando-michi bus stop.  From the bus stop, it’s only a 5-minute walk to the temple entrance.

Shoren-in temple night illumination Kyoto, Japan-
Shoren-in temple night illumination Kyoto, Japan.

Shoren-in temple

During the special night openings in spring and autumn, more than 1000 blue lights create a mystical atmosphere in the garden.


Shore-in temple
69-1 Awataguchi Sanjobocho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto
Kyoto Prefecture 605-0035

How to get there

Take the Tozai line or Keihin-Keishin line and get off at Higashiyama Station and walk for 5 minutes

Take bus #5, #46 or #100 and get off at Jingu-michi. Then walk for 3 minutes.

More information:

Japan travel tips

Tips when traveling to Japan:

Did you already think about travel insurance?  Accidents happen when you least expect them. Drawing up a travel insurance policy that covers theft, damage and all kinds of medical expenses may seem expensive at first but it can potentially save you a significant sum, significantly more than the small insurance fee.

The good news is that it’s never too late to get cover with World Nomads, you can even get their travel insurance online while you’re traveling.

Get a free quote now:

A local SIM card comes in handy. We have often used Google Maps to find our way around major cities.

Click here to read more about a local SIM card:
Local Sim Card

When you’re traveling by train it’s also a good idea to forward your baggage.  You can read these tips and much more in our separate article about traveling to Japan for the first time.

We traveled around Japan by train and could save a few bucks by buying a Japan Rail Pass in advance.

Get more information on the Japan Railpass here:
Japan Railpass

Or read this article in which we describe how you can find out whether you would also benefit from a Japan Rail Pass.

Wondering what to wear in Japan? Take a look at our complete Japan packing list. 

We compiled a few interesting Japan itineraries. If you have 2 weeks in Japan, check out our 14 days Japan itinerary. If you have 3 weeks in Japan, you can find a 3 week Japan itinerary here. 

In this article, you can find more tips for traveling to Japan for the first time


When comparing Osaka with Kyoto the first will certainly come out as the winner for those looking for a vibrant nightlife scene. But those who think that Kyoto turns into a desolate city at night have a completely wrong picture of the city. 

The city is simply different from, for example, Tokyo and Osaka.  Those cities showcase the modern Japanese culture with busy entertainment districts with large colorful and often grotesque advertisements.

Kyoto represents the opposite end of the Japanese culture, the spiritual side, which is just as important in the daily life of the Japanese.

The peace and quiet that you already feel in the city during the day is even more tangible in the evening.

Make sure to leave your hotel in the evening and discover the charming streets and temples of Kyoto.

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Things to do in Kyoto at night