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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!

Column -text by Steve Cooke

Looking in on Japanese New Year

“Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu”! If there is one phrase to become familiar with over the Japanese holiday season, it is this one.
It means “Happy New Year”, and from January 1st you are as bound to hear this cry on the streets, in the shops and at the temples as you would hear its English equivalent. This phrase also serves as an example of how the celebration here is curiously familiar, yet distinctly different.

If I told you to close your eyes and imagine a religious holiday based around spending time with family, sending cards to loved ones, giving gifts to children and eating traditional food, your next image would probably be a heavyset guy in a red and white suit. These traditions, however, all adhere to the Japanese New Year holiday ‘Oshogatsu’; the major festival on the Japanese calendar. The festival begins from midnight on January 1st, and most shops and businesses take a holiday until January the 3rd. So far so familiar, right?

But while the New Year’s Eve street party familiar to many countries, including my own, centers around buoyant live music, a countdown and a fireworks display followed by the unrestrained popping of champagne corks and kissing of strangers, it is a far cry from the reflective mood of New Year’s Eve in Japan.
Here, the countdown and fireworks are replaced by the weighty toning of hundreds of iron temple bells across the country at the stroke of midnight, while people gather at the temples and shrines to pray for a prosperous new year and warm themselves by a fire with a cup of amazake – hot sweet sake. It is a truly dignified and moving experience and a much more introspective way to welcome the new year than you may be used to.

So if you are here for the New Year’s holiday, I would suggest you put away your funny hats and party poppers, rug up nice and warm and head for a temple at or around midnight on the 31st for a paper cup of hot sweet sake and a contemplative ringing in of 2012.
Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!

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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?