Kyoto Nighttime Events - March 2016

March is a great time to visit Kyoto. The days are getting a bit warmer, the sun sets a little bit later, and Spring is in the air! But my favorite part of March is the nighttime illumination events that occur through the city. These light up events usually focus on the blooming cherry blossoms, but they are fun to attend even before and after the trees hit their peak bloom.

Here's a short sample of a few of the best nighttime illumination events in Kyoto this month. Some of the links are in Japanese (sorry!), but if you show them to someone at your hotel or a taxi driver, they'll be able to direct you to where you need to go. If you're booking a tour with KyoTours, feel free to contact me and I can answer your questions about these events, or even add them in as part of your tour if possible. Many hotels will have flyers or posters for these events or you can get more info at the tourism center in Kyoto Station.

Higashiyama Hanatoro

March 12 to 21, 2016

This is a wonderful events that spans not just one location, but a whole neighborhood. Take an evening stroll through historic Higashiyama down lantern-lit lanes. Sculptures, flower arrangements, and other art installations - both traditional and modern - will be on display at various stops along the way. Most of the art is created by Kyoto art students, so this event is a nice way to get in touch with the local art scene and see a side of the city most visitors don't get to come in contact with. Click HERE to download a pdf map with a route and some pictures (minimal English). This is the event that I'm personally most interested in this year!

Event website (Japanese)

Kiyomizudera Temple Spring Illumination

March 12 to 21, 2016

The famous Kiyomizudera Temple is currently under reconstruction, but that doesn't mean this seasonal light up event is put on hold! For this illumination, the hillside is fully illuminated with colored lights placed throughout the trees. The centerpiece of the display is a huge beam of light projected horizontally out over the city. This massive column of white light is meant to symbolize the mercy that the Buddha Kannon bestows upon mankind. This is one of the most popular temples in the city, so get ready to brave the crowds for this awesome illumination.

Event website (Japanese)

Kiyomizudera temple general website (English)

Koudaiji Temple Illumination

March 12 to early May, 2016

Not only is Kodaiji one of the most impressive temples in Kyoto, this nighttime event is one of my favorites. The theme for the event changes each year, and they consistently outdo themselves year after year. I'm not sure what the theme will be this year, but in the past it's been dragons, colorful umbrellas, or traditional ghosts. They put on a cool light show projected over the dry Zen garden, as well as illuminate the cherry trees and bamboo forest on the hill behind the temple. This is a rare chance to visit a magnificent temple at night and see it in a whole new way. If you will be joining us on the Highashiyama tour or the Kyoto highlights tour, your KyoTours guide would be happy to accompany you to share the interesting story behind this great temple. Just let us know when booking that you want to include the Kodaiji illumination and we'll make it happen!

Kodaiji Illumination website (English)

Maruyama Koen Park Light Up

Mid March to Mid April

This is it... the big one... Arguably Kyoto's most famous cherry blossom tree. In the center or Maruyama Koen Park is a massive sakura tree descended from the original that stood on the same spot for centuries before dying in 1947. the park is home to about 680 cherry blossom trees, but it's clear which one is the centerpiece of the event. The park illuminated at night for the benefit of the numerous revelers who attend nighttime hanami (cherry blossom viewing parties) that feature a fun mixture of seasonal food and alcohol. Even if you don't make it up here at night, be sure to pass through the park during the day. There will still be plenty of parties happening then as well!

General park information website (English)

History of the park and its famous cherry tree (English)

Nijo-jo Castle Illumination

March 25 to April 17, 2016

This night event blew me away last year. The sakura trees were amazing and the dominating architecture of the palace looked fantastic under the lights. What surprised me was the quality and professionalism of the 3D projection mapping on the golden karamon gate. This light show is a mix of traditional projection methods and lasers, but it overlaid beautifully on the massive ornate gate. Projection mapping is a big thing here recently, but this was by far the best example of the technique I have seen so far. If you can get over to this night event when the cherry blossoms are at their peak, you will NOT be disappointed!

Event website (Japanese)

Nijo-jo castle general website (English)