Location: Miyama, Kyoto prefecture

Nearest station: (train) JR Hiyoshi and transfer to a bus

The snow lanterns and winter festival of Kayabuki no Sato in Miyama are wonderful to enjoy, whether with a new potential partner, or when deep into a long term relationship. Getting to Miyama can be an adventure in itself though.

Note: MK taxi offers a private return service, but this is quite expensive. For those confident to drive with snow tires, renting a car would be cheaper and faster than public transportation.

Good for:

  • Photographers
  • Exploring the Japanese countryside
  • Seasonal revisits

Quick points:

  • Day trip
  • Over an hour from Kyoto
  • Cafes, restaurants and local souvenirs at destination

Escape To Beautiful Kayabuki No Sato

Escape to beautiful Kayabuki no Sato for the day

Escape to beautiful Kayabuki no Sato for the day. You can check conditions via the live camera.

Drive north from Kyoto through valleys in Ohara, or the rice fields around Takashima in Shiga, and glimpse the last vestiges of Japan’s rural past: kayabuki thatched farmhouses. Many have been sheeted with iron to preserve what can’t be replaced due to cost, while others have fallen into disrepair as their owners abandon them for modern homes in the cities. But in Kayabuki no Sato in Miyama, thirty-nine of the traditional structures continue as homes, and are the beating heart of this charming mountain village.

For couples looking for a day trip into the countryside, or to shake off a mid-winter slump, the Miyama Snow Lantern Festival combines the scenic beauty of a quaint mountain retreat in snow with the romance of candles.

Making Indelible Lifelong Memories Is The Miyama Snow Lantern Festival

Snows in January and February dust the peaked roofs and bury winter cabbages growing in the hatake. On a typical winter’s day, small clumps of visitors weave their way along narrow paths that are sometimes asphalt, sometimes grass, and often slippery. Best hold hands and show your loved one you care by keeping them on their feet. Built into a hillside, there is a steep elevation from the car park and farmer’s market, up to the highest point of Fumyoji temple, and the best overview of Kayabuki no Sato. As couples explore, locals nod and respond to friendly greetings before returning to their cabbages.

Miyama Remains A Living Settlement And Is Primarily Residential

Unlike similar regions which have preserved their farmhouses in outdoor museums, Miyama remains a living settlement and is primarily residential.

Amping up the chances for romance and the opportunity for making indelible lifelong memories is the Miyama Snow Lantern Festival. Between the 27th of January and the 3rd of February, snowballs fly and giggling combatants dodge behind their icy forts for protection. Others wield buckets and shovels like they were at the beach, using them to construct white mounds of varying sizes and degrees of complexity.

Bucket Spade And Candle Kit Is 100 Yen From The Road-Station

Hard at work! A bucket, spade and candle kit is 100 yen from the road-station.

The field fills with the smoothed bucket-sized domes while those with more ability sculpt ambitious towers or families of Totoro. Trusting the structural integrity of their designs, builders scoop out a sheltered niche for their candles. Once darkness falls, the hundred or so haphazardly placed lanterns create a warm, glittering glow around the village.

Snowman With Seasonal Shikimi Berries Stands Guard Over Candle Tower

A snowman, adorned with seasonal shikimi berries, stands guard over a candle tower.

The event brings a large crowd of visitors, many anticipating an intimate experience during the fireworks display on January 31st. Food stalls crowd the parking area selling all the festival favourites: fried chicken, fried dough and sweet potato sticks. A cosy cafe within Kayabuki no Sato itself sells mulled wine and coffee, with bench seats to watch from. Watching will undoubtedly be through a forest of photographers, who arrive early to claim the best spots. Some bring ladders, others clamber up snow banks to capture the perfect shot of starburst fire exploding above thatched roofs. For some couples, this is the perfect chance to share their passion for photography.

Ensure That You Don’t Forget Your Date While Focused On The Photos

Just ensure that you don’t forget your date while focused on the photos…

Romantic Japanese Snow Lantern Festival

Kayabuki no Sato itself is not large. A slow, hand-in-hand wander along the paths, visiting the small shrine at one edge and stopping to snap some selfies might take an hour during warmer months. In winter, with snow to navigate, lanterns to build, and many more photogenic angles to capture, a leisurely stroll extends into a more immersive experience with a potential life partner. Still, anticipate that there will be moments of waiting, especially on the evening of the fireworks, so bring snacks to share for a winter picnic. Dress warmly and snuggle up, as the temperature dips quickly once the sun sets. All of which conspires to create a more intimate dating experience in winter.

Wrap Up Well So As Not To Freeze While Posing

Wrap up well so as not to freeze while posing.

However, quaint hamlets nestled in mountain valleys are not always easy or convenient to access. For those with a driver’s licence and the confidence to traverse potentially slippery conditions, a car is the quickest way to visit. Try to arrive early to ensure a nearby parking space, or expect a hike along the road. Trains and buses do provide regular public transportation from Kyoto, but the trip itself takes around 120 minutes. The local tourism association has provided detailed transportation instructions in English.

During the snow lantern festival days, Japan Bus Online sells passes for a dedicated bus between Kyoto station and Kayabuki no Sato via an English portal. While reasonably cheap, note that prices are not for round-trip passes. Tickets to and from are sold separately, and return tickets sell out more quickly than passes to the village. Therefore to avoid an expensive taxi ride, or taking the public bus home early, make sure when booking that return tickets are purchased!

Make Sure To Check When The Shuttle Bus Leaves Don't Get Left Behind

Also make sure to check the time the shuttle bus leaves. Don’t get left behind!

Transportation fears aside, an evening capturing fireworks above snow-speckled roofs or savouring wine in the cafe, will leave memories that linger like the warmth of a winter embrace. As the candles of Miyama Snow Lantern Festival cover the village in a soft glow, it feels like a moment caught in time, a beautiful fusion of tradition and celebration.

Night Falls And The Lanterns Are Lit At Miyama Snow Lantern Festival

Night falls and the lanterns are lit.

Of course, any time of year offers charms and memorable experiences for romantic day trips including seasonal foliage and flowers, fishing in the river and hikes. Kayabuki no Sato Folk Museum showcases the tools and household artefacts of the traditional Japanese way of life, and insights into the engineering behind thatched roofs of the houses. Nearby is the dyeing studio and gallery Little Indigo Museum, offering its unique fusion of history and art, plus a shop to buy local souvenirs.
Kayabuki No Sato Folk Museum See Thatched Roofs And Local Life

The Kayabuki no Sato Folk Museum provides a closer look at the make-up of the thatched roofs and the lives of those who lived beneath them.

In every season, Kayabuki no Sato beckons and couples looking to spend a day together will find a place where a life-long romance intertwines with the charm of the past. But those able to visit in the depths of winter should make sure to pause and immerse themselves in the magic of the moment. Venture along snow-laden paths, share a moment of engrossed industry while crafting lanterns, and script their own chapter in this tale of snowy lanterns and a slide back in time. For those then returning to Kyoto city after a day of exploring the likelihood of true love with their date in the snow, finding a warm bar like House of Ki No Bi for a night cap, and chance to relive the favorite moments of a romantic day in Kayabuki no Sato. Closing off the date in a beautiful way.

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