Travel Info : When is Kyoto Crowded ?


1. Overview of Tourist Crowds in Kyoto

I heard that, nowadays, Kyoto is really crowded.

Visitors Question

Yes, as for the situation before the spread of covid-19, 

Kyoto is constantly crowded with oversea visitors throughout the year,
in addition to Japanese tourists during a sightseeing season.

Locals Answer

Before 2020, the spread of covid-19, the number of tourists coming to Kyoto had been increasing every year.

Based on my experience (I’m living near Ginkakuji Temple), many oversea visitors constantly came to Kyoto throughout the year. (somewhat fewer in winter season, I think)

The seasons or holidays when Japanese would like to go sightseeing seemed to be much more crowded in Kyoto.
But, is that really the case ?

So, I’ll consider the days or seasons when actually crowded, and show you them in detail, based on the result of “Kyoto sightseeing overall research 2019 (in Japanese)” reported by Kyoto city sightseeing & industry department.

2. Recent Situation of Visitors to Kyoto (2019)

2-1 the number of visitors & overnight guests in 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.

Among  these, “March to April” and “December” tend to have much more visitors to Kyoto because of beautiful cherry blossoms and autumn leaves.

On the other hand, “February” is fewer than average because of a cold climate, and no seasonal events.

Early May, mid Augustlate December & early January, which have Japan’s three long holidays, also tend to be more visitors to Kyoto.

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.

2-2 the proportion of Japanese & day trippers to the whole visitors

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.

Next, also as for “visitors”, what is the ratio of “day trippers” to “overnight guests” ?

As the chart shows, it is the ratio of 3 : 1.

As you can see, day trippers account for a large percentage to the whole, and furthermore, Japanese people make up a large portion of the day trippers.

According to these results, it is thought that main cause of crowds in Kyoto is found out, as expected, to consider when Kyoto is visited by a lot of Japanese tourists.

3. When a lot of Japanese visit Kyoto for Sightseeing

When is the sightseeing season for Japanese people ?

Well, long holidays, seasonal highlights and comfortable climates are good opportunities for Japanese to visit Kyoto.

So, crowds in Kyoto are actually caused on such the pecific day(s) or seasons.
The followings are the details.

(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 (Festivals & Events)  

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

Aoi festival (May 15h)
Gion festival (mainly July 17th, 24th)
Farewell Bonfire Event on Mt. Daimonji (Aug. 16th)
Jidai festival (Oct. 22nd)

Arashiyama area illuminated (mid December)
Higashiyama area illuminated (mid March)
  Between Heian Jingu Shrine and Kiyomizu Temple

(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)


In addition to oversea visitors, a lot of Japanese tourists visit Kyoto in the season of cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, and at the day(s) of the specific events or festivals. Also, Kyoto is crowded with them on Japanese long holidays and weekends & holidays, especially in spring and autumn.

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.

So, if you want to avoid such crowds as much as possible, please avoid at least those specific day(s) and seasons.