We left Kinkakuji slightly after 4pm. With the aid of Google map on our phone, we walked southeast into a residential neighborhood along Tenjin River. Our destination was Kitano Tenmangu (北野天満宮). Founded in 947 AD, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine was the main shrine dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane, a scholar and politician in Heian Period (AD 794 – 1185). Among a number of divine identities, Michizane is best known for being the “god of academics “. Today Kitano Tenmangu is still popular with students. For tourists, Kitano Tenmangu is an interesting place to check out the flea market on the 25th of every month, and the Ume (plum) Blossom Festival on February 25 when geiko and maiko from Kamishichiken would come and serve tea and wagashi (traditional Japanese confections) to 3000 guests. For us, we came for the annual autumn leaves when the shrine would open at night from mid November to early December. We came just in time to see the autumn colours at the second last night of the season.
We reached the side entrance of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine at about 4:30pm. The shrine was quite busy, not only with worshipers, but also visitors who came for the autumn colours and festival events. Near the main shrine courtyard there was live guitar performance at a corner. Apparently there was a two-day festival at Kitano Tenmangu called Kyoto Nippon Festival, aiming to showcase the culture, food, and music of Japan. Before checking out the 300+ maple trees in the garden, we were lured over to another courtyard where a dozen or so food stalls were set up. Since breakfast on our red-eye flight, we hardly had any food throughout the day. We were more than happy to devour a few dishes of delicious snacks prepared by staff from different restaurants in Kyoto, which included dumplings, seafood rice, and vegetable soba.
Our spirits were lifted after having the delicious snacks. The sky was getting pretty dark despite it was only 5:15pm. We headed back to the main court of Kitano Tenmangu, paid the admission for the night visit, and entered the shrine garden. Along the way, we passed by another courtyard where a stage was set up. A female pop singer was performing a lovely ballad in front of a crowd of audience. We didn’t have the concert tickets so we couldn’t get in, but the music and vocal were loud enough for everyone in the garden to enjoy. Artificial floodlights were everywhere to illuminate the colourful maples. Despite the cool weather, the atmosphere was warm with the autumn colours and lovely music. The garden was divided into two parts: the upper and lower. We started at the upper garden where the main path soared above a ravine (lower part) on one side, and overlooked the main shrine buildings on the other side. With the lights and lanterns lit up, the dark timber structures and reed roofs and the shimmering golden ornaments of the shrine buildings looked splendid. After the upper garden, we walked down the stair to the lower ravine. Walking along a small river and admiring the colourful tree canopies lit up from below was like a scene from dream. The highlight of the lower ravine was the red arched bridge. A large crowd of visitors gathered on the bridge to take photos of the surreal scenery. The path eventually brought us back up to a platform on the upper garden, where a tea shelter was set up. All visitors were free to pick up a cup of hot tea and a traditional sweet confectionery. We lingered for a little longer in the compound of Kitano Tenmangu. With all kinds of activities from garden visits, food services, Ikebana (生け花) or Japanese flower arrangement exhibition, live music, and spiritual worshiping, Kitano Tenmangu had truly become an interesting venue of autumn carnival. On our way out of Kitano Tenmangu, we dropped by the food stalls again and picked up a small plate of octopus balls.
As evening arrived, visitors flocked into the main gate of Kitano Tenmangu.
We were overjoyed to find food stalls in Kitano Tenmangu. We couldn’t resist but to check out the food before seeing anything else.
We ordered fried dumplings, vegetable soba and seafood rice.
After the delicious snacks, we reentered the main court of Kitano Tenmangu.
We immediately lined up to get the admission tickets into the garden of Kitano Tenmangu.
As we walked into the garden, we passed by a courtyard enclosed with purple and white fabric where a mini outdoor concert was taking place as part of the Kyoto Nippon Festival.
Under the lovely music, we strolled around the upper part of the garden to admire the autumn foliage.
Behind the magnificent autumn maples stood the main buildings of Kitano Tenmangu.
With floodlights and lanterns, the golden ornaments of Kitano Tenmangu glittered under the indigo sky.
Looking down to the lower ravine from the upper garden.
After walking through the upper garden we headed down to the lower ravine.
Looking up to the colourful tree canopies from the lower ravine.
The highlight of the lower ravine was the red arched bridge.
Approaching the red arched bridge.
Visitors gathered on the bridge to admire the autumn colours of the river ravine.
We completed our garden visit with a cup of hot tea and a piece of traditional snack.
After the garden visit, we headed back to the main shrine for another quick look.
At one end of the shrine there was a Ikebana (生け花) or Japanese flower arrangement exhibition.
On a side door of the shrine, there was a sign indicating the autumn colour was at its peak.
We exited the main hall to check out the other buildings in the shrine compound of Kitano Tenmangu.
We walked by the temizuya, or water pavilion when we exited Kitano Tenmangu.
Before leaving, we walked by the festival stalls and had an order of octopus balls.
The banners of Kyoto Nippon Festival was hung on the torii gate of Kitano Tenmangu.
Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan