Moving away from the humid summer and into the milder temperatures of the fall season, visiting Kyoto in October is even more magical when the city becomes lit with stunning autumn leaves. Momiji or koyo starts usually begins during the second half of October, which are the two phrases associated with the phenomenon of leaves changing color. As the scenery around the city gradually changes, it makes Kyoto events in October really special, and there are a lot of them!
There are plenty of exciting Kyoto events in October for foodies and those who want to get a good dose of traditional Japanese culture. Ranging from cultural festivals to flea markets to traditional dance performances, there are lots of events to keep you busy. Enjoy the beautiful scenery, eat some seasonal autumn snacks, and check out these Kyoto events in October this year.
Plus, while Kyoto is not one of the host cities, its neighbors of Osaka and Kobe have plenty of Rugby World Cup action is continuing next door right through until the middle of October. If you’re a rugby fan, you can still catch some of the rugby fever at plenty of cool bars and pubs in Downtown Kyoto, too!
Here are some of the top events to experience in Kyoto in October!
An iconic autumn festival in Kyoto, the Zuiki Matsuri thanks the deity of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine for good crops and annual harvests. This Kyoto festival has been running for over 1000 years, and the celebration spans across 5 days with a range of rituals, processions, and dance performances.
As well as the beautifully-dressed geiko and maiko attending the festivities (an awe-inspiring sight), the incredible omikoshi or portable shrines are the show-stopping centerpieces of the festival. The festival’s omikoshi are artistically decorated with all types of colorful foods like dried greens, eggplants, citrus fruits, tofu skin, and the roof is made of zuiki (taro stems). Watch the colorful foods parade through the streets in this exciting and very grand foodie procession.
Dates: October 1 - October 5, 2019
Time: 9:30 am - 5 pm (variable schedule)
Location: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
If you are interested in geisha and geiko, this wonderful public performance called Kotobuki-kai is a perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with some beautiful traditional dancers. Geiko and maiko groups across the 5 geisha districts of Kyoto come together in a range of large-scale performances, accompanied by traditional epic songs and classic shamisen music. Kotobuki-kai is famous as it occurs just once a year, marking the end of a year of traditional dance practices going on since spring. For connoisseurs and first-time viewers alike, it’s a wonderful event with traditional Japanese dress and music.
Date: October 8 - October 13, 2019
Time: From 4 pm
Price: 8000 yen
Location: Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theater
Since 2002, schools throughout Kyoto have banded together for the Kyoto Intercollegiate Festival, a day of performances. Organized by local students to engage the community, the festival offers a number of dancing, singing, and band performances from all different schools throughout the day. Held in Okazaki Park (the promenade located in front of Heian Shrine) the atmosphere is fantastic, with plenty of food stalls selling delicious street food at student-friendly prices. Grab some food and find somewhere to sit and hang out for the day, who knows what kind of performances you’ll get to see from a variety of talented student groups!
Date: October 13, 2019
Time: 11 am to 7:30 pm
Location: Okazaki Park (in front of Heian Shrine)
Fancy yourself a bit of a wine buff? The Miyako Hotel is in its 10th year of running this annual wine festival. On the 4th floor of the hotel, you can enjoy wine tastings from approximately 250 brands of wine made in Japan and from across the world. Sip away as you enjoy wine quizzes, seminars, and live music performances.
There is a ticketed food system offering 15 types of food, both Japanese and Western-style, to enjoy throughout the event. The entry price includes a wine glass holder for hands-free wine enjoyment, and plus, it’s held on a public holiday so you can enjoy wining and dining at ease!
Date: Monday October 14, 2019
Time: 12 pm - 5 pm
Price: 2500 yen (advance ticket), 3000 yen (same-day ticket)
Location: The Westin Miyako Hotel
The handicraft market at Chion-ji Temple is a fantastic event in Kyoto, held on every 15th day of each month. It is a wonderful market where you can grab some souvenirs like kimonos made into purses and hand-carved wooden earrings, across a maze of stalls. Entrepreneurs and artisans show off their colorful wares and beautifully-crafted food; it’s clear that everything is locally-made with love! It’s a great opportunity to check out the alternative community of Kyoto, where locals and visitors are welcome to roam around and meet the makers.
Date: October 15, 2019
Time: 8 am - 4 pm
Location: Chion-ji Temple
If you are a sucker for beautiful ceramics, this is the perfect Kyoto event in October! Kiyomizuyaki no Sato is a major pottery festival in Kyoto, which showcases locally-made ceramics alongside works from around Japan.
