Winters in Kyoto can be harsh, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy snow in Kyoto! Here, we will introduce some of Kyoto's best winter sightseeing spots, as recommended by Kyoto writers!
From snowy landscapes to illuminations, Kyoto offers plenty of beautiful winter attractions that everyone can enjoy! Though dates may vary, the snowy season tends to fall between mid-December to mid-March in northern Kyoto, and mid-January to February in Kyoto City.
The following attractions span all across Kyoto Prefecture, from Kyoto City to areas along the Sea of Japan.
1. Amanohashidate: Magical Scenery at One of Japan's Top Three Scenic Spots
A panoramic view of Hashidate from Kasamatsu Park Observatory in the north
View from Amanohashidate Viewland, an observatory on Mt. Monjuyama overlooking Amanohashidate from the south.
Amanohashidate faces the Sea of Japan in the northern part of Kyoto Prefecture. It is known as one of Japan's top three scenic spots (along with Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture and Miyajima in Hiroshima Prefecture).
Amanohashidate's winter view is incredibly grand, and quite different from the other seasons. On especially cold mornings, pine needles are covered in a fine frost. It is an indescribably beautiful sight! When the sun rises and melts the frost, you can also see the magical Hiryukan, or "flying dragon," view!
Monju, Miyazu-shi, Kyoto
Ine no Funaya: An Unforgettable Landscape of Snow in Kyoto!
Funaya are boathouses in Ine Town known for their unique architecture. The first floor houses ships, and the second floor serves as living quarters. The area is about 30 minutes from Amanohashidate by car and sits on the edge of the sea, appearing as if floating on the surface. It is often likened to Venice, Italy, and has been designated under the Nation's Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings.
It is a well-known scenic winter spot with unforgettable views of snow in Kyoto. The best way to see these amazing views is from aboard a ship. We recommend the sea taxi!
Ine Funaya (Boat Houses)
77 Inecho Hirata, Yoza-gun, Kyoto 626-0423
Access: Ride the Tango Bus to Ine Bus Stop from Amanohashidate Station (Kyotango Railway)
0772-32-0277 (Ine-cho Tourism Association 9:00AM-5:00PM)
3. Ryougonji Temple: Beautiful Views of a Snow-covered Kyoto Temple
Ryougonji Temple is about 50 minutes by car from Kyoto City. Located in Ayabe City, Ryogonji was founded by Rinsei Shonin in 732 as a temple of the Koyasan Shingon Sect. It is sometimes called the "Crow Temple", named for its popular fusuma paintings by Ikka Nagai, featuring the four seasons and many crows.
Cherry blossoms and azaleas bloom in the spring, lotuses float on the ponds in summer, and leaves change color in autumn, but winters are often thought of as white and harsh.
However, while visiting from spring to autumn is certainly wonderful, we really recommend visiting in the winter! The panoramic view of the snowy temple and pond is an incredible sight you won't want to miss!
Measures Against Coronavirus:
Shop interior and equipment regularly cleaned and disinfected; disinfectant and sanitizer installed; disinfected after each customer; well-ventilated facility interiors; use of coin trays; all staff required to wear masks/wash hands/use disinfectant/gargle/check temperature; restricted admissions, reservation system implemented; may refuse entry to visitors in poor condition; visitors required to wear masks and have temperatures checked.
6 Tachicho Ryogonji, Ayabe City, Kyoto 623-0232
Access: From JR Ayabe Station, take Aya Bus Shiga Nanboku Line to Tate Bus Stop; walk east for 15 minutes
Admission: Free (Around 200 yen per person to view crow fusuma paintings; Reservations required to enter)
4. Fukuchiyama Castle: A Beautiful Snow-covered Castle Built by Akechi Mitsuhide
Fukuchiyama Castle lies in Fukuchiyama City, next to Ayabe City. It was reconstructed by Akechi Mitsuhide when he gained control of the Tamba Region around 1579, and was completed around 1600.
The stone walls were constructed in an architectural style called "nozurazumi", and still retains remnants of the original castle's lanterns and stones. Though facing demolition in the Meiji Era under the abolition ordinance, it was rebuilt in 1986. It is now the only remaining castle built by Mitsuhide with a castle tower.
The majestic castle tower dressed in pure white snow in Kyoto is an especially wonderful view. Get a glimpse of the castle from the observation tower, then head inside to check out the castle exhibits!
Measures Against Coronavirus:
Disinfectant and sanitizer installed; well-ventilated facility interior; all staff required to wear masks/wash hands/use disinfectant/gargle/check temperature; may refuse entry to visitors in poor condition; visitors required to wear masks and have temperatures checked
1 Naiki, Fukuchiyama City, Kyoto 620-0035
15-minute walk from JR Fukuchiyama Station
Hours: 9:00AM-5:00PM (Last admission: 4:30PM)
Admission: Adults 330 yen, elementary/junior high students 110 yen (tax included)
Closed: Open year round until January 11, 2021 (Monday/holiday); afterwards, closed the following December 28-31, January 4-6
5. Miyama Kayabuki-no-Sato: Snow in Kyoto, Immersed in a Nostalgic Landscape
Miyama Kayabuki no Sato is a popular tourist attraction located in central Kyoto Prefecture with beautiful scenery year-round. This area, dotted with 39 rare Kayabuki residences, was designated as a Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings in December 1993.
Early in the year, you can see snow covering the thatched roofs of the private houses. Yuki Toro, a Snow Lantern Festival, is held here every year in late January. Snow lanterns and bamboo lanterns light up the entire village, and decorate the thatched-roof homes.
*Due to coronavirus, snow lantern and bamboo lantern light-ups are canceled for the 2021 Snow Lantern Festival. Only the thatched-roof residences will be lit.
