The Meigetsu Kangen-sai festival held on the night of the harvest moon at Shimogamo Shrine is one of the many events held in honor of moon viewing traditions that have been kept alive in Japan over a thousand years. Court nobility in the Heian period often indulged in lavish cultural parties during the autumnal equinox, and visitors in Kyoto can carry on that tradition today by watching a variety of musical performances by firelight as the moon rises.
Before the performances begin, a Shinto ritual is conducted with the participants at the shrine’s main hall where prayers and offerings are dedicated to the deities. Once this ritual is concluded at approximately 17:30, Meigetsu Kangen-sai takes off at the shrine’s Hashi-dono hall. Several rows of benches are set in front of the building, but there are limited seats, so try to arrive a bit early if you want to sit closer to the stage.
Though the exact line-up changes depending on the year, you can usually expect to enjoy gagaku court music, bugaku (a dance done to gagaku music by performers in elaborate costumes or masks), and instrumental pieces on traditional instruments such as shakuhachi flute, koto harp, or biwa lute.
The gold background of the stage as well as the autumn pampas grass and torches flanking the hall make for a dreamy atmosphere, especially as the sky darkens and the moon appears over the tall trees of the Tadasu no Mori forest.
In addition to the musical performances, visitors can purchase a 1,000 yen ticket (800 yen if purchased in advance) that admits them to an elegant tea ceremony held on the grounds by tea masters in gorgeous kimono.
If you are in Kyoto for the harvest moon season, don’t miss Shimogamo Shrine’s Meigetsu Kangen-sai for a taste of classic moon viewing culture!
Things to See/Do
Notice: the 2020 event has been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
〒606-0807 京都府京都市 左京区下鴨泉川町59
- General Admission: Free
- General Admission: 6:30 – 17:00 (may change depending on the season)
- Closed: No closing days