December sees the last of the autumn colors as winter sets in and preparations begin all over town for end-of-year festivities.

The last of the colorful autumn foliage falls and winter tightens its grip on Kyoto come December, but the days are still lively.  The New Year's is an important tradition in Japanese culture, and shrines and temples alike prepare numerous rituals and celebrations to cleanse the events of the present year and prepare for the next.  Famous flea markets set up around the city, light-ups showcase the scenery, and festivals are held, no matter the cold!

Boiled daikon, Saga tofu, and citron rice at the Yaku Otoshi Daikondaki at Sanbō-ji.
November 30th - December 1st, 2019

Yaku Otoshi Daikondaki

Sanbō-ji uses the Daikondaki to celebrate the death anniversary of the Buddhist sage Nichiren, who founded their sect in the 13th century and propagated the Lotus Sutra as the true way to Enlightenment.

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Orihime dancers toss good luck charms
December 8th, 2020

Hari Kuyō

Hari Kuyō, or Needle Memorial Services, are held at Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines to give thanks to needles for their hard work throughout the year.

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Kyo-ryori exhibition giant yuzu carrot lotus dish
December 13th - 14th, 2019

Kyō-ryōri Exhibition

With Kyoto having been the seat of imperial power for more than a thousand years, its cooks were traditionally catering to the most discerning tastes of the capital’s nobility and numerous connoisseurs. This has developed into a unique style of cuisine called Kyō-ryōri, which makes use of the rich flavors, shapes, and colors of the local seasonal foods. For those who want to learn more about this fascinating cooking style, Kyoto International Exhibition Hall Miyakomesse houses an annual Kyō-ryōri exhibition on December 13th and 14th, showcasing sumptuous and elaborate dishes by city’s most acclaimed restaurants.

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The mountains of Arashiyama during the Arashiyama Hanatouro at Arashiyama.
December 13th - 22nd, 2019

Arashiyama Hanatouro

For ten days in December the mountainside area of Arashiyama in western Kyoto is brilliantly illuminated with open air lanterns and bright lights that arc through trees and bamboo to make an amazing nighttime sight, the Arashiyama Hanatouro Festival.

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Wooden statues of the 47 Rōnin and their lord at the Gishi-e Hōyō at Hōjū-ji.
December 14th, 2020

Gishi-e Hōyō

The story of the 47 Rōnin is a classic said to embody the spirit of the samurai code of honor, in which forty seven retainers left without a master when their lord was forced to commit suicide planned for years and took revenge against the man who slighted him. Hōjū-ji holds its 47 Rōnin Memorial Service each year on December 14th, the anniversary of the night when the samurai sacrificed their lives to clear their lord's honor.

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The 47 Rōnin raise their swords during the Yamashina Gishi Matsuri at Bishamon-dō.
December 14th, 2020

Yamashina Gishi Matsuri

Celebrating the history of the 47 Rōnin, a tale said to embody the samurai code of honor, the Gishi Matsuri is held on December 14th each year at the Bishamon-dō temple in Yamashina.

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Cleaners line up during the Osusuharai at Nishi Hongan-ji.
December 20th, 2020


Nishi Hongwan-ji, a large Pure Land temple near Kyoto Station, hosts their Osusuharai in late December, and volunteers from the local area as well as constituents from all over the country come to help clean the temple before the New Year.

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Priests hold a Buddhist ceremony at the Shimai Kōbō at Tō-ji.
December 21st, 2020

Shimai Kōbō

On the 21st of every month a large flea market is held on the grounds of Tō-ji in honor of the famous Buddhist priest Kōbō Daishi, who headed the temple in the 9th century.

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Large votice tablets on display at the Shimai Tenjin at Kitano Tenmangū.
December 25th, 2020

Shimai Tenjin

When the 25th of the month comes along it's time for the monthly flea market held around Kitano Tenmangū, one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto.

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