by Francois, staff writer of japan-guide.com
2009/11/25 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto Light Up
After a couple of days in Nara Prefecture doing research unrelated to autumn colors ("koyo"), this evening I returned to Kyoto to continue the search for fall foliage. I did not get back until about sunset, so I checked out a few more of the city's "light ups", which are evening illuminations of popular sightseeing spots.
The first destination was Kodaiji Temple, which I visited a week ago for the November 18, 2009 Koyo Report. Since I was there last, the autumn colours have reached their peak and remain very attractive. Of the sites I visited today, Kodaiji had the densest crowds and the best colours. The temple's rock garden also had a light up with illumination that changed and moved, making an interesting light show for visitors.
The light up starts from sunset and runs until 22:00 (entry until 21:30), and continues until December 6. It costs the regular entry fee of 600 yen to enter.
The next spot was Chionin Temple, located 10 minutes north by foot. The temple is usually free to enter, but there is a 800 yen entry fee during the light up. However, this includes access to the two garden areas of Hojo and Yuzen-en, which have a regular combined entry fee of 500 yen.
There was not much in terms of autumn colours, only a few trees in the gardens. However, the illuminated temple buildings were very impressive, and the temple staff has done a very good job of illuminating the buildings and paths to provide very dramatic views. The light up only runs a few more days, finishing next Sunday on November 29. It begins at 17:30 and finishes slightly earlier than Kodaiji at 21:30 (entry until 21:00).
Just beside Chionin is the Shorenin Temple, my last light up destination of the evening. The entry fee for the temple doubles during the light up, with visitors required to pay 1000 yen to enter. Opening hours are 18:00 to 22:00 (entry until 21:30) and the light ups run until December 14.
Like at Chionin, there were only a few example of autumn colours at Shorenin, with the more stunning features of the light up not being related to koyo. One of the most dramatic features of Shorenin are its giant camphor trees, which visitors can see just outside the temple's entrance. There was also a light show at the temple's rock garden, like at Kodaiji, as well as an illuminated bamboo grove.