On the lookout for the perfect issues to do in Kyoto? You’re in good arms.
Extra so than some other metropolis we’ve visited in our 5+ years of journey, Kyoto has left an impression so deep we appear unable to shake it.
We took our first journey to Kyoto within the fall of 2019 and have lately returned (as quickly as vacationers had been allowed to go to post-pandemic).
Our first go to was timed for peak fall shade (right here’s a roundup of the finest spots to see fall foliage in Kyoto) so our second journey was strategically timed throughout low vacationer season.
We needed to see all the town needed to provide at a slower tempo (and with much less crowds).
To that finish, this checklist of the perfect issues to do in Kyoto relies on a cumulative 4 weeks spent exploring Kyoto. And sure, I’m counting down the minutes till I return.
With that mentioned, let’s leap proper in!
Earlier than we dive in, for these you asking: We stayed at this EXCELLENT (and reasonably priced) resort whereas visiting Kyoto. Can’t advocate it extremely sufficient!
Stroll the Gion District
Kyoto’s unequivocal darling within the Gion District. Oozing appeal from each historic nook crammed to the brim with quaint wood houses and slim streets, this is called the geisha district.
I’d argue that when most people consider visiting Kyoto, this space is the image that involves thoughts. The star of the present is the Hōkan-ji Temple (colloquially generally known as Yasaka Pagoda), which swells with vacationers most hours of the day.
If you would like some semblance of solitude, I counsel arriving earlier than dawn (or effectively previous midnight, when you’re jet-lagged).
Exploring the realm and getting aimlessly misplaced on the meandering streets is among the finest issues to do in Kyoto. Pop into any retailer that piques your curiosity (for souvenirs or fascinating and distinctive trinkets for your self).
Attention-grabbing truth to know earlier than visiting Kyoto
Throughout World Battle II People created two atomic bombs. By the point the 2 bomb had been accomplished, Germany had surrendered however Japan remained concerned.
As such, a choice was made that the atomic bombs can be utilized in Japan (heartbreaking). From there, it grew to become a query of choosing two cities.
Kyoto was on the checklist of options however was promptly faraway from the checklist by the Secretary of Battle (Henry Stimson) as a result of he had honeymooned within the metropolis and decided it too stunning to destroy.
Some useful recommendation: A phrase on geishas
Geishas undergo rigorous coaching for a lot of (many) years and commit themselves to a lifetime of expert leisure at stylish occasions. You might even see one strolling to (or from an occasion) whereas visiting Kyoto.
There’s no assure that you just’ll see a geisha (and that’s alright!) however it you do, please give them area. Guests have taken a wierd method to photographing them and it borderlines harassment (for my part) once I see so many individuals circling behind one for pictures.
I’ve been fascinated with the lives of Geishas since studying this stunning guide in highschool, so I utterly perceive the fascination. However all the time bear in mind to be respectful, you signify the nation you’re visiting from and that’s an honor.
Expertise Fushimi Inari Shrine
No checklist of the perfect issues to do in Kyoto is full with out mentioning the breathtaking Fushimi Inari Shrine. Heck, you’ve in all probability seen pictures of this space already.
Fushimi Inari Shrine is taken into account crucial shrine (out of 1000’s in Japan) devoted to the Shinto god of rice, Inari.
The draw is the ocean of vermilion torii gates that create a tunnel impact, taking guests from the wholesome forest to the summit of the sacred Mount Inari.
In case you’re on the lookout for adventurous issues to do in Kyoto, I encourage you to stroll your entire loop (which clocks in at 3 miles and takes 2-3 hours).
In case you’re pressed for time (laborious guilty you — there’s quite a bit to see whereas visiting Kyoto), spend 1-2 hours having fun with the temple, embark on a brief stroll by means of the torri gates and name it a day.
Warrants point out: Whereas shrines are purported to be inherently peaceable, Fushimi Inari Shrine is something however. This is among the hottest issues to do in Kyoto (for good cause) so count on crowds most hours on the day.
We visited at dawn and managed to keep away from the crowds, however it began to get very busy as we left.
