WINTER IN KYOTO
Do not let the winter cold spoil your mood! It is in winter that walks around Kyoto are filled with special magic. In addition, if you come to the old capital of Japan for Christmas or New Year, you will not have a single excuse to spend the whole day at the hotel.
To make your vacation easy and enjoyable, we have compiled a list of recommendations on what to do and where to go to Kyoto in the winter. Starting from hot springs (onsen) and ending with the New Year’s festival in a traditional Shinto temple. Traveling in the winter of Kyoto will be remembered as an amazing acquaintance with unique Japanese culture.
The best way to relax after a long trip is to take a dip in the hot springs. As soon as you immerse yourself in warm water, all worries will leave you, and the delightful nature surrounding onsen will bring long-awaited peace to your thoughts. In Kyoto, you can find several ryokan, which offer open onseny, massage services and even private baths.
If you want to get acquainted with the culture of Japan, it is definitely worth participating in the Japanese tea ceremony. The philosophy of chado (jap. “The way of tea”) concerns not only the ways of making this drink: the owner conducts a whole ritual – refined, thorough and unhurried. Each cup of tea is prepared with scrupulous meticulousness. You will be appeased as the tea itself, and and overseeing the preparation for it.
Compared to the northern islands of Japan, for example, Hokkaido, there are not many places in Kansai where you can do active winter sports. However, suitable offers can be found even for lovers of ski and snowboard. Although there is very little snow in Kyoto, you can go to the mountains at any time: there are white fluffy integuments that linger for long weeks and even months!
Do not let the cold lock you in a warm and comfortable hotel! In the winter in Kyoto, a huge number of exhibitions are held, which cover a variety of topics: art, history, cooking and much more. You can take a closer look at the culture of Japan, escape from the winter cold and have a good time – after all, who said that museums should be boring? We especially recommend visiting the Kyoto National Museum, the Gakkeikan Sake Museum, the Raku Museum, as well as the National Museum of Contemporary Art.
Without a doubt, long walks through the winter Kyoto will awaken a brutal appetite. Therefore, we suggest to try tofu – a dish that was previously available only to priests and the Emperor’s family. Visit any restaurant of traditional Japanese cuisine and order y-dofu (boiled tofu). It is usually served with a delicious traditional side dish, which will especially delight vegetarians.
When ordering a winter tour to Japan, try to catch the Japanese New Year – Osegatsu. This is the most important holiday of the year, which is celebrated in all major temples of the Old Capital. You can also witness the unusual Japanese Okera-Mairi ritual; It takes place annually in the Yasak temple on New Year’s Eve. After offering prayers for health and prosperity, the Japanese set fire to the end of a tightly twisted bamboo cord in the temple braziers, which they then unwind in the air to keep the smoldering flames. An unforgettable sight.
On New Year’s Eve, at about midnight, Buddhist temples begin the ritual of purification from 108 sinful thoughts. For this they make 108 strikes in the bell. This sacred tradition is called joya no cane, and Hatsumode immediately follows, the celebration of the first visit to the temple. People go to the nearest shrines to pray and take omikuji (small paper predictions) for good luck. If you come across an omikudzi with a bad foreknowledge, you can tie it to a branch so that misfortunes can bypass you. We recommend visiting the Nanzen-ji temples, Chion-in, Heian-jingu, and Fushimi Inari.
Setsubun is held on the third or fourth of February. This is a holiday anticipating the beginning of spring. The Japanese decided to scatter fried beans, repeating the spell: Fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto (Jap. “Happiness in the house, the demons are out!”) – it is believed that this ritual drives away evil spirits. Mark this event in Yoshida temple.
Also in February, the Kyoto restaurant festival is held, in which more than 180 shops and restaurants from all over the city take part.