November 2022 is Kyoto’s peak fall color dates, great weather, special events & night illuminations, and festivals at temples & shrines. Despite
heavy crowds, it’s an excellent month to visit Japan, and you’ll have too many choices for seasonal things to do during a November trip to Kyoto. (Updated September 27, 2022.)
Note that exact dates listed below are tentative and based on historical precedent, as calendars of events for November 2022 haven’t yet been released by many temples, shrines, etc. However, schedules usually change with only a variance of a few days–if you’re planning now, be sure to check back later when this is updated fully for 2022. It’s also possible some normal events are cancelled due to a lack of tourists, but our hope is that recovery is well underway by then and Japan is well down the path towards normalcy by that point.
Speaking of which, that brings us to the threshold issue–and the answer to a question we’ve been asking for nearly two years: Japan Will Reopen to Individual Tourists in October 2022! There are still some unknowns, but Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has offered new guidance that we’re covering in Japan Reopening to Individual Tourists: FAQ, Rules & Guidelines. That’ll help you prepare for arrival, and potentially save time at the airport.
We will be in Kyoto throughout November 2022, attending special events, visiting popular spots, and checking out things throughout the city. We’ll be reporting back on all of our experiences and thoughts, so subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and stay tuned if you’re not visiting until December 2022 or later.
If you’re still debating on the timing of your trip, see our guide: When to Visit Kyoto, Japan: Best & Worst Times in 2022 & 2023. That’ll give you a range of recommendations–this post is better suited to those who have already narrowed down their range of dates and want more info specifically about November in Kyoto.
With that said, let’s start by taking a look at the autumn weather in Kyoto…
While average temperatures aren’t as perfect in November as in October, they’re still pretty good. In fact, we’d contend that November is the superior weather month, all things considered, as it’s further removed from typhoon season, so there’s almost no risk of that or storms impacting your plans.
By the numbers, Kyoto weather in November can be a bit on the chilly side, especially later in the month. Nevertheless, it’s still pretty pleasant most of the month. The average low temperature is 45º F (as compared to 55º in October) and the high temperature is 63º (v. 73º in October). There’s an average of 3.2 inches of rainfall, versus 4.8 inches in October. Daylight is decreasing in November, with only 10.5 hours per day.
November is firmly fall in Kyoto, and with that comes autumn leaves changing colors. Fall colors season starts around the middle of the month, with the peak occurring in late November through early December. Of course, this varies by elevation and weather conditions–check out our Japan Fall Colors Forecast & Autumn Foliage Viewing Guide.
The veritable cornucopia of colors in Kyoto is incredible. The resplendence of the Japanese maple trees and shades of crimson the leaves of these maple leaves take on is almost unbelievable. The abundant reds, yellows, and oranges juxtaposed against temples and shrines is stunning. It makes the otherwise unbearable crowds perfectly bearable. Speaking of which…
In a normal year, November is one of the busiest months in Kyoto.
With that said, not all dates are equal. To the contrary, it’s more like a ‘tale of two months’ with the first half being shoulder season and the second half being peak season.
The ‘sweet spot’ for moderate crowds and a decent amount of color is the second week of November. This is one of our very favorite times to visit Japan in general, and Kyoto in particular. However, if you fly too close to the sun, you’re going to get burned. The longer you stick around in mid-November, the more likely you are to experience heavy crowds.
When it comes to fall foliage, it’s better to go early than to go late for the exact same reason. Missing peak fall colors in early to mid November means a kaleidoscope of greens, yellows, and red foliage. Missing peak in mid-December means some reds and barren trees. The added upside is that you’ll have better weather earlier in November than later in the month or in December.
You might’ve noticed the “normal year” caveat to start this section. November 2022 will be anything but a normal month in a normal year.
Japan reopens to individual tourists on October 11. In theory, that could mean a huge surge of pent-up demand in November that results in sky-high crowds as people who have been shut out of Japan for the last two years make up for lost time. While this is a possibility that is feared by some, we view this scenario as highly unlikely for a couple of reasons.
First, there’s the reality that very few people take last-minute international trips. While Japan is reopening in time for the popular autumn leaves season, it’s doing so with less than two-months’ notice. The lag between booking and traveling is larger for international travel than domestic destinations.
Outside of hardcore Japanophiles, most people won’t be booking Japan trips for 2022 at all. Normal travelers are not anxiously awaiting this news; most have already booked their fall travel plans to other destinations. Many have already booked spring, as well.