Go to Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Kyoto has no scarcity of breathtaking temples, however the one which stole the cake (for us) was Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Based in 778 AD, the prime location atop a hill presents guests unparalleled panoramic views of the beautiful metropolis under.
The title Kiyomizu-dera interprets to “pure water temple.” Becoming, contemplating it was constructed on Otawa Waterfall. At present, the waterfall is split into three streams and guests could use cups to drink from the water.
Every stream offers a novel profit – longevity in life, success at school and a lucky love life. However be aware!
Consuming from all three is taken into account grasping. And no, you may’t carry your water bottle in hopes of stocking up on further luck within the love division.
You’ll enter the temple by means of a most important corridor, ensure that to admire the constructing as a result of it’s an architectural feat. Your complete corridor was constructed with out nails!
Spend your time slowly strolling by means of the attractive temple (there’s so many paths to select from), this is among the most fascinating issues to do in Kyoto.
- Kiyomizu-dera is open each day 6am to 6pm
- Admission: 400 yen ($3.65) per grownup
- Deal with: 294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan
Eat your weight by means of Pontocho Alley
Wandering by means of Pontocho Alley was one of many highlights of our journey, and I feel it’s the most effective issues to do in Kyoto at evening.
It is a slim alley full of quaint eating places (that seat lower than 10 individuals) and old-school bars that comes alive within the night hours. A number of the eating places are excessive finish and conventional, whereas others cater to these on a funds.
The retailers are stunning (utterly conventional Japanese buildings) by design. Trendy buildings are usually not allowed within the space (neither are vehicles) to maintain this space as genuine as attainable (among the eating places don’t provide English menus).
In case you’re up for a little bit journey, I counsel doing a little bit of analysis forward of time (we used Google Maps) to discover a bar or restaurant that catches your curiosity. Then, embark on discovering it!
You’ll move energetic eating places en route, peek in by means of the small home windows and watch life unfold inside.
Visiting Pontocho Alley is among the finest issues to do in Kyoto for foodies, or those who love conventional Japanese structure and tradition.
Let’s speak in regards to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
These on the lookout for the perfect issues to do in Kyoto received’t be stunned to see Arashiyama Bamboo Grove on the checklist.
Touristy? Sure. Crowded? Such as you wouldn’t consider. Price it? Exhausting to say — let me offer you some information so as to resolve for your self.
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a colossal grove of bamboo that grew to become uber well-known because of Instagram. Looks as if everybody desires to get a photograph with this wholesome bamboo grove (us included!).
We swung by whereas visiting Kyoto and arrived proper at dawn.
Due to our early morning wake-up name (we bought up round 4am to prepare), we hardly bumped into anybody else after we arrived. We admired the bamboo and took some pictures, however inside 20-Half-hour of our arrival, the place was swarming with guests.
It bought so busy so quick! Is smart although, contemplating there’s just one most important path by means of the grove.
In case you don’t get to the grove proper at dawn, count on to bump elbows with hordes of vacationers. At peak occasions, it appears unattainable to get by means of.
Do with this data what you’ll, however right here’s my take. Visiting the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is among the most original issues to do in Kyoto.
Nonetheless, until you’re keen to get there proper at dawn, I don’t assume the expertise can be pleasing (and would in all probability skip as a result of the extraordinary crowds will make it laborious to benefit from the space).
Some recommendation: Attempting to flee the crowds whereas visiting Kyoto?
There’s a excessive focus of nice issues to do within the Arashiyama district. From the Bamboo forest to a plethora of beautiful temples, you’ll be spoiled for selection.
The largest problem is preserving your cool amidst busy crowds. If you end up a bit overwhelmed by hordes of individuals, I counsel heading towards the Hozugawa River.
On a whim, we determined to walk down the Hozugawa River to work up an urge for food for lunch and located ourselves pleasantly shock.
We didn’t run into many of us throughout our stroll, which leads me to imagine this isn’t probably the most common issues to do in Kyoto (oddly sufficient).
Regardless, it was a really stress-free method to spend the afternoon. We watched varied boats and gondolas roll by, which was a pleasant change of tempo.
Subsequent time round, we plan to have a little bit picnic right here. We additionally bought fortunate with the autumn shade (think about these bushes at peak shade!) whereas we had been visiting Kyoto.
