Finally, this long-anticipated time of the year is almost here! March is on its way, and this can mean only one thing when in Kyoto... hanami season! But the coming of March can mean several things, ushering in exciting events besides the sakura blossom viewing festivals. From flea markets on famous Kyoto temple grounds to a grand antique fair, there are a lot of traditional Japanese handicrafts, kimono, and other retro memorabilia to dig through! For details about the two monthly flea markets in Kyoto, namely the Kobo-san Market at Toji Temple and the Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, take a peek at our article, Kyoto Events in October.
Artistic and illumination events are on the schedule too. Moreover, they can be combined with plum and cherry blossom viewings, during night and day! Now, if you fancy medieval Japanese court clothing, makeup, and dancing, you will get the chance to witness them in motion during the Kitano Odori, a traditional geisha dance performance. In human-doll form, Hina Matsuri will be of interest to you. At the same time, if you prefer stillness, there's even a doll exhibition running!
Hina Matsuri, the day of dolls or "Girls' Day," is a very old tradition of celebrating the health and happiness of young girls. On this day, some girls and women dress up in traditional Heian-era style clothing and partake in different activities and rituals. But besides this, two traditional doll exhibitions take place. One is a unique feature in the Kyoto National Museum and the other is an event at Hokyoji Temple, the so-called "temple of dolls." At Hokyoji Temple, you will get the chance to admire an amazing and ancient collection of dolls, while at the National Museum, as it will be the first Hina Matsuri in the Reiwa era, new dolls will be on display!
For National Kyoto Museum:
Dates: February 15 - March 22, 2020
Time: Opening times vary, see the website
Price: Prices vary, see the website
Location: Kyoto National Museum, Heisei Chisinkan Wing, Higashiyama
For Hokyoji Temple
Dates: March 1 - April 3, 2020
Time: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Price: 600 yen for adults
Location: Hokyoji Temple, Kamigyo
As already mentioned in Osaka Events in February, plum blossom viewing festivals are of great importance to the Japanese, next to the sakura blossom viewing. The blossoming of the plum buds signals the beginning of spring and the people of Kyoto are enthusiastic, but also serious about it. The magnificent plum gardens of the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine open up their doors for locals and travelers. Let yourself get immersed in the aroma and beauty of the little white and pink plum flowers!
Dates: February 15 - March 22, 2020
Time: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Price: 1,000 yen
Location: Kitano Tenmangu, Kamigyo
As mentioned before, Hina Matsuri is an essential day for young girls. During the matsuri, they dress up like hina ningyo dolls from the middle ages, and re-enact ancient Japanese games and tea ceremonies. At the same time, they pray with their families for happiness and growth. Ichihime Shrine is historically connected with women and hosts one of the biggest Hina Matsuri in Kyoto!
Dates: March 3, 2020
Time: 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Location: Ichihime Shrine, Shimogyo
Another popular festivity on March 3rd, the same day as Hina Matsuri, is the Nagashi Bina. During this ritual, a man and woman, dressed in traditional garb, float reed baskets containing paper dolls down the sacred waters of the Mitarashi River, which flows within the grounds of the Shimogamo Shrine. You don't need to be a local to participate, so don't miss out on this great experience and photo opportunity!
Dates: March 3, 2020
Time: 11:00 am
Location: Shimogamo Shrine, Sakyo
Nighttime illuminations are famous in Japan, and Kyoto is no exception. The Hanatouro event is an excellent opportunity to admire all the different temples and shrines in Higashiyama, which are typically closed during night hours. Lanterns and soft lights will lead your way in the night, while there several events and rituals going on during these ten days.
Dates: March 6 - 15, 2020
Time: 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Location: Higashiyama Ward
Another illumination event that's extremely popular with the locals. The illuminated Kodai-ji Temple gives off an enchanting, fairytale-like atmosphere during the night, so bear with the crowds, it's worth your time!
Dates: February 6 - 31, 2020
Time: After sunset - 9:30 pm
Price: 600 yen
Location: Kodai-ji Temple, Higashiyama
Nishiki Market is the biggest and most famous shopping street in Kyoto. It's the perfect setting for this Kyoto event, which celebrates Japanese Kansai-style food and Japanese sake from around 20 breweries. Check out our Nishiki Market Street Food Guide for more details about the local offerings.
Dates: March 7, 2020
Time: 7 pm - 9.30 pm
Price: 2,300 yen
Location: Nishiki Market, Nakagyo
Have you ever seen a Geisha dance? Well, this is your chance to experience a quite old and traditional dance performance by the Maiko and Geiko of the Kamishichiken Kabukai! A tea ceremony precedes the dance, and it is an excellent chance to feel the traditional Kyoto vibe while enjoying the sights of the former imperial capital.
Dates: March 20 - April 2, 2020
Time: 2:00 pm and 4:30 pm (tea ceremonies begin 30 minutes earlier)
Price: 5,000 yen (+500 yen for the tea ceremony)
Location: Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theater, Kamigyo
Antique markets are an integral part of Japanese life. From memorabilia to clothes, books, and garments and whatever else may cross your mind, you got to visit an antique market in Kyoto. This fair will allow you to buy the best omiyage (souvenir) from your Kyoto trip, and there's something for every budget!
Dates: March 27 - 29, 2020
Time: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Price: Prices vary, check the website
Location: Kyoto Pulse Plaza, Fushimi
Spring maintains an important place in Japanese culture, and rites of passage from winter into spring are numerous. Hanezu Odori is performed by young girls during this season. Through their dance, they depict the sad fate of the famous poet Ono no Komachi and her incomplete love story with Fukakusa no Shosho. Elegance and beauty are again the main elements in this gorgeous performance.
Dates: March 29, 2020
Time: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Price: Adults 500 yen, Junior High School Students 300 yen
Location: Zushinin Temple, Yamashina
Probably the most spectacular and visited spot in Kyoto for the hanami matsuri, sakura blossom viewing festival, is Maruyama Park. It's shidarezakura, weeping sakura, is illuminated during the night and is magical to observe! For more hanami options, make sure to skim through Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto!
Dates: End of March to the beginning of April 2020
Time: After sunset
Location: Maruyama Park, Higashiyama
Even after centuries, Kyoto remains the most attractive jewel of Japan and especially during the sakura blooming time. The Hina Matsuri is one of the several traditional festivities with many intricate rituals to observe. At the same time, night illuminations in combination with mild weather can spirit you away during your night walks. And do not forget to get your omiyage from the Kyoto Antique Fair and taste the local delicacies and sake at the Nishiki Market Festival!