Second, tour groups are unlikely to return in large numbers anytime soon and this is a huge driver of Kyoto’s tourism numbers.
This is somewhat ironic, as these visitors have already been welcomed back for several months now as part of the monitored program, but that has been undesirable to westerners, impractical for others, and impossible for some.
Tour group travel will be even slower to recover due to demographics and primary country of origin. Kyoto won’t see visitors from China anytime this year, and even the first half of 2023 is unlikely.
This is due to strict antivirus restrictions by Beijing, which still has a zero-COVID policy. When China will abandon or relax its zero-COVID policy is anyone’s guess, but there are no signs of that happening soon. Even when it does, there will be the same lag for Chinese tourists between the policy change, booking of trips, and actually traveling. In the meantime, Fushimi Inari, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kiyomizudera, and other popular spots for tour buses will have far fewer people in late 2022.
Even if you disagree with us about the immediacy of pent-up demand among international visitors playing out in Kyoto and throughout Japan, there’s one thing that actually prevents this from occurring: airline capacity.
Due to Japan’s prolonged closure, many international carriers have reallocated their planes to other routes. While JAL and ANA have plans to scale up quickly, other carriers are a totally different story. In short, the number of visitors will be constrained by available flights, if not by demand. (We still think bookings will be the actual limited factor–not flights!)
With November 2022 crowds out of the way, let’s turn to special events…
In addition to past dates, we are also including links to the website of each Kyoto special event. Those links will be helpful if you want to monitor 2022 dates. While English resources like this site are great, most temples regularly update their websites. We would suggest double-checking those sites to ensure that the seasonal events or festivals are still occurring a day or two before you go.
For example, one year some of the Higashiyama temples abruptly canceled nighttime illuminations because a wild boar had been spotted in the area. Bad weather and typhoons have also caused some festivals to be cancelled, often at the very last minute. As such, it’s always a good practice to double check and confirm things before you visit.
Another thing to note is that our calendar just scratches the surface on special events and festivals in Kyoto. As we stress elsewhere, seasonality is extremely important to Kyotoites. It’s not just about the four seasons, but every little nuance in the calendar, changing of the scenery, and so on.
Suffice to say, if you’re particularly keen on attending a seasonal event while in Kyoto, there is most certainly one occurring, irrespective of your travel dates. If you don’t see something listed below, we’d suggest stopping by one of the Kyoto Tourist Information Centers (there are convenient locations in Kyoto Station, Higashiyama, downtown, etc–find them via Google Maps) and inquiring. Reps there are fluent in English and incredibly knowledgeable.
October 19 to December 9 – Kodaiji Lightscape – As we note in our full post about Kodaiji Temple, this is our #1 nighttime illumination in all of Kyoto (we have lots of photos of the event in that post, for what it’s worth). It’s also the longest-running nighttime illumination, which is in large part because it’s less about fall colors and more about a high-tech projection mapping show, illuminated bamboo forest, and more. Highly recommended. Official website.
September 25 to December 12 – Shokouji Temple Special Views – Shokokuji is the second of the five leading Rinzai Zen temples in Kyoto that were built during the medieval Muromachi Period, and is a ‘living temple’ that is generally not open to the public. During this extended timeframe, several of its buildings are open to the public. Due to its location, we would not recommend this to most tourists. Official website.
October 1 to November 25 – Ninnaji Treasure Hall Opening – Located adjacent to Ryoanji and a modest walk from the Golden Pavilion, Ninnaji is a stunning temple on sprawling grounds. Its Sacred Treasure Hall is not normally open to the general public. Official website.
October 1 to December 10 – Rurikoin Temple Fall Opening – Relatively unknown to people outside of Japan, Rurikoin is incredibly popular with Japanese tourists. Famed for the way its foliage reflects and colors the interior of the temple, expect long lines at this temple in Northern Kyoto–and a steep 2,000 yen admission fee. Official website.
October 26 to December 2 – Shorenin Temple Light Up – The ethereal blue lighting on the ground is the highlight of this experience, with fall colors being secondary (more like “third-ary” after the bamboo grove). We like Shorenin because it’s nestled between Chionin and Kodaiji, making it an easy stop on a nighttime tour of Higashiyama illuminations. Recommended. Official website.
