With many places to visit and activities to do during winter in Japan, this cold season is popular among tourists. One of which is to visit Shirakawa-go and marvel at old, snow-covered thatched roof houses illuminated at night. Unknown to many, there’s actually another place in Japan that has traditional thatched roof houses as beautiful as Shirakawa-go.
Kayabuki no Sato (かやぶきの里), which literally means “village of thatched roofs,” is a small village in the rural area of Miyama (美山) in the northern part of Kyoto. Just like Shirakawa-go, the village has a special annual light-up event called “Yukitouro” that highlights the spectacular winter view of this cultural place. From January 27 to February 3, 2018, you can watch this heritage site as it transforms into a magical wonderland where old cottages and its surroundings are illuminated.
“Yukitouro (雪灯廊)” literally means “snow lanterns,” and as the name implies, one of the features of this festival is the line-up of 500 snow lanterns in the entire village. From 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM, these handmade snow lanterns will be illuminated with candles. Aside from that, the village will also be decorated with 150 flower lanterns, 200 LED lanterns, and 50 Japanese lanterns for the illumination.
From 3:00 PM onwards, visitors can experience making snow lanterns with the local residents for free. Various tools for snow lantern making will be available for rent.
Kayabuki no Sato receives a heavy downpour of snow during winter. It is for this reason that the structure of the steep roof, which resembles two hands folded in prayer, was designed in such a way that the occupants of the house are protected from the harsh effects of heavy snow.
During the event, 18 thatched roof houses will also be illuminated from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM, making for a stunning view.
Aside from the winter illumination, there are other enjoyable activities to do during the festival. A traditional dance will be performed on the first and last day at the Chii Hachiman Shrine. Also on the first and last day of the event at 6:40 PM will be a fireworks display.
Food will not be a problem, too, as restaurants and open-air stalls serving fresh and authentic local delicacies will be available. Business hours for open-air stalls are from 2:00 PM to 8:00 PM on Saturdays and from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM during the rest of the week, while business hours for restaurants are from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
Taking photos of beautiful scenery as a form of souvenir may be enough for some, but for those who want to bring home something to remember their visit by, a souvenir shop will also be available from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
There are only a few thatched roof houses that can accommodate visitors for an overnight stay. This is a perfect way to get acquainted with the locals and to experience living in the countryside. Check here for more information on one of the bed and breakfast accommodations available in the area.
Getting to Kayabuki no Sato can be a bit difficult, especially late at night when there is no public transportation to take you back to the train station. Hence, if you’re planning a day trip, it is recommended to book a bus tour in advance. You can check here or here for further information and reservation.
Alternatively, you may take a rapid train via the JR Line from Kyoto Station to Sonobe or Hiyoshi Station (approximately 35 minutes), then ride a Nantan City Bus going to the Kita Village (Kayabuki no Sato) bus stop (approximately an hour). Here is the bus schedule to avoid missing the last trip.
The Yukitouro Festival brings out the wonderful and fantastic landscape of Kayabuki no Sato during winter. It has fewer tourists compared to other more popular winter and illumination events, which makes the place more intimate, charming, and cozy. So plan your trip and include this on your list of must-see Japanese festivals this winter!