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This month's plans

"This month's plans" offers you some ideas to visit and feel at peace during your stay as well as enjoy seasonal events in Kyoto. They are mostly in outdoor, including some mountains, so that you can enjoy a green and healthy stay and save money as well!

Kyoto Imperial Park (京都御苑), Shimogamo Shrine (下鴨神社), Kamigamo Shrine (上賀茂神社)

Kyoto Imperial Park

Kyoto Imperial Park is the favorite place of a GTK writer. It is green, clean and safe so a perfect place to relax and feel the season changing.
Especially in May you can enjoy seeing fresh leaves and picking plum fruits in the ground. (officially not allowed to pick them but the locals, including me enjoy it every May!)

Most notably, one of the three big festivals in Kyoto named “Aoi-matsuri” is held in May and the highlight of the festival starts from the park.

Here is the report of Aoi-matsuri by a GTK writer.

It is May in Kyoto and the cherry blossoms of April have scattered, making way for fresh green leaves to blanket the surrounding mountains and hills. The lush greenery throughout the city provides a fitting backdrop for Matsuri, or Hollyhock festival, which takes place this month. Aoi is Japanese for Hollyhock, and the dark green leaf features significantly in the celebrations.
Aoi Matsuri is one of the three major festivals in Kyoto and is an important annual festival of both Shimogamo Shrine and Kamigamo Shrine, since the 9th century.

The festival culminates on the 15th of May each year with a parade of more than 500 people, horses, oxen and carriages, all resplendent in costumes of the Heian era (794-1185). The procession begins at the Imperial Palace Grounds at 10:30, and marches (very) slowly north along Marutamachi Avenue, passing through the Tadasu-no-mori forests at Shimogamo jinjya Shrine at 13:30, before finishing up at Kamigamo jinjya Shrine at around 15:30. Although the parade provides a wonderful view of Japan’s history, the trick is actually getting a decent view of the parade itself!
Hundreds of people will be lining the streets along the route, and the few reserved seats sell out fast. One of the best ways to beat the crowds is to head to the Imperial Palace Grounds nice and early on the 15th, and wander freely amongst the costumed participants as they prepare for the parade. By doing this you will be able to get a much closer look at the exquisite detail of their costumes against the fresh greenery of Kyoto in May.

Here are the information about “Pre-festival events of Aoi-matsuri”

Yabusame-shinji Ritual
May 3rd, 13:00-15:30 @Shimogamo Shrine
This is a powerful ceremony to purify the route of the Aoi Matsuri procession. A man in traditional costume shoots an arrow while riding on horseback.
The forest in the Shimogamo Shrine’s Ground is very crowded on that day. Early arrival is recommended.


Saio-dai Misogi Ritual
May 4th, 10:00~ @Shimogamo Shrine
Saio was a selected woman who served god in ancient times. This ritual is held to purify her role on the stream of Kamigamo Shrine.
The profession with about 50 imperial costumed women look very elegant.

Kamo-kurabeuma Ritual
May 5th, 14:00~ @Kamigamo Shrine
This is one of the former ritual of Aoi Matsuri.
Two men in traditional costumes riding on horse back compete for the fastest time at the ground of the temple.

Mikage matsuri Ritual
May 12th, 9:30~ @Shimogamo Shrine
An elegant Japanse dance and music are performed in the Tadasu-no-mori forest in front of the gate of Shimogamo Shrine to welcome gods from the foot of Mt. Hiei.
This is the important event to start Aoi matsuri.

For those who are going to see the palace, twice-a-day English tour is available free of charge. (at 10:00 and 14:00) Application at the imperial agency is required. (The office with the first-story building is located 30m west of the entrance of the palace in the Park)

  • Free of charge

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Events Schedule

Flea Markets

  • Every 4th Sunday
  • Kamigamo Shrine
  • Handicraft market in peaceful and quiet grounds of the shrine.
  • Every 15th
  • Chion-ji Temple
  • 8:00-16:00
  • Kyoto's biggest monthly market of handmade goods and crafts.
  • Every 21st
  • To-ji Temple
  • 7:00-16:30
  • Known as Kobo-san, Kyoto's largest market for all kinds of antiques, tools and so on.
  • Every 25th
  • Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
  • 7:00-16:30
  • Known as Tenjin-san, a popular flea market at one of Kyoto's major shrines. Antiques, food, tools and so on.

Do you know Kyoto?