Hanatouro in Kyoto – Arashiyama Gets Lit by Lanterns

Sipping the last of my coffee at a quiet cafe near Jojakko-ji Temple at Arashiyama, the temperature was dipping. I could barely keep warm despite having a heater right beside my table. It has been a long day, starting with an onsen soak at dawn, checking out of the ryokan hotel, locating the accommodation near Kyoto Station, taking a bus out to Kinkaku-ji and dozing off to the driver’s monotonous voice thanking each passenger as they alighted, and then walking inside the bamboo forest of Arashiyama.

I was waiting for 5pm.
Today is the first night of Hanatouro in Arashiyama.

Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite Wanders

“Lights and Blossoms Pathway”, Hanatouro is a festival that takes place at the Arashiyama district every December (and at the Higashiyama district in March). For about ten days, an approximate 5km route will be lit by open-air lanterns and flower arrangements, places including the bamboo forest, some temples and along historical cultural places of the Saga Arayashiyama area. 

At 5pm, a bell went off somewhere in the distance. I got out of my seat and stepped outside, in anticipation of what greets me.

Jojakko-ji Temple (常寂光寺)

The lanterns have been lit.

Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite Wanders

Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite Wanders

Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite Wanders

Towards Bamboo Forest

Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite Wanders

An art installation of dolls:Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite Wanders

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest (嵐山竹林)

Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite Wanders

There were these big installations of flower arrangements from Kyoto Ikebana Association
Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama)Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite Wanders Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite Wanders

Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite Wanders

I thought I’ll show you the crowds. There were plenty of people here compared to the afternoon, but being Japan, there was no rowdiness nor noise.Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama)

Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersAfter leaving the bamboo forest and coming to the main road, I had no idea where Togetsukyo Bridge was actually, the brochure’s paper map rather useless in my hands because I could not orientate my direction. I simply followed where the crowds seemed to be strolling towards. Along the way, there were little shops selling pretty souvenirs. In the distance, I saw what I was looking for. The mountains lit up in classy colors for Hanatouro.

Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite Wanders

 Togetsukyo Bridge

I took a walk up then down this bridge, admiring the foothills and their colors. Below the bridge, water was gushing and the wind was strong, I was actually rather terrified (I have a phobia of deep, dark water). Quickly stabilized my camera on the bridge, took the photos I needed and scurried off. Hanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite WandersHanatouro (Kyoto Arashiyama) • Petite Wanders

It was pretty much darkness elsewhere but thankfully, with the help of Google Maps, I managed to find the train station to head back to Kyoto Station.

Hanatouro also happens in March at Higashiyama, which is another district in Kyoto.


Entrance fees: There are no entrance fees for this event. The bamboo forest is free for all to enter. However, there are entrance fees for Jōjakukō-ji Temple.
Location: Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Time: 5pm – 830pm
Visited: Dec 2016
More info: Official site for Hanatouro ArashiyamaOfficial site for Hanatouro Higashiyama

Have you seen Kyoto in such lighting before? Share your experiences with me!

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Kyoto's Hanatouro night festival in Arashiyama

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6 comments

    1. To be honest, Megan, I wasn’t too blown away by the bamboo grove during the daytime too. Perhaps my expectations had been set too high after all the Instagram posts of empty, surreal paths, only to get disappointed by what I saw. Only when I saw this festival at night that the forest really comes alive, did I finally appreciate it! It was very magical (plus a bit of creepiness)!

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