Kyoto Winter – Things to Do in Kyoto in Winter
Don't let the winter weather leave you housebound. With our list of the best things to do in Kyoto in winter, there's really no excuse.
From an outdoor “onsen” (hot spring) overlooking beautiful forests to a new year “omaturi” (festival) at a traditional shrine, Kyoto in winter will let you enjoy the most memorable “nihon-poi” (japan-ish) trip ever.
Kyoto in Winter: Activities
What better way to relax your tired body after traveling than to bathe in hot springs. Immersing yourself into a bathtub surrounded by beautiful nature will warm your body and bring peace to your mind. In Kyoto, you can find multiple accommodation options with open-air onsens, massage services and even private baths. Check some of the top onsens in Kyoto, here:
2. Tea Ceremony
If you’re looking for a cultural experience, you should definitely try a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. “Chado” (the way of tea) is not simply about making tea. A bowl of tea is prepared with meticulous care and sophisticated, time-honored procedure by the host and master tea maker. When it’s done, it will calm your restless mind and soul. Check out the list below for some of Kyoto’s best:
3. Ski Resorts
Compared to the northern parts of Japan, the Kansai (southern) region has few places to enjoy winter sports. But luckily, there are still a few spots for ski/snowboard enthusiasts visiting Kyoto. Feel the icy wind blowing against you at an altitude of 683m while skiing down snow-covered mountains. Check below for more details:
Don’t let the cold weather trap you indoors. There are many interesting museums offering exhibitions that cover a variety of areas including art, history, food and more. Learn about Japanese culture whilst taking refuge from the cold weather in Japan’s most historic of cities. Details on some of the best below:
Kyoto in Winter: Food
Exploring Kyoto’s numerous attractions in winter will no doubt make your stomach growl. Originally served only to the imperial family and priests, tofu is now one of the most common local foods in Kyoto. Try hot “yu-dofu” (boiled tofu) along with delicious traditional vegetarian side dishes to protect yourself from the winter cold. Both these restaurants are conveniently located near renowned temples: Nanzen-ji and Arashiyama, respectively. Check out the official websites below:
Junsei (near Nanzen-ji temple)
Yudofu Saga No (near Arashiyama temple)
Kyoto in Winter: Events
Visiting Kyoto in Winter means that you can celebrate “Oshogatsu” (The Japanese New Year), the most important holiday of the year, at one of the city’s famous shrines.
6. Okera-mairi (December)
Okera-mairi is a unique ritual that takes place at Yasaka shrine on New Year’s Eve. Wishing for good health and longevity, people set piles of prayer sticks on fire and keep the embers burning until they arrive home by swinging them on ropes as they go. A brilliant spectacle.
6. Hatsumode (January)
Around midnight on New Year’s Eve, Buddhist temples purify the 108 torments of mankind by ringing bells 108 times. Following the “Joya no kane” (sacred bell ringing ceremony), as it is known, “Hatsumode” (the first shrine visit of the new year) begins. People visit local shrines to say prayers and pick “omikuji” (fortune telling paper strip) to encourage good luck. If a person picks up an omikuji that predicts bad luck, it is custom to tie it to a tree or a wire to keep the bad luck out. Some great spots to check out:
7. Setsubun (February)
“Setsubun” (seasonal division) is held on February 3rd or 4th to mark the beginning of spring. People throw roasted beans while chanting “Fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto” (Come in fortune, go away evil) to drive evil spirits away. It is also told that if you eat the number of beans that corresponds to your age, good health will follow.
Kyoto Restaurant Winter Special also takes place around this time. It’s an annual festival with over 180 participating shops and restaurants from all over Kyoto, each offering customers special menus and discounts. Enjoy delicious food made with winter ingredients at affordable prices.