Miyamacho Kita, Nantan City, Kyoto 601-0712
Access: 60 minutes by car from Sonobe IC on Kyoto Jukan Expressway
Phone: 0771-75-9030 (Nantan City Miyama Tourism Association)
6. Hozu Gorge: A Beautiful Valley Surrounded by Silence
The Hozu River runs from central Kyoto to the mountains, from Kameoka City to scenic Arashiyama, joining the Kamo River and Yodo River. Ride along the winding Hozu River through the mountains, from Kameoka to Arashiyama, on a boat navigated by a skillful boatman. It's an exciting way to enjoy the beauty of the canyon up close!
Of course, every season has its own unique landscape. But in the winter, the Hozu River really shines! Covered in the snow in Kyoto and surrounded by silence, the valley takes on an awe-inspiring presence. Boats are heated, so we really recommend a winter boat ride! Don't forget to check out the observatory's spectacular views of Hozu Gorge, as well!
Measures Against Coronavirus (Hozugawa Kudari):
Facility and equipment regularly cleaned and disinfected; disinfectant and sanitizer installed; disinfected after each customer; well-ventilated facility interiors; use of coin trays; partition plates installed; all staff required to wear masks/wash hands/use disinfectant/gargle/check temperature; may refuse entry to visitors in poor condition; visitors required to wear masks and have temperatures checked
Ukyo-ku, Kyoto, 610-0000
7-minute walk from JR Kameoka Station
Phone: 0771-22-5846 (Hozugawa Boat Company Association)
Hours: 9:00AM-3:00PM (December 14-March 9: 10:00AM-2:30PM)
Admission: (Hozugawa Kudari) Adults 4,100 yen (tax included, reservations required)
Closed: Year-end and New Year holidays (December 29-January 4)
7. Kameoka Kiri no Terrace: A Bright Sea of Clouds
The Tamba fog is a symbolic feature of the Kameoka landscape from autumn to spring. Kiri no Terrace offers an especially magnificent morning view overlooking foggy Kameoka.
Aim to visit on a clear, early morning with little wind and a large temperature difference from the previous day. The best chance to see the foggy sea of clouds is during late autumn, when days are warm and nights are cold. The best time is between sunrise and 10AM.
You can check the cloud condition from a live camera on the Kameoka City Tourism Association website before visiting.
Kameoka Kiri no Terrace
Iodani Shimoyadacho, Kameoka City, Kyoto 621-0854
Access: Approximately 10 minutes by car from Kameoka IC on Kyoto Jukan Expressway
Phone: 0771-22-0691 (JR Kameoka Station Tourist Information Center)
8. Kifune Shrine: Brightly Shining Snowy Light-Ups
Kifune Shrine, also known as "Kyo-no-Okuzashiki" ("Kyoto's inner room" in English), is located in Kibune, Kyoto. This particular Kifune Shrine is the main one of nearly 500 Kifune Shrines in the country. It enshrines the god of water and is a popular shrine for marriage.
Kifune Shrine is known for its deep snow and beautifully-contrasting landscape of pure white snow and vermilion lanterns. Many people visit in the winter just to see this magnificent view! Illuminations are only held on snowy days in January and February, where Kasuga stone lanterns gently light the stone steps of the approach. It is a truly wonderful snowy scene!
Measures Against Coronavirus:
Facility and equipment regularly cleaned and disinfected; disinfectant and sanitizer installed; disinfected after each customer; well-ventilated facility interiors; partition plates installed; all staff required to wear masks/wash hands/use disinfectant/gargle/check temperature; may refuse entry to visitors in poor condition; visitors required to wear masks and have temperatures checked
180, Kuramakibunecho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
9. Togetsukyo Bridge: A Snow-Covered Symbol of Arashiyama
Togetsukyo Bridge is a wooden bridge, symbolic of Arashiyama, that spans the Katsura River at 155 meters long and 11 meters wide. The name comes from the Kamakura Period (around 1185-1333), when Emperor Kameyama looked up at the moon and realized the moon appeared as if it were crossing the bridge.
You can see the Togetsukyo Bridge standing over the gently flowing Katsura River, with Arashiyama in the background. This magnificent view boasts beautiful seasonal landscapes year round, including cherry blossoms in spring and colorful leaves in the fall.
The highlights of Togetsukyo's winter view are the snow-covered Togetsukyo and Arashiyama, and the surrounding snow-capped mountains. This panoramic winter view of Togetsukyo Bridge is an awe-inspiring masterpiece!
Saganakanosimacho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto, 616-0000
Access: 11-minute walk from Saga Arashiyama Station (JR Sagano Line), 4-minute walk from Arashiyama Station (Randen)
10. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Path: An Invitation to a Mysterious World
The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Path is another signature Kyoto tourist destination, along with Arashiyama and Togetsukyo Bridge. From Nonomiya Shrine, past the north side of Tenryuji Temple, to Okochi Sanso Garden, this bamboo forest towers 400 meters high, tall enough to cover the sky!
In the winter, this beautiful place to catch snow in Kyoto is picture-perfect. It transforms into a completely different landscape from every other season. You'll feel as if you've gotten lost in a magical snowy world!
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Sagaogurayamatabuchiyamacho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
As you can see, there are plenty of beautiful attractions and hidden spots to enjoy in the winter, whether you're in downtown Kyoto or the suburbs along the Sea of Japan! Public transportation may not be as reliable on snowy days, so please be sure to check the official websites before visiting for updates.
Kiko Matsuda, Keiko Kimura, Risa Tsuji, and a team of female writers familiar with Kansai. We love eating, drinking and traveling! We share fun information based on our experiences.