Go to the Gardens at Tenryu-ji Temple
Probably the most common sights in Kyoto, I’m tempted to say that Tenryu-ji Temple is a sight for sore eyes. However, in a metropolis as stunning as Kyoto, sore eyes are usually not straightforward to return by.
Situated a stone’s thrown from the super-popular Arashiyama bamboo grove, Tenryu-ji is a peaceable Zen temple finest recognized for its beautiful gardens.
Inbuilt 1339 (think about!), Tenryu-ji is taken into account crucial temple within the Arashiyama district (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Website).
The buildings have been misplaced to fires through the years and had been subsequently rebuilt. Many of the present buildings date again to the Meiji Interval (1868-1912).
Nonetheless, whereas the buildings fell sufferer to fires, the gardens remained largely unscathed. Flanked by the arresting Arashiyama mountains, the backyard was thoughtfully curated round a central pond peppered with beautiful pine bushes (ablaze with breathtaking colours within the fall).
The placing gardens alone make visiting Tenryu-ji Temple the most effective issues to do in Kyoto, you’ll bear in mind this gem for years to return.
Stroll down Shirakawa Dori
We got here throughout Shirakawa dori whereas en path to saké tasting one night. This picture-perfect road sits proper alongside the river, strolling the peaceable riverwalk is among the most romantic issues to do in Kyoto.
Possibly seize dinner at one of many good eating places alongside the river after which pop into any retailer that catches your eye.
Store on the Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market could also be 400+ years previous, however she doesn’t look a day over 20. Simply kidding.
Crammed to the brim with cheerful distributors promoting scrumptious meals and fascinating stuff (the pottery is value a shout-out), that is the place to be when you’re on the lookout for fascinating meals to strive whereas visiting Kyoto.
Your complete market stretches 5 blocks and encompasses round 100+ distributors. Look forward to finding tons of food-related retailers that promote cookware, knives, contemporary seafood, sweets and produce.
Swing by Koe Donuts whereas Visiting the Nishiki Market
We walked previous this place whereas exploring the market and promplty popped in. Tempted by the scrumptious smells and delightful donuts, we ordered three and did a little bit style check. All of the flavors ended up being nice, very scrumptious donuts! An ideal mid-day choose me up.
Order Udon from Marugame Noodles
We found Marugame Noodles innocently sufficient. My husband is a noodle/pasta fanatic (significantly, he has pasta virtually each evening) so after we handed by Marugame Noodles it caught his eye.
Seeing the place crammed with locals, we popped in and gave it a go — utterly unprepared for the scrumptious (and tremendous reasonably priced) meal we had been about to have.
I imply, simply writing about this place is making my mouth water. We loved the udon right here a lot (and the tempura) that we returned 3 occasions whereas visiting Kyoto for the primary time.
That is positively the most effective issues to do in Kyoto for foodies.
P.S. In case you’re ever visiting Honolulu, Oahu, you could be stunned to study that Marugame Noodles has a location in Honolulu! We eat there every time we go to Oahu.
Go to the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple
Visiting Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple is a superb factor to do for anybody keen to flee the crowds for a bit. Situated additional away from the principle touristy areas in Arashiyama, this temple doesn’t get as many guests however is unquestionably value a detour.
House to a fascinating assortment of greater than 1,200 statues depicting Buddha’s disciples, the temple is tucked into the dreamy hillside of western Arashiyama.
Because the temple is additional eliminated, I counsel taking a taxi over (to spare your legs and save time).
Get pleasure from a standard tea ceremony whereas visiting Kyoto
Whereas visiting Kyoto, I used to be eager to partake in a standard tea ceremony. I’m a giant fan of matcha (inexperienced tea), so I needed to study extra in regards to the historical past and correct preparation.
Making ready matcha within the conventional vogue is a laborious affair. It’s widespread, in Japanese tradition, to decelerate the time and benefit from the preparation correctly.
Nonetheless, conventional tea ceremonies can final hours, so many locations provide casual, shorter tea ceremonies for guests.
