June is a wonderful time to visit Kyoto. The springtime crowds have departed, the heat of summer has yet to set in, and the green of the trees is still fresh and beautiful. Best of all, there are plenty of special events.
Kifune-jinja Shrine © Uetchy
1 June 2018
This shrine festival is a great excuse to visit the incredibly quaint hamlet of Kibune, located in the Kitayama Mountains, about half an hour north of the city by Eizan Line trains. If you have the energy, consider approaching from Kurama: take the Eizan Line to the last stop, Kurama, and walk over the mountain and down into Kibune.
1-2 June 2018
With bizarre masks, haunting music, impenetrable words and colorful costumes, any performance of Noh is memorable. But performed by firelight it’s truly otherworldly. Your best chance to see such a performance is on 1 and 2 June, when Takigi (Firelight) Noh is held at Kyoto’s Heian-jingu Shrine. Note that photography is not permitted during the performances. Also, in the case of rain, the performances will be postponed until the next clear evening.
1-10 June 2018
This beautiful little garden in the Daitoku-ji complex would be a great choice for someone looking to escape the crowds in Kyoto.
3 June 2018
Event: To-ji Temple Flea Market
Location: To-ji Temple
If you can’t be in town for Kyoto’s two famous flea markets (Kobo-san Market and Tenjin-san Market), this is a good choice. Like the Kobo-san Market, it’s held on the grounds of To-ji Temple. You’ll usually find a good selection of antiques at this market.
8 June 2018
You normally have to pay to enter the Shinen Garden here at Heian-jingu Shrine, but during this special opening held on 8 June, you can enter for free. The event is held to coincide with the blooming of the garden’s wonderful irises, hydrangeas and water lilies. Don’t miss it if you find yourself in Northern Higashiyama on this day.
National Museum Of Modern Art, Kyoto
8-30 June 2018
Event: The 150th Anniversary of his Birth: Yokoyama Taikan
Location: The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto
Time: 9:30am-5:00pm (enter by 4:30pm)
Closed: Mondays (except national holidays)
Held at the National Museum of Modern Art in the lovely Okazaki Museum District, this museum celebrates the work of Yokoyama Taikan, who was active in the first half of the 20th century. His work might appear traditional to Western eyes, but his approach was modern from the Japanese perspective.
10 June 2018
The spectacular Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine honors the god Inari, who is god of the rice harvest and commerce. The Tauesai festival involves a ritual planting of rice in a sacred rice paddy at the shrine. Seeing this festival gives an insight into just how important the humble rice plant has been in the evolution of Japan. It’s also a great chance to visit this incredible shrine.
15 June 2018
Chion-ji Temple hosts a fabulous handicraft market on the 15th of every month. It’s a great place to pick up unique, locally made souvenirs during your travels to Kyoto. It’s also a good chance to see Japan’s alternative community and local expats.
Sanzen-in Temple © Chris Rowthorn
16-30 June 2018
Event: Ajisai Matsuri
Location: Sanzen-in Temple
If you feel like a trip out of the city, there are few better destinations than the village of Ohara, which is a mere 30 minutes north of Kyoto by bus. And if you ever needed a good excuse to make the trip, the Ajisai (hydrangea) Matsuri is it. Held at the superb temple of Sanzen-in, a short walk uphill from the bus stop in Ohara, the Ajisai Matsuri showcases the myriad hydrangeas that bloom in the temples wonderful garden.
21 June 2018
Event: Kobo-san Market
Location: To-ji Temple
Named for Japan’s most revered Buddhist Saint, Kobo Daishi, this market is one of the two best markets in town (the other being the Tenjin-san Market, held on the 25th). You’ll find all manner of goods on sale here including used kimono, antiques, ceramics, food, bric-a-brac, old postcards and books, and assorted Japanalia. In addition to being a great market, this is also a chance to see Kyoto’s foreign community, which turns out in full, along with hoards of locals.
Stone bull at Kitano Tenmangu – image © Jeffrey Friedl
25 June 2018
Event: Tenjin-san Market
Location: Kitano Tenmangu
Like the Kobo-san market (see previous), this is one of the two best markets in town. It’s named for Sugawara no Michizane, a 9th century poet and scholar who is the patron saint of academic pursuits in Japan. Known colloquially as Tenjin-san, the market is a great excuse to visit this shrine and see people, especially school children, rubbing the two stone bulls in front of the main hall of the shrine (doing so is said to make one more intelligent). Like the Kobo-san market, this is a great chance to buy used kimono, ceramics, antiques and bric-a-brac, along with food and drink. You’ll also rub shoulders with an interesting assortment of expats and locals.
29 June – 1 July 2018
This is the best antiques market in all of Japan. If you like antique lacquerware, scrolls, furniture, tea ceremony goods, ceramics and bric-a-brac, this is a must-see event. Don’t expect much in the way of bargains, as this is mostly a professional event, but you can certainly find some treasures here and not everything is terribly expensive. It’s held in Takeda, a short subway ride south of Kyoto Station. Click the above Kyoto Pulse Plaza location link for full details on transport etc.
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- 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.
- 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
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, get your Japan Rail Pass
- Get travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads (and here's why)