This event is held on the third Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in October, specializing in Kyoto ceramic wares known as Kyo-yaki or Kiyomizu-yaki. With so many shops and stalls, you can grab a bargain on some beautiful ceramics, enjoy traditional sweets with tea, or even try making your own pottery.
The area where this event is held is home to a group of artisans who moved their studios from the original artist area around Kiyomizudera Temple, where the Kiyomizu-yaki gets its name from.
Date: October 18 - October 20, 2019
Time: 9 am - 5 pm
Location: Kiyomizuyaki Danchi
One of the best markets in Kyoto is held at Toji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the oldest in Kyoto. The market is named after the temple’s important Buddhist saint, Kobo Daishi, who was the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. The historic grounds of the temple are a lovely setting for all the bargains available. This market sells everything imaginable like antiques, books, pottery, lacquerware, bonsai trees, kimonos and clothing, and food. It’s a great market with a friendly atmosphere, and there are plenty of delicious food stalls to ensure a cheap feed to refuel between shopping.
Date: October 21, 2019
Time: 8 am - 4 pm
Location: Toji Temple
Named “Kurama no Hi Matsuri” in Japanese, the Kurama Fire Festival is one of the most interesting Kyoto events in October. This annual event sees the darkened streets of Kurama filled with men carrying giant flame-lit torches in a fire extravaganza festival. Located in the mountains north of Kyoto City, this tiny village becomes dotted with fires where people gather around to drink and chat. The fiery procession ends with a tug-of-war, so if you’re feeling adventurous you can get in on the action, too. The trains back down can be very chaotic, but the experience is definitely worth it!
Date: October 22, 2019
Location: Yuki Jinja Shrine and Kurama Village main street
Time: 6 pm - 12:30 am
Say hello to Halloween, a major Kyoto event in October! This is the 22nd year that the Kitayama area has hosted the local Kitayama Halloween Festival, and it’s the biggest Halloween event in the city. Over the weekend before the night of Halloween, you can dress up and join the festivities as Halloween madness takes over the streets of Kitayama!
There will be pumpkin carving from 9:30 am on both days (note that you have to book in advance), with plenty of food stalls and a handmade market selling artisanal goodies. Saturday night hosts the big party with music, drinks, and a costume competition, while the costume parade takes over the streets of Kitayama on Sunday. Needless to say, fancy dress is encouraged!
Date: Saturday October 26 - Sunday October 27, 2019
Time: Saturday 10 am - 9 pm, Sunday 10 am - 4 pm
This is one of the 3 best markets in Kyoto, held at the wonderful Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, and named after a 9th-century poet and scholar, famous for his academic contributions. Colloquially known as Tenjinsan, this market makes for a great destination to see the shrine and do some shopping at the same time, with the chance to meet locals and expats alike. All kinds of used kimonos, antiques, ceramics, and more make for a bargain hunter’s dream, as well as plenty of food and drink stalls to keep you satisfied between snagging a second-hand shopping deal. Make sure to rub the two stone bulls in front of the shrine’s main hall of the shrine to gain some intelligence!
Date: October 25, 2019
Time: 6 am - 4 pm
Location: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
The evening illuminations of Kodaiji Temple make for a wonderful event in the temple grounds after dark. The beautiful ponds and bamboo groves of Kodaiji’s gardens are lit up in this nationally famous event, making it a popular spot that’s definitely worth going up against the crowds.
The temple grounds are lit up in the evening 3 times a year, but if you come at the end of October you can enjoy the beautiful autumn colors at night. Wend your way through the gardens and take in the wonderful illuminations and calm atmosphere. This temple also has projection mapping events throughout the year, too, which make for a wonderful date night or family activity!
Dates: October 25 - early December 2019
Time: 5:00 pm - 10:00pm (last entry 9:30pm)
Price: 600 yen
Location: Kodaiji Temple
Also known as the “Festival of Ages,” Kyoto’s Jidai Matsuri is a massive festival in October where Japanese history comes to life. In commemoration of the founding of Kyoto as the imperial capital in 794, a procession of 2000 people wearing costumes that represent different eras of Japanese history walk from the Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho) through to Heian Jingu Shrine. Join the crowds to watch the fantastic fashion of bygone eras in Japan, with the festival celebrating traditional music, symbolism, and history.
Normally it is held around Kyoto in October on the 22nd each year, but with the new emperor, this event is scheduled to be a few days later than normal. Make sure to see geisha wearing the complex garments called junhitoe, an elegant but very intricate style of beautiful traditional kimono.
Date: October 26, 2019
Time: 7 am - 4 pm (parade starts at 12 noon)