It snows in Kyoto several times each winter, usually between early December and mid-March. Most of the time, the snow doesn’t stick at all, but two to four times a winter, it stays on the ground, though it almost always melts within a few hours.
image © Jeffrey Friedl
For a look at Kyoto in the snow, see my blog post about a magical snowfall in Kyoto on New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago.
Interestingly, the snow usually lingers a lot longer on the mountains that surround the city, and it’s not uncommon for mountains in the north of the city like the Kitayama, Atago-san and Hiei-zan to be snow covered for weeks at a time in the winter, even when the city below is bare of snow.
How to Enjoy Snow In Kyoto
If you’re lucky enough to be in town when there is snow on the ground, I recommend heading straight to the nearest Zen temple, because the appearance of snow on a karesansui niwa (raked gravel Zen garden) is utterly magical. Good spots for this include Tofuku-ji Temple, Daitoku-ji Temple (and all its subtemples), Ginkaku-ji Temple and Nanzen-ji Temple.
Because it snows much more in the Kitayama Mountains, north of Kyoto, it’s often possible in Kyoto to “take a trip to winter” by simply boarding the Eizan-dentetsu Train to the village of Kurama. If you’ve got hiking boots, you can hike through the snow, up over Mount Kurama-yama and down into the hamlet of Kibune. Check out my pictures of a winter hike on Kurama-yama and see more details about Kurama and Kibune, including how to get there and things to do.
image © Jeffrey Friedl
Spend a Night in Snow Country in Kyoto
If you want to experience the magic of a Japanese winter, consider spending a night or two at the fantastic Ugenta Ryokan, located in Kibune, which is an easy 45-minute trip out of central Kyoto. This superb private retreat is perfect for a romantic getaway in any season and sitting in the outdoor rooftop baths here surrounded by snow-covered trees would be the memory of a lifetime.
For more details on Kyoto weather, season and good times to visit, see When’s The Best Time To Go To Kyoto.
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 - World Nomads is well-regarded (and here's why)