☙ Fall Foliage 2019 ❧ Kansai - The Maple-Filled Kitano Tenmangu Shrine of Kyoto

Kansai Tour Autumn foliage 2019.10.10
Autumn is coming to the northern hemisphere, and in Japan that means it's time for koyo (紅葉), or fall foliage viewing! Every year crowds around the country flock to the most beautiful spots to see the seasons change, and the leaves shift from green to red. With amazing weather and colorful scenery, it's a great time to explore Japan, and Kyoto locals like to spend their time treading the maple-lined paths of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

In spring, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is known for its gardens of plum blossoms, and when school entrance exam season starts, this "Tenmangu" shrine (which worships scholar-deity Sugawara no Michizane) fills with students praying for good grades. When fall's koyo season comes around, though, it's time to enjoy the shrine's 350 gorgeous Japanese maples!
  • Image Source: Official Website

    The shrine's glorious maples are mainly inside its garden, lining the banks of a stream flowing through the grounds. Up until a few years ago, this garden was generally off-limits to autumn visitors. Fortunately, it's now open to the public! It does, however, require an entrance fee (unlike the rest of the shrine, which you can wander through admission-free).
  • Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

    With the admission fee comes a lovely cup of matcha and a traditional Japanese sweet to go with it, though! You can sit down and sip your tea as you watch the red leaves flutter in the wind.

The Maples Glitter at Night, Too!

  • Image Source: Official Website

    The special maple garden is open for all of the koyo season, but during the second half of that period they also start a special nighttime "light up"! From sundown, lights along the stream bank shine up into the leafy canopies, adding an extra hint of romance to the scenery.
  • Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

    Kitano Tenmangu Maple Garden
    Admission Dates: Oct. 25 ~ Dec. 8
    Light-Up Dates: Nov. 9 ~ Dec. 8
    Hours: 9:00 - 16:00/sunset - 20:00
    Admission (including matcha): Adults 1,000 yen/Children 500 yen

What to Do Nearby!

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine isn't actually near very many other sightseeing spots, but it does periodically transform into a totally different attraction itself! Once a month a market opens on the shrine grounds, with local artisans selling their crafts, chefs providing snacks and tasty street food, and locals selling used items of all kinds. Nicknamed "Tenjin-san", it's a great place to get a few carefully hand-crafted pieces of Kyoto's famous ceramics, or pick up a used kimono on the cheap, before filling your stomach with karaage (唐揚げ, Japanese fried chicken) or takoyaki (たこ焼き, octopus balls). You can see the deeply-colored maple leaves and explore the expansive market on the same day! It happens on the 25th of each month, so try to get there on October or November 25th for a full day of Kitano Tenmangu fun!

Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
Hours: 6:00 - 21:00 (some stalls start to close around 16:00~)
Admission free!
Visited Kyoto lately? Or perhaps we've convinced you to give Kitano Tenmangu Shrine a look? Let us know about your experience, and show us your pictures, on twitter, instagram, and facebook!
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