東山花灯路Higashiyama Hanatouro is a 10-day event in mid-March during which a large part of the 東山Higashiyama area in Kyoto is lit up for the public in the evening. 花hana means “flower”, 灯tou means “light” and 絽ro means “road” and one will definitely see many flowers and lights on the roads. For an admission fee, one can enter many temples and shrines that also have their own special illumination events within their grounds but public areas are free for strolling and exploring. Many shops along the way are open for shopping pleasure or a bite to eat. When the season is warmer, one can see cherry blossoms a bloom in many places.
I love illumination events because I find the calm night to be so beautiful and romantic; these events make me feel like I’ve stepped into an ethereal world. I went for the first time in 2007 thanks to Mr. Man who found advertising for the event which started in 2003; in December 2006 we attended the 嵐山花灯路Arashiyama Hanatouro for the first time and I found the two events to be a bit similar, especially because the same lanterns are used at both events, although location and season changes the whole atmosphere…here’s a collection of the lanterns lining the roads that I’ve seen over the years:
From 2007-2009 I attended the event with Mr. Man; starting from 2010 I went with Rika.
The best place to start is from 神宮道Jingu Road and work one’s way up to 清水寺Kiyomizu Temple. Right before 青蓮院Shoren-in Temple, there is an information booth where one can pick up pamphlets (there’s an English version although not quite as detailed as the Japanese one) and get information about the event…don’t worry if you miss it because there will be other stations as well as staff passing some out along the route.
2009: the route after passing Shoren-in Temple
2012: 知恩院Chion-in Temple
2012: ヤマタノオロチYamata no Orochi, an eight-headed, eight-tailed Japanese dragon, from 粟田大燈呂Awata Daitouro (“daitouro” means “giant lanterns”), an event by 粟田神社Awata Shrine, across from Chion-in Temple
Every year except the year of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake the 京都花灯路Kyoto Hanatouro lantern was lit up.
a collection of several いけばなikebana displays by members of the 京都いけばな協会Kyoto Ikebana Association for 現代いけばな展Modern Ikebana Exhibition in 円山公園Maruyama Park
2007: also in Maruyama Park, 竹灯り・幽玄の川Take-akari: Yuugen no kawa (Bamboo Lanterns: River of Quiet Beauty)…
and in 2008
After crossing the stream, one comes upon the work of students from the five Kyoto art universities in the 大学のまち京都・伝統の灯り展University Town of Kyoto’s Traditional Light Exhibition; here’s a collection of my favorites each year:
2007: 蜜柑mikan (mandarin orange); 2008: てるてる坊主teru-teru-bozu (paper doll hung up in hopes of fine weather); 2011: おーるどなうOld Now; 2012: 春夏秋冬shunkashuutoh (the four seasons)…sorry, I couldn’t remember the names for 2009 and 2010.
2010: the pond in Maruyama Park
2012: the famousしだれ桜shidare-zakura (weeping cherry tree) in Maruyama Park…
and in 2013
2013: サクハナ行灯sakuhana andon (Blooming Flower Lanterns)…anybody can write his thought about the event or a wish on a cherry blossom-shaped paper to stick to the lanterns (we did).
2007: 長楽館Chorakukan, a facility built during the 明治時代Meiji Period for use in welcoming important guests but now serves as a café, restaurant, hotel, etc.
