Kyoto, more than any other major city in Japan, is teaming with living history. You can’t walk five minutes without bumping into a shrine, a temple, a historical landmark or someone dressed in traditional clothing. Kyoto prides itself on keeping close ties with its history, and this fastidious keeping to traditional festivals and pageants informs of that.
Some of the most exciting festivals to watch in Kyoto are the equestrian festivals: traditional horse races, mounted archery and acrobatics, all with a military or spiritual background–sometimes both. Admission is free and open to the public. You can read all about them all in my Taiken Japan article, here. Count them as just one of many must see events in Kyoto throughout the year.