Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hanatouro – Lit Flower Path

Earlier this week was Hanatouro, an lighting event held in Kyoto twice a year. In the winter, it's held in Arashiyama and in the spring it's held in Higashiyama, and thankfully I was able to go to both.

Tenryuji Temple
Arashiyama's Hanatouro is probably most known for its illuminated bamboo groves, which really are kind of spooky to walk through at night...though if it's crowded like it was when I went, it's probably not as bad. I didn't go into any of the temples at night (though I did check out Tenryuji Temple before it got dark). However, I did wander around for a while before I went home, where I saw a lot of the ikebana displays in the area. I also stumbled upon Torokko Arashiyama Station, which was kind of nostalgic -- I remember eating ice cream with yatsuhashi in it there when I was in Japan in 2010. The ice cream stand was closed for the night, but there were a few other food stands set up there as a rest area, though.

Togetsukyo Bridge
Bamboo groves.

Fire pot.
Another plus to the day I went to the Arashiyama Hanatouro is that it was overcast, but it didn't actually rain. During the day when I wandered around the shops near Togetsukyo Bridge, the atmosphere was just more fitting than if it had been raining. In the area near the Keifuku Arashiyama Station (I think? There are a lot of stations there...), where there are a bunch of food and cake shops, they also had little fires set up to keep people was kind of painful to separate myself from one when I wanted to do more sightseeing. If it had been sunny and warm, I don't think it would have been as memorable of an experience.

The Higashiyama Hanatouro definitely has a different atmosphere than the one in Arashiyama. It might've just been the days I was there, but because Higashiyama is right near Gion, Shijo, and Sanjo, it's usually a bit more crowded with people to begin with.

Shopping near Kiyomizu Temple.
Kiyomizu Temple, with Kyoto Tower visible
In Higashiyama, I did manage to visit a lot more illuminated temples and shrines than in Arashiyama. Of those, and probably one of the most visited spots in this area, was Kiyomizu Temple, which was amazing lit up. The surrounding shopping streets were also open later than usual for Hanatouro, so I had a couple of yatsuhashi sample and tea breaks on my way back. After Kiyomizu Temple, I went to Kodaiji, where the Zen rock gardens and bamboo grove were lit up. I didn't have much time for anything else after this, so I went to Yasaka Shrine, where there were some food stands set up, and had a quick break for dinner before going home.

Kodaiji rock garden
Since there was one more day of Hanatouro left, I decided to go a second time and visit the rest of the temples I didn't have time for the day before. First I went to Yasaka Shrine, where there was a maiko dance performance that I managed to catch part of before moving on to Maruyama Park, where the ikebana display and lit bamboo display was. After that, I went to Chionin Temple and walked through the gardens (although I don't recommend it -- it was expensive and the majority of the lights were free on the outside) and saw the free music and light show that was shown on the back of the main gate (which was really really neat). Before I met my friends at Sanjo Station, I quickly went to Shorenin Temple, where there was a light show in the rock gardens similar to the one at Kodaiji, although I thought the one at Shorenin was more calming...though that might've just been because of all the tiny blue lights, which made it look as though you were looking at little stars.

Yasaka Shrine
The only place I didn't stop at that was on the list of advertised sights for Hanatouro was Entokuin Temple, since it was pricey unless you paired the ticket with a visit to Kodaiji...which I considered, but Entokuin actually didn't have much lighting at all, according to the pamphlet. I haven't been there yet, though, so I'll definitely try to visit sometime...during the day, I mean.
There were a few other events going on during Hanatouro, as well, such as the Kitsune no Yomeiri Procession, where a woman in an elaborate costume and fox mask visited each of the sights with her procession of monks and temple staff.

Yasaka Shrine
If you're in Kyoto for either the spring or fall Hanatouro, I really recommend checking it out! It was chilly both times I went, but just walking through temples at night at Kyoto is a really unique experience and isn't something you can do very often, which made this event even more special.

Bamboo display at Maruyama Park.

Chionin light show.

Shorenin rock gardens.


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