While New Year’s is the big winter holiday for Japanese, Christmas in Kyoto is also a festive time of year and it’s a nice time to see the town decorated for the holiday.
Temple in the snow
Although most Japanese are technically Buddhist and Shinto, they’re not dogmatic about enjoying the festivals of other faiths, particularly if it’s an excuse for a good party or a shopping spree.
What to Do on Christmas in Kyoto
The Japanese don’t celebrate Christmas the way most Westerners do. Rather, Christmas Eve and Christmas are big date nights in Japan, and many couples go out to high-end Western restaurants (usually Italian or French) during this time. It’s fun to join them, but be prepared to pay more (sometimes much more) than usual, as most restaurants jack up the prices on Christmas. All of Kyoto’s luxury hotels also have a variety of on-site restaurants and these places usually serve special meals around the holidays. Here are some good places to enjoy a great Christmas feast if you’re in town on Christmas or Christmas Eve:
- La Part Dieu: This intimate French restaurant is my favorite French restaurant in the city and it’s hard to imagine a nicer place to spend a wintry evening in the city.
- Au Temps Perdu: If you’re just in the mood for a light lunch or cakes and tea, this fine French café in Northern Higashiyama is a great spot.
- Hyatt Regency Kyoto: The Hyatt’s three on-site restaurants all serve special meals on Christmas and this is a great place to dine during the holidays.
Christmas Shopping In Kyoto
Shopping is another popular pastime during the Christmas holidays. The big downtown department stores like Takashiyama and Daimaru all put on fantastic Christmas decorations and many hold Christmas sales. Even if you’re just window shopping, it’s fun to walk around downtown Kyoto during this time.
Kyoto Station: kkb3 / Shutterstock.com
Where to Stay for a Romantic Christmas in Kyoto
Kyoto’s luxury hotels, like the Hyatt Regency, the Granvia, Kyoto Hotel Okura and the Westin Miyako Kyoto would all be great places to spend the holiday. But, for a truly special Christmas or Christmas Eve in Kyoto, I’d suggest a night on one of Kyoto’s top-end ryokan. My top ryokan picks are:
For detailed information about New Year’s in Kyoto, follow the link.
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router.
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass - here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy - here's how.
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)