2009: ikebana part of the いけばなプロメナードIkebana Promenade at the entrance to 大谷祖廟Otani Sobyo
2008: 大雲院祇園閣Daiun-in Temple Gion-kaku
2009: ねねの道Path of Nene
2009: shops along the Path of Nene
2009: view of Higashiyama from the 高台寺Kodai-ji Temple area
2009: looking down at 高台寺公園Kodai-ji Temple Park from the Kodai-ji Temple area where there are many booths selling hanatouro goods or offering information
2012: lanterns spelling “inori“, or “prayer” seen from the stairs up to 霊山観音Ryozen Kannon in Kodai-ji Temple Park
2009: 狐の嫁入り巡行Kitsune no Yome-iri Junkoh (Fox Wedding Procession), a sign of good fortune, which starts from Chion-in Temple and ends at Kodai-ji Temple
2007: 春光院Shunko-in Temple
a cute little shop along 一念坂Ichinen-zaka Slope that I don’t think exists anymore
2009: 法観寺(八坂の塔)Hokan-ji Temple (Yasaka Pagoda) on 八坂通Yasaka Street
2009: 産寧坂Sannei-zaka Slope
2010: a grove near the entrance to 興正寺別院Kosho-ji Temple Betsuin
2010: cherry blossoms above on Sannei-zaka Slope
2009: another Ikebana Promenade display in front of 眞福寺Shinpuku-ji Temple on 清水坂Kiyomizu-zaka Slope
2009: 清水寺Kiyomizu Temple
2008: Kiyomizu Temple from afar
Of course we’ve also indulged in the goodies sold at the shops on our route:
2009: 本家西尾八ツ橋Honke Nishio Yattsuhashi’s 桜ソフトクリームsakura sofuto kuriimu (cherry blossom soft-serve ice cream) and 清水京あみKiyomizu Kyo-ami’s 桜八つ橋シュークリームsakura yattsuhashi shuu kuriimu (cherry blossom-flavored cream puff made from yattsuhashi dough); 2010: black dango covered with 黒蜜kuromitsu (brown-sugar syrup) and きなこkinako (soybean powder) that I feel was sold by 十文堂Jumondo, now in a different location; 2011: 梅ざらめせんべいume-zarame senbei (sugar- and plum-covered rice cracker) that I got on Kiyomizu-zaka Slope; 2012: みたらし団子mitarashi dango (dumplings on a stick covered with sweet soy glaze) from 藤菜美Fujinami
I attended the hanatouro with Rika again this year.
outside Shoren-in Temple
my favorite for the Univeristy Town of Kyoto’s Traditional Light Exhibition : 月Tsuki (Moon)☺
一つ目小僧Hitotsu-me Kozoh (One-Eyed Boy) from Awata Daitouro; this year the displays were in Maruyama Park.
I wish they’d had this display (displayed along the Path of Nene) of all the lanterns sooner, it would have saved me the trouble of running around before trying to find all the different lanterns every year☺…nah, it was actually fun going around looking for new ones (there’s a contest for a new design every year)!
Rika and I agree that although we aren’t as awestruck by the event like the first time, it’s more like going to meet an old friend☺…it’s fun to go every year and compare how some things stay the same and how others have changed, and I plan to go for as long as I can.
Update: I went twice to the Higashiyama Hanatouro 2015…the first time I went with Rika and to our ill luck it rained steadily the whole time (the plus side was that there wasn’t much of a crowd). We could tell that some of the light-ups had been cancelled and on top of there was scaffolding around Chion-in Temple as well as a crane in front of it!
The Modern Ikebana Exhibition in Maruyama Park was still on, though; this was my favorite this year from the first half:
The University Town of Kyoto’s Traditional Light Exhibition was in front of Otani Sobyo this year…my second favorite,「Remember to Kyoto」
the road to the Path of Nene
in front of 圓徳院Entoku-in Temple
Rika didn’t have any more free days before the hanatouro ended, so I went alone a few days later after work and a quick dinner at Whole Food Apprivoiser…I started from the entrance to Chion-in Temple from 東大路通Higashioji Street and walked up to the temple (no crane today although the scaffolding was still there).
The second batch of the Modern Ikebana Exhibition was on display; I found another favorite. The bamboo lanterns in the river were lit this time and the Awata Daitouro were out. Since the cherry blossoms weren’t blooming yet, the weeping cherry tree was dark.
My favorite of the University Town of Kyoto’s Tradtional Light Exhibition was in perfect condition this time (last time it was sagging from the rain).
Remember that shop with the cute ceramic lanterns on Ichinen-zaka Slope that I thought didn’t exist anymore? After six years I found it on Kiyomizu-zaka Slope; the name of the shop is 森陶器館Mori Touki Kan.
Going twice when the weather was completely different made me feel I got a complete experience, so glad I could do it!☺