Recommended for sightseeing in Kyoto in May! Introducing the best spots unique to this season!

If you are going to go sightseeing, you want to incorporate into your itinerary things that you can only see and experience during that time of the year. In this issue, we will introduce the conditions, events, and recommended spots in May in Kyoto for those who are interested in such things.


About Kyoto in May

Aoi Matsuri Festival held in May

May in Kyoto is an attractive time of year with beautiful fresh greenery and mild weather. Kyoto sightseeing is all about viewing temples and gardens, and in May you can enjoy even more beautiful scenery with its vivid greenery. May is also the month when many traditional events are held in Kyoto. It is the perfect time to enjoy Japanese culture.

Atmospheric temperature

May in Kyoto is in the transitional period between spring and early summer. Average temperatures range from about 17 to 25 degrees Celsius, making it relatively mild and comfortable. However, due to Kyoto’s location in a basin, there can be a large temperature difference between daytime and nighttime, so a layered style is recommended. Make use of light cardigans and shawls. It is also a good idea to carry a folding umbrella, as this is the time of year when rainy weather increases.


May is a time of various cultural events and festivals in Kyoto. The most famous is the Aoi Matsuri Festival (May 15). This is one of the three major festivals in Kyoto and is characterized by a spectacular procession of people dressed in Heian-period aristocratic costumes parading through the city. Also, during this period, temples often hold special openings, allowing visitors to enjoy gardens and architecture that are not normally available for viewing.


May in Kyoto is a beautiful season of fresh greenery, and temples and gardens are bright green. Especially around Arashiyama, Ginkakuji and Nanzenji temples, you will be able to feel the beauty of fresh greenery. Also, due to the large number of tourists during this season, early action is recommended to avoid crowds at popular spots. Renting a bicycle and touring around the city is another efficient and enjoyable way to travel.

May Fashion

May fashion in Kyoto requires clothing that is easy to adjust to the temperature differences between day and night. Since it is often warm during the day, a T-shirt or blouse with a light cardigan or jacket is common. In addition, comfortable walking shoes are essential for sightseeing. In addition, a hat and sunglasses are a good idea to protect against sunburn. Don’t forget rain gear so that you can cope with sudden rain.

Time Travel in Kyoto’s Traditional Events

Many traditional events take place in May, when the weather is pleasant. Among them, the Aoi Matsuri (hollyhock festival) is one of the three major festivals in Kyoto and is a must-see.

Aoi Matsuri Festival (葵祭) : Kamigamo-jinja Shrine, Shimogamo-jinja Shrine

Aoi Matsuri Festival

Aoi Matsuri Festival is one of the three most famous festivals in Kyoto, and is held at Kamigamo-jinja Shrine and Shimogamo-jinja Shrine. People dressed in elegant Heian-period costumes parade through the streets of Kyoto.

The procession goes from the Kyoto Imperial Palace to Kamigamo-jinja Shrine via Shimogamo-jinja Shrine. The procession, which resembles a Heian-emaki (picture scroll), has a total of more than 500 people. The costumes of the aristocrats, which show the traditional Japanese sense of beauty, are a sight to behold. The festival is held every year on May 15, and paid spectator seats are available.

Kamogawa Odori (鴨川をどり) : Pontocho Kaburenjo

Pontocho Kaburenjo

“Kamogawa Odori” was first performed in 1872. It is a dance performance by geiko and maiko of Pontocho, a Kyoto’s Hanamachi districts along with Gion, and is held at the Pontocho kaburenjo every May for one month only. Geiko and maiko dance performances are rare, so if you are interested in seeing them, you should definitely visit the festival.

Fujinomori-sai Festival (藤森祭) : Fujimori-jinja Shrine

Kakeuma Shinji

The Fujimori-sai Festival is the spring festival of Fujimori-jinja Shrine, renowned as the god of victory and luck, and is held for five days from May 1 to 5. Various events are held on the 5th, the last day of the festival, but the highlight is the “Kakeuma Shinji ” performed in the horse stable on the shrine grounds. The acrobatic movements on the galloping horses are truly heroic.

Go to a special viewing for a limited time only

Special visits refer to specific sites such as temples, shrines, and historical buildings that are normally closed or only open to the public on a limited basis, but are open to the public during certain periods of the year. Many temples and cultural facilities in Japan offer special viewing several times a year to share their beautiful seasonal scenery and cultural assets with the public.

Please note that the special viewing times are subject to change each year, so please check the official website to confirm the schedule before visiting.

Spring Special Viewing at Ruriko-in Temple (瑠璃光院の春の特別拝観)

Ruriko-in Temple, view from the shoin

Ruriko-in Temple is located at the foot of Mount Hiei. Ruriko-in is open to visitors only during special viewing periods in spring (April to June) and fall (October to December). The autumn foliage in fall and the blue maples in spring are spectacular and have become a hot spot on social networking sites in recent years. The view of the Ruri-no-Niwa (Lazuli garden) from the second floor of the Shoin is particularly spectacular. The polished desk in the tatami room reflects the fresh greenery, creating a mysterious sight.

Blue maples at the historic site of Maple garden (Odoi historic landmark), Kitano Tenmangu Shrine open to the public (北野天満宮の青もみじ公開)

Blue maple at Odoi historic landmark (Maple garden)

The historic site “Odoi” is located on the west side of the precincts of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. It is open to the public for a limited time from mid-April to late June each year so that visitors can enjoy the ao-momiji (Japanese maple) leaves. The refreshing beauty of the ao-momiji in early summer, which is different from that of the autumn leaves, is exceptional. The contrast with the vermilion Uguisubashi Bridge over the Kamiya River in the precincts of the temple is also magnificent. The fresh green leaves that have just sprouted heal people’s hearts.

Special visit to Shishiku no Niwa at Hogon-in Temple (宝厳院、獅子吼の庭の特別拝観)

Shishiku no Niwa

The Shishiku no Niwa (lion’s roar garden) at Hogon-in Temple in Arashiyama is famous for its autumn foliage. It is not usually open to visitors, but is open only during the special viewing periods in spring and fall. In the Shishiku no Niwa in spring, visitors can enjoy the green maples and moss. The carpet of moss that spreads across the vast garden is extremely beautiful, and it is no wonder it has so many fans. The Shishiku no Niwa is a large circular garden. It is also a great place to enjoy the fresh greenery as you walk around.

Let's share this post!