Travel Info : Your Best Time to Visit Kyoto !


Kyoto is an old capital of Japan lasted more than 1,000 years, so this town has many many kinds of historic places and cultural properties. so, actually, there are a lot of ways to enjoy Kyoto all year round.
In this article, I’d like to show you several best times to visit Kyoto, in terms
of Kyoto’s seasonal highlights, climates and tourist crowds. I hope that you will find out your best.

1. When is your Best ? : in terms of Seasonal Highlights

What is best seasonal highlights in Kyoto ?

Visitors Question

Well, “cherry blossoms (spring)” and “autumn leaves (fall)” are most attractive and popular in Kyoto.

Locals Answer

Kyoto has, you might know, beautiful four seasons.
Actually, each season has a lot of attractive things in Kyoto.

Above all, cherry blossoms in spring and autumn leaves in fall are most attractive.
Those scenery combined with histric architectures and natural beauty are absolutely breathtaking. No doubt about it !

Let’s check when and where is recommended for cherry blossoms and autumn leaves in Kyoto.

1-1 Cherry Blossoms (spring : late March to early April)

Especially around Mar. 25th to Apr. 5th, cherry blossoms are likely to be bloomed.

Not only at famous spots for oversea visitors such as Kiyomizu temple, Nijo Castle, Arashiyama and Gion area (Yasaka Jinja Shrine), but also at the entire city such as every usual river side and usual park are full of cherry blossoms.

The timing of the full bloom depends on the variety of cherry blossom. For example, Hirano Jinja shrine near Kinkakuji temple has about 60 kinds of cherry blossom trees, and you can enjoy mid March to mid April. 

In addition, at Kuramadera temple and Ohara Sanzenin temple, located in the north of Kyoto city, cherry blossoms are fully bloomed around mid April because of low temperature.

I like cherry blossoms along “Philosopher’s Walk” (pictures), running between Ginkakuji temple and Nyakuoji shrine near Eikando, Nanzenji temple. The cherry blossoms are bloomed over 1.8 km of the path, which is along a quaint watercours.

If you want to know how to get to, click the followings ! (Philosopher’s Walk, Ginkakuji temple, Eikando temple and Nanzenji Temple)

1-2 Autumn Leaves (autumn : early November to early December)

In autumn, Kyoto are full of people looking for the beauty created by historic architectures and autumn leaves.

You can see and feel the beauty not only at originally major spots for tourists such as Nijo castle, Kinkauji temple, Ginkakuji temple, Kiyomizu temple and Arashiyama area, but also at the spots especially famous for autumn leaves such as Eikando temple, Nanzenji temple, Kitano-tenmangu shrine, Tofukuji temple and many other places.

You can visit some temples & shrines at night during the season, such as Kiyomizu temple, Eikando temple, Kitano-tenmangu shrine, Kodaiji temple (near Kiyomizu), Toji temple (near Kyoto Sta.) and so on. The architectures and trees are lit up, so you can feel completely different beauty of the night scenery.

The weekends & holidays of this season are very very very crowded. So, please take trains and walk, rather than buses which must be wasting time to move due to the congestion of the road and the passengers.

It is said that “early morning” is recommended because of relatively less crowded than the daytime.
For example, Kiyomizu temple (6:00 a.m.), Toji temple (5:00 a.m.), Shimogamo jinja shrine (6:30 a.m.), and Kyoto Imperial Palace (24 hours) open from early morning.

If you want to know how to get to, click the followings ! (Kiyomizu temple, Eikando temple, Nanzenji temple, Arashiyama area, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji temple and Ginkakuji temple)

Those seasonal highlights are very attractive for all tourists. It’ must be worth a look.

But, please note again that it must take much more time than usual to move around especially by bus due to many many many tourists for the seasons. So, trains are better than buses for moving smoothly. (If you want to know how to get famous spots by various transports with locals’ idea, check this pages, and select “how to get”.)

⇒If you want to know other highlights, events and festivals in Kyoto, please read this page seasonal highlights, events and festivals in Kyoto

2. When is your Best ? : in terms of Weather & Temperature in Kyoto

When is best climate for tourists in Kyoto ?

Visitors Question

Well, Spring & Autumn are very comfortable for moving around.

Locals Answer

Similar to Tokyo and Osaka, Kyoto has also four beautiful seasons, and almost the same climate as these two major cities.

But, the specific features of Kyoto’s climate are that summer is humid and extremely hot, and winter is sunny (little rain) but cold because Kyoto is a landlocked and basin city.

So, spring and autumn have relatively comfortable weather.

Let’s check the details of Kyoto’s climate in terms of monthly average weather (rainfalls) and temperatures, and show you when is comfortable climate for tourists walking around.

2-1 When is Good Weather (little rainfalls) ?

The chart above shows average rainfall in Kyoto by month.

In general, Kyoto have two rainy seasons, one is from June to July (late spring to early summer), and the other is from September to early October (late summer to early autumn).
The amout of rain in June and July tends to be heavier than in September in Kyoto.

Typhoon season in Japan is from July to October. Statistically, typoons come relatively often in August and September in Kyoto.

March, April and May (Spring) have relatively lots of sunny days regardless of average rainfall.

So, in terms of fainfalls, the seasons from mid October to May (the season is mid autumn to late spring) are recommended for tourists.

2-2 When is Comfortable Temperature ?