It is a distinctive and academic expertise, making it the most effective issues to do in Kyoto for these on the lookout for an genuine expertise.
We signed up for a tea ceremony within the Gion district and buckled in for an academic hour. Tucking right into a quiet area and getting a little bit break from the bustle of the town.
See the well-known Gold Temple (Kinkakuji Temple)
Kinkakuji Temple is healthier recognized (by People) because the Golden Pavillion. Aptly named, the highest two flooring of the pavilion are literally coated in gold leaf and sits on a peaceable pond.
Some of us take into account this over temple a bit over-hyped, however truthfully — how usually do you get the prospect to see a whole constructing painted gold? As such, I’d argue that seeing this masterpiece is among the finest issues to do in Kyoto.
Constructed initially in 1398 as a retirement villa for a shogun, the pavilion grew to become a Zen temple in 1408. Brace for crowds, realizing that Kinkakuji Temple is common for a cause.
You’ll be able to study extra about this common Kyoto attraction by studying this beneficial article.
Benefit from the Hojo rock backyard at Nanzen-Ji Temple
Relationship again to the thirteenth century, Nanzen-Ji Temple is taken into account probably the most necessary Zen temples in Japan. The grounds embody a number of sub-temples — essentially the most well-known being Hojo rock backyard.
First constructed as a retirement villa for the Emperor Kameyama, the constructing was later transformed in a temple however a lot of the buildings had been destroyed through the civil wars.
Spend a while admiring the spectacular structure earlier than meandering the paths seeking solitude on the varied gardens.
My favourite backyard was the Hojo (rock backyard), which was uncrowded throughout our go to. I used to be utterly shocked by the great thing about the backyard and the solitude we had been capable of finding.
Extremely advocate discovering your individual slice of peaceable respite was visiting the Nanzen-Ji Temple.
Visiting Kyoto & Tokyo (Fast Video from Our Current Journey)
The place to eat whereas visiting Kyoto:
- Pontocho Alley
- Gion Ok
- Kichi Kichi
- Kyoto Kitcho
- Kagizen Yoshifusa
- Gion Takama
- Yakiniku Hiro
Visiting Kyoto? Study the distinction between temples and shrines
Final however not least, I’d wish to share the distinction between temples and shrines for anybody planning to go to Kyoto.
In hopes of not oversimplifying, temples are Buddhist and shrines are Shinto. In our expertise, most temples and shrines are free and those who cost solely ask a nominal charge ($3-$5 per individual).
I’m positive it goes with out saying, however ensure that to decorate conservatively/appropriately when visiting temples and shrines. These are thought-about sacred locations and respect is paramount.
Temples have massive incense burners and home Buddhist statues. Monks dwell and practice at temples, so it’s not unusual to see them wandering the grounds, particularly early within the morning.
Do you know that Buddhism didn’t originate in Japan? It was launched from China and India and is now an integral a part of the Japanese tradition.
Shrines welcome guests with sacred torii gates. In contrast to Buddhism, Shintoism originated in historic Japan and shares the assumption that there are millions of completely different gods on this planet.
Shrines are exceptionally sacred as a result of it’s believed that Japanese gods dwell throughout the objects housed in shrines. As such, some shrines will publish indicators prohibiting pictures inside. It’s very important to abide by these guidelines.
Checklist of finest issues to Do in Kyoto, Japan (Publish Overview)
In sum, right here’s a listing of the perfect issues to do in Kyoto throughout your first go to.
- Stroll the Gion District
- Expertise Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Go to Kiyomizu-dera Temple
- Store on the Nishiki Market
- Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
- Go to the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple
- Get pleasure from a standard tea ceremony
- Stroll down Shirakawa Dori
- Go to the gardens at Tenryu-ji Temple
- Order Udon from Marugame Noodles
- See the well-known Gold Temple (Kinkakuji Temple)
- Benefit from the Hojo rock backyard at Nanzen-Ji Temple
- Attempting to flee the crowds whereas visiting Kyoto? Head to the Hozugawa River
Visiting Kyoto, Kyoto Bucket Checklist Map
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Planning on visiting Kyoto quickly? Don’t hesitate to achieve out with questions, I’m right here to assist!