The downside of summer in Kyoto is the heat that is typical of a valley. That’s why we recommend enjoying the cooler nights of the Kyoto suburbs that are separated from the city center. This area offers something different to the daytime tourist spots, and you will no doubt find something new to enjoy about Kyoto here.
Kibune is a summer resort area in the mountains in the north part of the Kyoto Basin about one hour from Kyoto Station by train or bus. As the temperature in summer is lower than in the city center, Kibune, which is known as the back room of Kyoto, will refresh you with its revitalizing greenery and clear streams.
One essential experience here is kawadoko (platform on a river), which is a classic Kyoto summertime activity. Kawadoko refers to the elegant experience of enjoying food and drinks on a platform projecting from the river on a dry riverbed. One feature of the Kibune kawadoko is that the water’s surface is so close that you can almost touch it. Kibune Fujiya is a culinary hotel where the first kawadoko is said to have been erected in the Kibune River about 90 years ago. It is also well-known for the atmosphere at night which is accentuated by the hazy lighting. In the nature of Kibune, which remains the same as it ever was, the meticulously prepared Fujiya freshwater fish-based cuisine will make you forget both the heat and your busy everyday life.
When visiting Kibune, you must go to the amazing spot that is Kifune Shrine. For about six weeks starting July 1, the Tanabata Bamboo Decoration Light-up is held, where the grounds of the shrine are enveloped in a magical atmosphere. In the legend/festival of Tanabata, which is known throughout East Asia, it is common in Japan to write your wishes on a piece of paper and to place it on a bamboo tree. At Kifune Shrine during the Tanabata season, you will enjoy a supremely refreshing evening among the relaxing sounds of the streams from Kibune River and the wind as it blows through the bamboo trees. Why don’t you write your wish on a piece of paper and hanging it on a bamboo branch, and pray to the god of Kifune Shrine?
The opening hours of the shrine are extended during the light-up period, so, good-luck charms and written oracles (omikuji) originating here can be purchased even at night. Above all, the most famous and popular one is the truly unique “water oracle,” where the words are said to float to the surface if it is placed in the water in the temple. Recently, Kifune Shrine has become popular for the god of matchmaking, but it was originally known for the god of water, and the water oracles were often said to be accurate because the god of water knows all. Scan the QR Code on the written oracle to receive an explanation written in English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese or Korean. Wi-Fi access is also freely available in the temple grounds.
Kifune Shrine Tanabata Bamboo Decoration Light-up
South of Kyoto is the sake-producing area of Fushimi, which is ranked in the top three sake areas in Japan. The many ancient sake cellars remaining on Sakagura Street in the center of Fushimi-ku will transport you back to the Edo and Meiji periods. One of the classic features of summer in Fushimi is the refined atmosphere of the “Fushimi Sakagura-dori Toro Light-up” that bathes the sake cellar area in soft blue light. Many of the cellars offer tours and taste tests during the day, so you can come and soak up the famous sake during the day and the magical scenery at night.
For Japanese people, Fushimi is famous as the setting for the so-called end of Edo wars that were the historical turning point between the Edo era and the Meiji era. Starting in 2004, another fantastic event is the “Fushimi Mando Nagashi,” in which multicolored lanterns float on the surface of the river in order to appease the spirits of those who died in battle at that time. Memories of the end of the Edo era are still being passed on today in this summertime feature in Fushimi.
Fushimi Sakagura-dori Toro Light-up
Fushimi Mando Nagashi
Further south of Fushimi is Uji, an area that flourished approximately 1000 years ago as a holiday home location for Heian-period nobles living in Kyoto.
As summer approaches, Uji gets excited about cormorant fishing, which was described as being very moving in the journals of Heian period nobles. Cormorant fishing is a traditional fishing method in which river fish are caught by tame cormorants, which can be viewed up close on a passenger boat on the Uji River. The whole area becomes like a stage lit up by the fire used to stir up the ayu sweetfish, which unknowingly enter the sight of the cormorants that catch them in their sharp beaks. You will feel completely immersed in the atmosphere of Heian period nobility as you soak up the scene of the cormorant fishermen in their traditional dress on board the boat.
Cormorant fishing on Uji River is also famous for the fact that there are two female cormorant fishermen, which is very rare in Japan. Utti, Japan’s first cormorant born from artificial incubation, made its debut in 2015, which brought the area even more attention. If you are interested, please don’t hesitate to make a reservation as a soon as possible.
Uji River Cormorant Fishing
The religious festivals and events are outstanding features of Kyoto. During a summer visit focusing on the suburbs of Kyoto at night, we recommend experiencing a more individualized trip with the fire worship festivals that light up the night sky.
Osaka Kansai Airport
from Tokyo Haneda
Number of departures per day: Approx. 10※
Osaka Itami Airport
from Tokyo Haneda
Number of departures per day: Approx. 15※
*Information correct as of June 10 2016
Details correct as of the end of March, 2016.