From late July to late August (Summer), the temperature is the highest of the year (goes up to 37 or 38 degrees celsius≈100°F).
Between mid December and early March (Winter), the temperature is low. (variations in the lowest temperature -1°C to 4°C, ≈30 to 39°F)

In terms of temperature, mid March to early June (Spring), and mid September to early December (Autumn) are most comfortable climate for sightseeing in Kyoto.

In terms of weather (rainfall) & temperature, Spring season (mid March to early June), and Autumn season (early October and early December) are most comfortable climate for tourists walking around Kyoto.

If you are OK with cold temperature, Winter season (mid December to early March) is also recommended because of little rain and not so much cold temperature on some winter days. (note : basically cold !)

⇒If you want to know more details of Kyoto’s climate, please read this page Kyoto average weather & temperature year round“.


3. When is your Best ? : in terms of Tourist Crowds in Kyoto

When is not crowded in Kyoto ? 

Visitors Question

Well, as for the situation before the spread of covid-19, Kyoto is constantly crowded with espesially oversea visitors throughout the year.

If I had to say, at the time when many Japanese tourists don’t visit, Kyoto tends to be less crowded.

Locals Answer

At the following section, I’ll explain which month actually crowded, based on the result of “Kyoto sightseeing overall research 2019 (in Japanese)” reported by Kyoto city sightseeing & industry department, and show you when relatively less crowed.

3-1 Which month do many people visit Kyoto ?

The chart above shows the number of visitors to Kyoto by month in 2019. (I refer the “2019 Kyoto sightseeing overall research (in Japanese)” as mentioned before)

In advance, please note that the “visitors” include not only the people for sightseeing, but also the people for business, shopping, sports, events, watching a play and visiting friends. (exclude commuters)

In general, as the chart shows, Kyoto have many visitors throughout the year.

Next chart below shows the number of overnight guests in Kyoto by month in 2019. (the data is based on the same research above)

Compared with just “Visitors” to Kyoto, the main purpose of the most overnight guests is thought of as sightseeing.

As expected, March to April (cherry blossom), May & August (Japan’s long holidays), October (good climate), November (autumn leaves) tend to have much more overnight guests in Kyoto.

On the other hand, January is the smallest number in addition to February, although visitors in January are a lot.

Probably, many Japanese people visit shrines or temples during the first three days of January as a day trip.
It is one of Japanese culture, called “Hatsu-moude” in Japanese, meaning of first visiting shrine or temple.

As for “visitors”  , what is the ratio of Japanese to oversea visitors ?

As the chart shows, it is the ratio of 5 : 1.
As you can see, Japanese account for a large percentage, however the purpose of their visit is various.

So, one of the causes of crowds in Kyoto seems to be related to when many Japanese people visit Kyoto.

3-2 Avoid the time when many Japanese people visit Kyoto for sightseeing 

When do many Japanese people visit Kyoto for sightseeing ?

Well, Japanese long holidays, seasonal highlights such as cherry blossoms or autumn leaves and comfortable climates are good opportunities for Japanese tourists.

So, crowds in Kyoto are actually caused on such the following specific days or seasons.

(1)  Japanese Long Holidays  

• Year End through New Year Holidays (basically Dec. 29th to Jan. 3rd)
Spring Holidays, we call it “Golden Week” (basically Apr. 29th to May 5th)
Summer Holidays, we call it “Obon” in Japanese (basically Aug. 13th to 16th)

(2)  Seasonal Highlights 

Cherry Blossoms (late March to early April)
Autumn Leaves (early November to early December)

(3)  Comfortable Climate Seasons  

Spring (mid March to early June)
Autumn (late September to early December)

In addition to the circumstances above, any weekends & holidays are obviously much more crowded with Japanese tourists than the weekdays

For example, Kyoto in November is really crowded every day because of autumn leaves. Even so, the weekdays are still better than weekends in terms of crowds.
(please check Japanese holidays on the Japanese calender 2023 and 2024)

So, if you think that “less crowds” is your best, please avoid at least those specific days and seasons.

Before 2020, the spread of COVID-19, thanks to oversea visitors, Kyoto had constantly had a lot of tourists throughout the year. Once the COVID-19 pandemic ends, I think that the same tendency of crowds as 2019 will be found.

⇒If you want to know more details of tourist crowds in Kyoto, please read this page “tourist crowds in Kyoto“.


4. Would you like “Green Maple Leaves” ?

As you know, popular seasons are in proportion to outstanding crowds.

However, the season when “green maple leaves” is an exception.
Especially, the weekdays of the season is not crowded, compared with that of cherry blossoms and autumn leaves.

In case that if you want to feel Japanese beauty, but avoid the crowds, the season of green maple leaves is recommended.

«Green maple leaves»  (late April to August)

Lately, it’s getting popular to go sightseeing for green maple leaves in Japan, instead of autumn leaves which cause overflowing with people.

Those green maple leaves are especially beautiful during the season between late spring (mid May) and early summer (early June).
This season is also very nice because it is the just time after Japanese spring holidays and before rainy season, so that even famous spots for autumn leaves in fall are less crowded ! Moreover, the climete is very nice, too.

You can see and feel the beauty not only at originally major spots for tourists such as Ginkakuji temple, Kiyomizu temple and temples in Arashiyama area, but also at the spots especially famous for autumn leaves such as Eikando temple, Nanzenji temple, Kitano-tenmangu shrine, Tofukuji temple, Toji temple and so on.

If you want to know how to get to, click the followings ! (Kiyomizu temple, Eikando temple, Nanzenji temple, Arashiyama area and Ginkakuji temple)

Did you find out your best time to visit Kyoto ?

I hope that you will enjoy your time in Kyoto !