October 27 to December 9 – Toji Temple Illumination – We aren’t normally huge fans of Kyoto’s iconic pagoda, but during its spring and fall evening illuminations, it’s a different story. Not only are the reflected views spectacular, but you also get rare access to certain temple halls. Even considering the relatively steep 1,000 yen fee (as compared to other illuminations), we think it’s worth the money. Recommended. Official website.
November 1-10 – Gion Odari – Held at the Gion Kaikan Theatre, this is a public dance performed by the geiko and maiko of Kyoto. Each of the city’s geisha districts performs such an event, but most happen in spring during cherry blossom season. This is the lone event preceding the heart of fall colors season, with tickets costing 4,000 yen (or 4,500 with green tea and a sweet) for two performances are held each day at 13:30 and 16:00. Highly recommended. Official website.
November 2 to December 2 – Chionin Temple Illumination – Despite the ongoing refurbishment project, Chionin will conduct its annual night lighting, with Yuzenen Garden, the main gate, and two halls illuminated. It’s an interesting option if you have several days in Kyoto, but otherwise, we’d stick with alternatives in Higashiyama.
November 3 to December 2 – Eikando Temple Illumination – Our #1 temple for fall colors in Kyoto (see more in that post), we suggest visiting Eikando both during the day and at night for its evening illumination (this requires paying two separate admission fees) as different areas are open during day versus at night. Highly recommended. Official website.
November 3-25 – Kibune Autumn Leaves Lantern Festival – Fall colors are illuminated nightly along the Eizan Railway Line, around Kifune Shrine, and along Kibune Way. Located north of the city, Kibune and Kurama have stunning fall colors, and Kuramadera is our #2 temple in Kyoto. This is a free event, save for train fare. Highly recommended. Official website.
November 8 – Kanikakuni Festival – Maiko and geiko come to offer flowers in front of the memorial statue of Isamu Yoshii, a famous poet and playwright who loved Gion, on the Shirakawa. This is a popular event for geisha-spotting, and photographers line the canal from around 11 a.m. hoping to catch a glimpse of the performers on their way to pay their respects.
November 9 to December 2 – Konkai Komyoji Temple Illumination – More commonly known as Kurodani Temple, this geographically prominent yet ‘hidden’ gem temple is opening its Shiun Garden to the public during the day, and offering a nighttime illumination with live Koto performances at night. Official website.
November 9 to December 2 – Daikakuji Temple Illumination – This is a very different kind of fall nighttime illumination, as it’s primarily a water screen projection show on the large pond outside the inner temple grounds. We love Daikakuji Temple, and this would make for a solid option after a day in Arashiyama. Official website.
November 9 to December 2 – Hogonin Temple Illumination – This is a subtemple of the famed Tenryuji, and features a promenade style garden with views of Mount Arashiyama in the background. Official website.
Mid-November to Early December – Unryuin Temple Illumination – Unryuin Temple’s nighttime illumination is one of our favorites (see photos of the event in that post), and that’s in part because it’s under the radar–you won’t see many (if any) other tourists here. Recommended. Official website.
November 17 to December 2 – Kiyomizudera Temple Illumination – One of Kyoto’s most popular fall nighttime illuminations, Kiyomizudera’s hillside looks absolutely stunning covered in fiery red momiji. We love this event, and try to do it every year in spring and fall (see our photos in that post). Highly recommended. Official website.
November 21 – Kobo-san Flea Market – This flea market at Toji Temple features a range of antiques and used items, and draws big crowds. If you’re in town mostly to see the towering pagoda here, choose another day.
November 23 – Labor Thanksgiving Day – Not so much a ‘special event’ you’ll want to see, but quick words of caution here: the long weekend around Labor Thanksgiving Day is the busiest time of the year in Kyoto–period. We’d advise finding under-the-radar things to do if you’re visiting this weekend. Avoid the popular temples, buses, and Kyoto Station.
November 25 – Tenjin-san Flea Market – Held on the 25th of every month, this large flea market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is incredibly popular and has a wide variety of antiques, used items, and food for sale. As we discuss in our post about Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, we attended the flea market last November and it was absolute chaos.
If you’re planning a trip to Japan that includes Kyoto, we recommend starting by consulting our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan to plan all aspects of our vacation. You should also check out our other posts about Japan for ideas on other places to visit!
Have you attended any November special events in Kyoto? What did you think of the experience? Would you recommend it to a first-timer visiting Japan? Anything you’re looking forward to this month in Kyoto? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!
Leave a Reply